December 2022 - Proteaceae

Protea photo taken by © Felix RiegelProteaceae are among the oldest flowering plants on Earth, with fossil evidence dating back 80 million years. Originating in the rich Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, this ancient plant family drifted with the Southern continents over the millennia, evolving, diversifying, and populating Australia and Southern Asia as well as Africa. The Macadamia tree from Australia, a favored nut tree, is a member of the Proteaceae family. There is a variety of Protea available for use in the landscape. Protea’s bloom is off-season, providing an exotic effect in the late fall and winter. They grow best in poor, well-drained, sandy/rocky, slightly acidic soil. Clay soils will not support Protea without intense amendment; consult an expert for guidance if you have clay soils and want to grow Proteas. Protea prefers full sun with breezes and good air circulation. Avoid planting densely, and do not fertilize Protea, as concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus can be fatal. Irrigate very sparingly. Proteas can extract moisture from the fog through their leaves, and their root systems are highly adapted for dry soil conditions. Visit local nurseries and garden centers for more information. The UCSC Arboretum has an extensive Protea collection and is an excellent place for in-person browsing opportunities. As always you can visit for more plant inspiration.