This month’s Plant Spotlight is the lovely and striking Protea. This expat from South Africa has become a beloved local inspiration because of its iconoclastic style and rugged hardiness. Because of the stark beauty of these plants you might underestimate their sturdiness. This plant will bristle if you are a helicopter gardener; it really does best if left to its own devices.
Proteas are perfectly adapted to the Bay Area’s summer heat as well as our varied temperatures during fall and winter. One might think this is a native because it has moved in and adapted so well to our local floral melting pot. Although you can plant this at any time, autumn through our rainy season is best so the root system can establish itself. After these plants have established themselves you can dutifully ignore and enjoy!
With over 1660 different varieties in South Africa, most varieties are limited to its rocky and windy homeland. Locally we enjoy over 200 varieties that absolutely thrive in our climate. Because Proteas have so many dramatically different appearances one might mistakenly think one variety is a different genus (sub-family) when in fact each local variety is a cousin. These dramatic and varied plants can have spotted tips and sharp bright spikes or can almost appear to have the plumage of a proud peacock. You may be inspired to touch some of the varieties that have soft feather-like petals with stroke-able plush tips. Others have scalloped edges that hold in close and tight while popping out with dramatic colors.
Plant Features and Uses
- Containers (15 gallons or larger because of extensive root system)
- Mass plantings
- Rock gardens
- Clay and hard soil
- Hillside terrain
- Prefers well drained and flat soils
- Likes at least a half day of full sun
- Drought tolerant once established
Proteas do not do well with:
- Over care – these plants like to be ignored
- Direct full sun
Be sure to come into our garden center to find out about this diverse and interesting plant. Our team of plant experts can help you select the best variety to thrive in your home, garden or landscape.