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Protea time

It's the optimum time to be planting proteas. One protea grower shares her tips on growing this revered plant.


Sharon McNabb traded in a life of bright lights, late nights and Auckland's hustle and bustle for the good life in Northland's Matakana, growing proteas.

Proteas had always been a favourite with Sharon's family, although when growing up she didn't know too much about the revered flower.

"I didn't know much about protea at all. I'd spent a long time in horticulture, but not actually come across protea before."

Protea neriifolia

Sharon started by planting 10 different varieties of the protea plant to see which ones lasted. Following winter, she then planted 1200 bushes.

Starting out, Sharon found the weather a challenge, particularly wet summers.

"And then just getting your head around the market — what to do, when to send, when to pick.

"We were a bit like the tortoise and the hare — we plodded along, did things on a small scale. Made mistakes on a small quantity, which was better than mistakes on a big quantity." Protea Limelight

One of the most common proteas in New Zealand is neriifolia.

"This is neri Pink (above right). Everybody's grandma had one of those."

Limelight is another favourite (right), as is the New Zealand-bred protea Clark's Red (below right).

A particular favourite of Sharon's is the red-stemmed roupelliae.

Protea Clarks Red

"It's a beautiful protea called roupelliae. It'll handle slightly more tropical conditions than the average protea. Flowering about November/December."

Leucadendron Safari Sunset is another old favourite with its beautiful rich colouring.

Choosing Your Protea

As proteas are coming into flower now, it's a great time to see what new varieties are available as it's the optimum time to be planting proteas.

Protea roupelliae

Choose something that's really bushy, as they flower on the current season's wood — the flower head will come there.

Planting Your Protea

  • Dig a hole for your plant in an open, well-drained, sunny position — proteas like wind because the wind keeps the humidity down which they dislike.

  • Take your plant and cut of the plastic bag.

    Leucadendron Safari Sunset

  • Place in the hole without disturbing the roots. Proteas dislike root disturbance.

  • Stake your plant. Proteas are shallow-rooted and top-heavy and will suffer from root rock from the wind.

  • Fill the hole with soil — DO NOT fertilise. Proteas dislike fertiliser.

Caring For Your Protea

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: October 25, 2007