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Zone
Zones 15-24, H1
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Banksia

Proteaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

Grow these Australian natives for their interesting leaves and showstopping flowers, much prized for arrangements. Leaves are usually long and narrow, sometimes with strikingly saw-toothed edges. The tiny flowers appear in dense round or cylindrical clusters and are followed by long-lasting woody seed cones. Blooms are rich in nectar.

On level ground, amend heavy clay soil by adding perlite and shredded fir bark. Build a low mound of soil and plant on top. Add a gravel mulch to protect roots. To prevent disease, keep water away from the plant’s crown. Plants are subject to root rot fungi and require perfect drainage. Water fairly regularly for the first year or two, then cut back to deep but infrequent irrigation; most banksias can withstand long dry periods. Treat chlorosis with iron chelates. Avoid fertilizers containing phosphorus, as they will kill the plants.

The tree species have no special pruning needs; on shrubs, shorten previous season’s growth if needed to limit size, but don’t cut into old wood. Banksias show varying tolerance to coastal conditions in California; in Hawaii, humidity is too high for them at sea level, and they are grown at higher elevations.

Banksias need excellent drainage and good air circulation. They grow best on slopes in very well-drained soil.

Banksia spinulosa (photo courtesy of Andrea Gómez Romero)
Banksia spinulosa (photo courtesy of Andrea Gómez Romero)

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Banksia spinulosa

To 2–4 ft. tall, 4–5 ft. wide. Narrow, medium green leaves are serrated. Cylindrical blossoms, up to 5 in. across, are golden yellow to orange, sometimes with red; blooms fall through winter. One of the easier banksias to grow. ‘Schnapper Point’ has rich yellow-and-red flowers.

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