Proteas, indigenous plants of South Africa


Written by: Seeds for Africa


The South African Floristic region is one of the world’s 6 recognised floristic regions. Commonly known as the Cape Floristic Region, the region covers the Western Cape and extends eastwards into the Eastern Cape. This area is home to over 9 000 plant species, 69% of which are endemic to the Cape Floristic Region. Considered as a biodiversity hotspot, the region is home to Protea Species, Heath Shrubs, Bulb species, Succulents, Grasses and many more.

The most well-known and spectacular plant of our local flora is the Protea, commonly known as Sugarbush or Suikerbos. 92% of Protea species only occur in the Cape Floristic region. Protea Cynaroides (The King Protea) is the national flower of South Africa. With over 50 Protea species that vary from small bushes to trees, in a variety of colours, they make a stunning feature plant. With some species suitable for growing in pots and others in the garden, space isn’t a constraint to having this highly prized plant.

Whilst there are a number of hybrid protea varieties (cross pollinated) on the market, we believe in the integrity of the species and only promote the indigenous species. Growing Protea from seed can be very rewarding and is easier than thought. A few things you will need to ensure successful results:

1) A well-drained acidic soil mix with a PH of around 5.5. Mix can be made from 2 parts coarse river sand (coarse vital for drainage), 2 parts Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss and 1 Part Horticultural Vermiculite. This simulates the poor sandy soils of their natural habitat.

2) Seeds are best prepared by soaking them in hot smoke water for 30 minutes. Smoke water can be made from soaking a smoke primer disk in hot water. One disk will make 50ml of smoke water, which is enough to soak around 100 seeds. The disks contain the same chemicals found in bushfire smoke. Use of the smoke water simulates the natural conditions of the first rains after the winters bush fires, promoting germination.

3) In South Africa Protea seeds are best sown in autumn, April to early June.

4) Germination will take anything from 60 to 120 days.

The perfect plants to compliment your Protea collection are Leucospermum (Pincushion Proteas), Leucadendron (Cone Bush) and Erica (Cape Heath shrubs).

There isn’t a better time than now to bring the magic of Proteas into your garden.