The King protea (Protea cynaroides) is one of my favourite plants for the dry garden and a perfect flower for flower arrangements. It has mesmerising soft pink flower cones up to 20cm or a hand span across that will last for many months while maintaining the colour. I use them with eucalypt leaves and gum nuts to create a rustic wreath to hang outside on the shed wall which will last all year until new flowers come along in the new season.
King protea (Protea cynaroides)
In the dry garden it is an absolute stalwart, needing no attention at all in most Melbourne dry gardens as it needs hot summers and a cool winter to thrive and flower. It grows up to a metre high in my garden but can grow as tall as two metres and a metre wide in dry rocky or sandy soil, and in my garden a clay substrate just under a thin layer of soil. Choose carefully where you plant it as it has a long tap root and does not like to be moved, nor should you plant it in an area where its roots will sit in water for too long in winter. It can be somewhat spindly in growth while young so plant it up with dry loving ground covers like Angular Pigface and a middle height plant like the Creeping Banksia or make a lovely contrast of the pink and silver with Tree Smokebush.
Each King protea plant can have 10-20 flowers once it gets going.
Proteas have been celebrated by botanists and gardeners for their fascinating flowers, as illustrated here in a 1848 book by Arabella Roupell – Specimens of Flora of South Africa by a Lady.