Banksias are a genus of Australian plants that include around 80 different species. They are easily recognized by their large, cone-like flowers, which can be red, yellow, or orange.
So let’s immediately get to the banksia basics – the varieties, growing tips, and other interesting facts about these unique plants!
The Genus Banksia
The family of this plant is part of the Proteaceae family, which also includes other well-known flowers such as the grevillea and the waratah.
They are all native to Australia and grow in various habitats, from rainforests to woodlands.
Different Varieties of Banksia
This plant is a genus of around 170 species in the plant family Proteaceae. These plants are native to Australia and occur in many habitats, from coastal heaths to rainforests.
There are a wide variety of species that come in many different shapes and sizes. Some have large, showy flowers, while others have more modest blooms. It can be found in various colours, including red, yellow, purple, pink, and orange.
Banksia Flowers and Fruits
They are native to Australia and occur in all states and territories except Tasmania. It grows as trees or woody shrubs and ranges in size from small shrubs to large trees. Many have striking flowers, which are popular with nectar-feeding birds. The flowers of some variety can be pretty significant and are often used in cut flower arrangements.
They are generally easy to grow and make an attractive addition to any garden. They tolerate most soil types and climates, although they prefer a well-drained sunny position. These plants are also relatively drought and frost tolerant.
Rare and Threatened Banksias
There are over 75 species, and many of them are rare or threatened. The plant is a genus that is endemic to Australia, meaning they are only found in this country. Some of the most endangered include the banksia Ashby, banksia brownii, banksia caleyi, banksia crassifolia, banksia hookeriana, banksia menziesii, banksia prionotes, and banksia robur.
These species are all classified as either endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threat to this plant is habitat loss due to human activity, such as land clearing and development. Other hazards include wildfires, invasive species, and climate change.
Banksias for the Garden
They are generally tough and easy to grow and are an excellent choice for Australian gardens. It can add interest and texture and come in various colours, from cream to red, orange and yellow. These plants are also suitable for attracting wildlife to the garden, as they are a food source for birds, bees and other animals.
Commonly Grown Banksias
There are dozens of species, but only a handful are commonly grown. Some of the most popular include:
Banksia Aemula – Wallum Banksia
This species is perfect for coastal gardens, as it is tolerant of salt spray and wind. This plant grows as a shrub or small tree and has dark green leaves with serrated edges. The flowers are yellow and appear in spring and summer.
It can easily be propagated from seeds or cuttings. These are commonly used for coastal revegetation projects.
Banksia ‘Giant Candles’
Banksia ‘Giant Candles’ set the banksia world on fire when they were discovered in 1990. Growing to an impressive 10 metres (30 feet) tall and with unusual cylindrical flower spikes that can be up to half a metre (1.5 feet) long, these are truly spectacular!
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where they occur naturally, you may be able to find ‘Giant Candles’ in the wild. However, they’re not easy to grow from seed, so your best bet is to buy a young plant from a nursery.
Banksia Ericifolia var. Wricifolia – Heath Banksia
This type is well known for its very long, serrated leaves, which can grow up to 30 cm in length. The Heath is a native of Western Australia and can be found along the coast and inland. They prefer sandy or well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade.
It creates a stunning hedge or screen and is also helpful as a banksia understory plant. The flowers of this plant bloom from October to January, and the nectar is beautiful to birds.
Banksia Integrifolia var. Integrifolia – Coast Banksia
Banksia integrifolia is widely distributed and found along the coasts of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. It is a tough plant that can tolerate salt spray, wind and poor soils. They typically have greenish-yellow flowers and can grow up to 15 meters in height.
If you notice this species, you will find that it has a distinctive cone-like shape. The leaves are also quite long, up to 20 cm in length, and have a leathery texture.
Banksia Marginata – Silver Banksia
It has a wide natural distribution and can be found in all states of Australia except for Tasmania. It typically grows in heathland or open forest and is a small to medium-sized shrub or tree that can reach up to 10 meters in height.
The plant gets its name from the silver-grey undersides of its leaves. The flowers are yellow and appear in cylindrical clusters. The flowers bloom from October to January and are essential plants for honey production.
Banksia Serrata – Saw Banksia
This common species amazes plant lovers with its large, serrated leaves, which can grow up to 45 cm in length. This is found along the east coast of Australia from Queensland to Victoria.
This prefers well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. It is a tree that can grow up to 15 meters in height and has yellow or cream flowers which appear in cylindrical clusters.
Banksia Spinulosa var. collina
This type loves basking in the sun and grows best in full sun to part shade. It is a shrub that can grow up to 3 meters high with a spread of 2-3 meters. The leaves are dark green, narrow, and sharply pointed, and the flower heads are golden yellow and appear from spring to summer.
It symbolizes prosperity and good fortune. It usually gives yellow flowers, which turn red as they mature. Perfect for plant lovers who want to enjoy the flowers for a longer time!
Growing Banksias from Seed
Growing these plants from seed can be a fun and rewarding experience. They are easy to grow from seed, but there are a few things you need to know before you start.
The plant grows best in well-drained soils, and they’re pretty tolerant of most soil types, including sandy soils, clay soils and even on rocky hillsides. However, they don’t like heavy clay soils or saturated conditions. Its roots are relatively shallow, so they’ll need regular watering during extended dry periods.
The soil should be slightly acidic to neutral, with a pH of 6.0-7.5. To improve drainage, it can be amended with organic matter such as compost or peat moss.
When planting, it’s essential to choose a sunny spot. It needs at least six hours of sunlight every day to thrive. If you’re unsure whether a particular area in your garden gets enough sun, try doing a “sunlight test.” Place your hand in the location where you want to plant the tree and see how long it takes for your writing to cast a shadow. The longer it takes, the more sunlight the spot gets.
The plant needs sunlight to produce food for themselves. They use a process called photosynthesis to do this. Photosynthesis is how the tree turns sunlight into the energy it can use to grow and reproduce.
It thrives in various climates and conditions, from humid tropical rainforests to dry eucalypt forests and woodlands. They are also found in more temperate regions with cool winters and warm summers.
Most will tolerate at least some degree of frost, though some species are more sensitive to cold than others.
How To Grow A Banksia Tree
The trees range in size from 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in) to 16 m (52 ft) tall and occur naturally on all but the driest, coldest parts of the continent. It grows in forms ranging from prostrate woody shrubs to trees up to 30 m (98 ft) tall and occurs in all but the aridest parts of Australia.
You can grow this tree by following these simple steps:
- Choose a species that is appropriate for the size of your garden.
- The trees do not require much fertilizer, but you can fertilize them once a year with a balanced fertilizer if desired.
- Water the trees regularly, especially during extended dry periods.
As Shrubs or Groundcover
They can be sheared into any desired shape when used as a hedge. Banksias also make excellent container plants.
Banksia shrubs usually have a single trunk with multiple branches. Banksias can be pruned to any desired shape or size.
As a Potted Plant
These potted plants make an excellent addition to any home. They are long-lived and easy to care for, and they will provide years of enjoyment. Wide varieties of these plants are available so that you can find one perfect for your home.
When choosing a plant, you must consider the pot size and shape you will use. You also need to consider the amount of light the plant will need. The plants come in various shapes and sizes to find one perfect for your home.
Banksia Plant Care
When checking for plant care, one of the first things you should consider is its varieties.
So here’s a brief plant guide with all the basics you need to get started.
The plant is pretty strict when it comes to watering. They can handle long, dry spells and only need watering during hot weather or if the soil is mainly sandy. It also doesn’t like soggy, so make sure your pot has good drainage. When you do water, please give them a good soak so that the water penetrates deep into the soil.
The best pruning time is immediately after flowering. This ensures you remove any spent flowers and encourages bushy new growth.
You can either tip prune or cut back quite hard if your plant is too large for its position. Keep in mind that if you cut it back hard, the plant will take several years to recover its original shape.
The flowers are essential for nectar-feeding birds. Flowers are also a significant source of pollen for bees. Most have prostate or groundcover forms.
Its flower spikes can be up to 1m long with over 100 individual flowers. The colour of flowers can be cream, yellow, orange, red or brown. It is not uncommon for this tree to have more than one colour flower on the same spike.
They can easily be propagated from seed, but it is recommended that you start with a known species to grow well in your area. This will give you the best chance for success.
To propagate from seed:
- Collect the cones when they are mature and dry.
- Break them open, remove the seeds, and plant them in a well-drained seed-raising mix.
- Once they have germinated, transplant them into individual pots and care for them like any other banksia plant.
- Banksia plants can also be propagated from cuttings, although this is tricky. It can take several months for the banksia cuttings to root, so be patient!
Frequently Asked Questions about Banksia
Should you prune banksia?
Pruning is a matter of personal preference. Some gardeners like leaving dead flower heads on the plant as they add winter interest. Others prefer to remove them, as they can look untidy. If you decide to prune your plant, cut off the spent flower heads at their base using sharp scissors or secateurs. Ensure you disinfect your tools with the methylated spirit after use, as they are susceptible to fungal infection.
How long does banksia take to flower?
It can take up to 10 years to flower, although some varieties may flower as early as three years.
The flowers are pollinated by bees, which produce nectar, a rich source of carbohydrates and amino acids. The flowers also have a sticky resin that coats the bee’s body and hinders its ability to fly. When the bee leaves the flower, it spreads pollen on other flowers as it cleans itself.
Should you remove dead banksia flowers?
Removing dead flowers is unnecessary, but you can if you want to. You can either snap them off or use a pair of scissors. If you remove them, dispose of them in the trash and not down the drain, as they can cause clogs.
Are Banksias slow growing?
Most are slow growing, but there are a few exceptions. The Western Australian banksia, B. robur, is one of the fastest growing Banksias, maturing in just 5-7 years. B. integrifolia, the Sydney banksia, is also a relatively fast grower, reaching maturity in 10-15 years.
Most of them take a long time to reach maturity – some taking up to 50 years! This slow growth is because most are monocarpic; they flower only once and then die. To ensure the continuity of the species, new plants must be grown from seed or cuttings taken from existing plants.
Are banksia flowers poisonous?
Banksia flowers are not poisonous. However, they have a very high saponin content, which can cause skin irritation and vomiting if ingested. Saponins are natural detergents found in many plants and responsible for the foaming that occurs when you add water to banksia flowers.