Protea is a plant whose belonging to the exotic can be judged from the first glance. A favorite of florists, this outlandish representative of the Protein family can become a highlight of the room and garden collection. Spiky multi-colored heads of huge inflorescences are spectacular, foliage is original. And even though it is not easy to grow a multifaceted protea, and there are not so many options for agricultural technology, even in a room and greenhouse culture, it will have time to show all its bright individuality.
Obstinate exotic Proteus. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Thierry Leclerc
An exotic with a non-standard appearance and its representatives in garden and indoor culture
Succulents from the Protein family with a non-standard appearance, water-accumulating leaves and underground organs conquer flower growers all over the world with non-standard flowering. “Spiky”, bold-looking heads of inflorescences resemble artichokes, then giant thistles and burdocks, then bottle brushes, but in their colorfulness and exoticism they will more than give odds to any other plant. Proteas are far from easy to grow crops, but they will become the most original touch in the collection of plants, and then replenish the collection of the most original dried flowers.
Protea (Protea) Is a genus of plants of the Protein family. The type species of the genus is Artichoke Protea (Protea cynaroides).
Proteas combine hard oblong-oval (less often linear or needle-shaped) leathery leaves with capitate inflorescences reaching 5 to 30 cm in diameter. The inflorescences are surrounded by a dense wrapper, they do not flaunt with small flowers, but with surprisingly unusual bracts. Conical, with protruding needle-shaped “petals”, they are distinguished by the original alternation of colors, and unusual differing forms of bracts and sepals, and sweet nectar, attracting honey plants and hiding inside the “heads”.
Proteins are not only diverse – they are inimitably multifaceted. It is no coincidence that this culture even got its name in honor of the son of Poseidon Proteus, who can take any guise. At home, in Australia and Africa, where proteas are found literally at every step, these plants really boast an extraordinary variety. In our country, proteas are represented by a much more modest number of species.
The main representative of proteas in our climate is Proteus artichoke (Protea cynaroides). Its inflorescences reach 30 cm in diameter. The capitate inflorescences are not only large, but also spectacular. They are made variegated by the original wrappers of the bracts, painted in different tones. At home, this protea is known under the name “pot of honey”: its nectar is used as a unique healing remedy for coughs. White, pink, orange, yellow, lilac tones of colors in Protea are sometimes combined in the most variegated variations.
Also, occasionally you can find on sale:
- Proteus large-headed (Protea coronataformerly known as macrocephala) with bright large heads decorated with wrappers arranged in peculiar stripes;
- creeping proteus (Protea repens) with recumbent shoots, smaller foliage and smaller “prickly” balls of inflorescences.
Protea use in floriculture
Protea is one of the most original plants for winter bouquets. When the inflorescences are dried, the protea heads retain their shape well and practically do not change color. They can be considered as one of the exotics-dried flowers with a long shelf life.
Protea looks great in live bouquets. With frequent water changes and good lighting, its inflorescences can last longer than any other flowers. Today this plant is recognized as one of the most fashionable for wedding bouquets. The undoubted advantage of the protea is the ability to compose compositions intended as a gift for men.
Protea growing strategy
As a perennial plant, Protea can only be grown where there is no frost in winter. In the middle lane, this plant is not grown in open soil, even as an annual. The only option is to grow proteas in a room and greenhouse culture. Indoors, subject to a cool wintering, Protea can be stored from year to year. And if there is no opportunity to arrange a suitable wintering, then in a room culture Protea can also be grown as an annual, thrown away after flowering.
The conditions and care parameters required for the plant do not differ for proteas growing as a houseplant, and for beauties growing in a winter garden.
Lighting for protea
Protea is a light-loving plant. But the colors of the inflorescences, the brightness of the tones are negatively affected by direct sunlight. Therefore, for a protea in a winter garden or room, you need to select bright, but scattered locations. For the flowering of this exotic, the stability of lighting is critically important: on cloudy days and in the cold season, it is recommended to supplement the plant with special phytolamps (or fluorescent lamps).
Proteas are thermophilic cultures. And it is precisely their extreme sensitivity to fluctuations in conditions, the need to grow at stably hot temperatures that does not allow them to grow in soil even as an annual with a short growing season. In the warm season, from spring to mid-autumn, proteas need temperatures from 20 degrees Celsius (within room temperatures or hotter).
The winter regime for keeping proteas should provide for a sharp drop in air temperature. Proteas should winter in a cool place, at a temperature not lower than 5 degrees Celsius, but not higher than 10 degrees. Without a cool wintering, the protea will not bloom again and the plant is easier to throw away, replacing it with new seedlings.
For proteas, not only temperature is important, but also good ventilation. This plant cannot grow with stagnant air, it needs a constant supply of fresh air and regular ventilation of the room. Proteus is not afraid of drafts; the plant cannot be taken out into the fresh air in the middle lane (with the exception of a glazed balcony or loggia, a glazed patio).
Watering and air humidity
Watering can be called the most difficult to care for Protea. This plant is extremely sensitive to waterlogging of the soil and reacts poorly to too abundant watering. Protea treatments should be moderate. It is better to carry out frequent, but scanty watering than to saturate the soil with moisture. But the drought resistance of Protea, which it manifests in the soil in regions with warm winters, in a room culture, the culture almost completely loses. Complete drying of the earthen coma for the protea cannot be allowed, just letting the soil dry out in the upper layer and partially in the middle. The winter watering regime cannot be called otherwise than meager: Protea at the dormant stage is watered only once a month.
You should also carefully approach the choice of water for irrigation. For Protea, only soft and acidified water is suitable, to which a few drops of lemon juice or citric acid are added at the tip of a knife.
One of the best qualities of a capricious protea is a love of dry air. This plant not only does not need spraying, but any humidification of the air will not have a very good effect on the attractiveness of the inflorescences. Moreover, Protea loves hot air and is not afraid to be placed next to heating devices.
It is not necessary to apply fertilizers for this culture, with the exception of rare procedures aimed at renewing the acidity of the soil. By adding half of the standard dose of fertilizers for rhododendrons or azaleas to the water for irrigation once every 1-1 months, you can maintain the characteristics of the soil stable and supplement the irrigation with acidified water. There are other strategies:
- during the active period of development, proteas are fed with a threefold reduced dose of nitrogen fertilizers or special mixtures for azaleas with a frequency of 1 time per month;
- systemic top dressing is replaced by the introduction of a full portion of fertilizers in early spring, a month after transplantation, and another top dressing after the beginning of flowering.
Proteas will not tolerate an excess of nutrients: they are accustomed to poor soils and such preferences do not change in a greenhouse or indoor culture.
The pruning procedure as such for this plant is not carried out. But after flowering, you need to cut the inflorescence yourself and shorten the shoots by 5-10 cm.
If the protea grows strongly, its branches are shortened by a quarter to a third of the height in the spring (before transplanting).
Transplant and substrate
Proteas need frequent transplants. Young non-flowering plants are transplanted annually, at the classical time. In early spring, they change the container to a large one and keep a whole earthen lump with the exception of the upper contaminated layer. Adult flowering proteas should be transplanted only when the plant completely fills the earthen lump with roots.
Protea containers are chosen in the same way as for most succulents. Shallow and wide pots are more suitable for this culture.
The soil for the protea must be chosen very carefully. A plant, accustomed in nature to dry and poor soil, in a room and greenhouse culture should not grow quite in an ordinary substrate. Ideal for Protea is a mixture of equal proportions of high peat, pine needles and sand, or a ready-made substrate for rhododendrons and azaleas. The key characteristics of the soil are drainage, rough texture and acidic reaction (pH 5,0 to 5,5).
Diseases and pests
Protea even in a greenhouse, and not something that rarely gets sick in a room culture. The plant can only suffer from:
- late blight, which is better to fight with fungicides;
- chlorosis arising from the wrong selection of water for irrigation.
Getting new proteas and growing these plants on your own takes diligence and patience. The thing is that Protea seeds (and a beauty can only be propagated by them) are not found on sale so often, and the plant blooms 5-6 years after sowing. If waiting is not for you, look for ready-made Protea seedlings.
Seeds are sown in the classic terms for annuals, in March-April. It is better to use a mixture of peat and sand in equal proportions as a substrate. They are buried only to a depth equal to twice the diameter of the seeds themselves, and they are covered with sifted soil from above. It is not worth watering the substrate before the seeds are scattered: after covering with soil, they need to be very carefully slightly moistened from a spray bottle, covered with glass or film and placed in the favorite Protea temperature range from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. The sprouting process is very long: the first shoots will sprout only after 5-6 weeks. The only way to speed up germination is by cold stratification. For her, the seeds can be sown in wet sand and placed for 2 months at a temperature of 7-8 degrees Celsius (a refrigerator is perfect).
It is advisable to remove the shelter from the crops immediately after the emergence of shoots. When 2-3 leaves of Protea appear, they need to be transplanted into individual containers. Throughout the entire growing period for the Protea, watering is very carefully carried out, so that drops do not fall on the sprouts themselves, and the substrate is only slightly damp (but does not dry out).
Increasingly, the grafting method is recommended for proteas: stem segments up to 10 cm long are rooted under a hood, provided there is good lighting and planting in a slightly moist peat-sandy substrate.