King Protea


King Protea

Protea cynaroides

Scientific name

This protea has the largest flower head of all the proteas with a range of locally distinct colour forms. It is usually about 1 meter in height, and produces 6 to 10 stems in one season. It is the national flower of South Africa.

Cynaroides refers to the artichoke like appearance of the flower (called an inflorescence because it it actually a composite of many flowers).

It re-sprouts after flower from a thick underground stem that produces a number of buds. Orange-breasted sunbird (Anthobaphes violacea), southern double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus), malachite sunbird (Nectarinia famosa), and the Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer) all feed from this protea and on the insects it attracts, as well as bees (such as the Cape honeybee), beetles (such as the rove beetles, Scarabaeidae, Trichostetha fascicularis and monkey beetles). Only 1 to 30% of flowers produce seeds.

It creates a bed of fine roots towards the surface of the soil to enable it to absorb nutrients in the very nutrient-poor soils, making it very sensitive to soil disturbance. Trim weeds, do not pull them out.

It grows in both sandy and clay soils, of acid and neutral pH.

Propagation instructions

By seed

The large nut-like seeds have to be treated during storage with a systemic fungicide with the active ingredient of metalaxyl (Apron) and sown from the middle of March, when the day temperature starts to drop. The seed is sown in open seedbeds, in a light, well drained soil and covered with a layer of sand (about 1 cm or 1 1/2 times the size of the seed). The bed is then covered with a grid against the attacks from birds and rodents. The seed will germinate three to four weeks after sowing. The plants are generally about four or five years old from seed before they flower.

By cutting

The stems have to be thick and strong to carry the heavy flower heads, this makes the taking of cuttings quite difficult, but good colour forms or cultivars have to be propagated from cuttings. Cuttings are made from semi-hardwood, 6-10 cm long, of the current season's growth. The cuttings are dipped for about four seconds in a rooting hormone solution and placed in a growing house with bottom heat (25ºC) and intermittent mist. The rooted cuttings are potted up when the roots are well developed and planted out in the late autumn in South Africa, or in spring in colder areas. On older plants the side shoots tend to be quite short, so to encourage the development of new shoots and long stems, the stems bearing old flower heads should be cut back to ground level. Older plants also tend to become woody and should be cut back to ground level, where they will sprout again from the thick underground rootstock.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

We currently have no seeds of this species in our seedbanks. Do you have any seeds or do you know where we can get some? Get in touch!
We currently have no plants of this species in our home nurseries. Do you have any plants or do you know where we can get some? Get in touch!

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #57 Rosebank 50
Total 50

Can you help grow this species?

We are in need of this species! Can you help? Maybe you have this species at home, or perhaps you can collect seeds or cuttings (if applicable) from friends or from a public space. If so, why don't you help establish this species in areas where it is much needed!

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Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

Sensitive roots

Good potplant

Suitable for clay soil

Suitable for sandy soil

It provides food for:

Honeybees/flies

Southern double-collared sunbird

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