Customer, Frequently asked questions and answers

What could cause a pincushion to not flower?

Low light levels – vegetative growth continues. Pruning during summer months. Only prune in spring during or directly after flowering. Vigorous vegetative growth from high nitrogen levels in the soil. Mild growing conditions with overwatering. Day length – the plant needs to experience long days and then shorter days with lower temperatures to act as the signal for flower initiation.

Why doesn’t my protea produce flowers or buds develop but do not open?

With Protea it is not unusual for them to take a year or two before they begin to flower. The reason being the flowers are so large the plant requires a strong “woody” branch to support the weight of the flower.

When a protea is flowering it is at a very vulnerable stage and very sensitive to water stress.  Water at least every second/ third day until it is a well-established plant for at least the first two summers.    

The best time of year to plant is autumn.

Plant may have been pruned at the wrong time or to frequently.  Prune after flowering.

Pincushion planted in a container. The leaves are becoming dry and browning, what could be causing this?

Pincushions are sensitive to water shortage especially when in flower.

Daily watering is recommended when planted in a container as the plant is unable to locate its own water source.

Use pine bark as a mulch to help prevent soil from drying out.

I have an established pincushion can I move it or prune it?

Proteaceae do not like root disturbance, the plant would not survive the transplant. .

Prune established plants back in stages give a week or two in between to reduce shock, seal it with wound sealer.  Insure that there is at least 5 to 7 healthy leaves left on the branch before you cut it.   

What mulch can I use for my Proteaceae?

Mulch reduces weed growth; helps preserve soil moisture and keep soil temperature constant.

Mulch can also add a little nutrition to and lower the pH of the soil.
Pine bark, Eucalyptus mulch, stone and newspaper can be used.  

Allow a small area around the stem to breath as the stem shouldn’t stay damp.

I live in Johannesburg if I plant out Fynbos in my garden will it be able to handle the frost?

Fynbos does not handle harsh frost well, is best to cover them with a frost cloth at times when they are vulnerable to prevent damage or stress to the plant.

When buying the plant also select varieties which indicate on the back of the label that they are frost tolerant.   

How often should I water my proteas?
  1. Planted in a container: You do not want the medium to dry out completely. In a container the plant has a restricted root zone in which to take up water. Water once a day in windy dry conditions. Be careful of over watering a medium which does not drain well.
  2. Planted in a garden: It takes a protea up to two years to properly establish itself, thus becoming “drought tolerant”.
    During this period the plant will need to be watered well. If conditions become very hot and windy increase the amount of water you apply, as well as when it is flowering.  
What can I use to feed my Proteaceae?

Proteas generally are adapted to finding their own nutrition and over feeding will cause more harm than good.
If they do require feeding use a slow release, organic food such as Bounce-Back or Sea Grow.
Always use the smallest recommended dosage.
Do not apply any Bone-meal or fertilizer as this will have a negative effect on the plant.

Fynbos died within 6 months after planting. What could have gone wrong?

Mortality within 6 months of planting can be as a result of one of the following:

  • Compost was used at planting and contained nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) which Proteaceae are sensitive to. Compost usually also has a high pH. Most commercially available composts are fairly high in nutrients.  Try to find acid compost or rather not use any.
  • Plants were not watered regularly during the first few months to make sure that they establish their roots well into the soil.  The medium that that plants are grown in should never be allowed to dry out. 
  • The stems of the plants were physically damaged, either by hoeing around the bases of the plants or by weed eater.  Once there is a wound in the stem at ground level, soil borne pathogens can easily enter and kill the plants. 
  • In a very windy area or in a stony soil the plants were not firmed into the soil well enough, rocking/moving of stems may cause wounds.
  • Root disturbance such as weeding, shovelling or walking too closely next to the plant can cause root damage and the plant may die.


Should one prune Fynbos and when is the best time to prune?

Pruning is definitely advisable as it has many benefits:

  • It enables you to form the shape of your plants.
  • It gives the plant a neat appearance and will induce new growth.
  • After pruning each cut stem will produce 2 or 3 flowering stems the following season.
  • As the plant gets older and the number of stems increase the length of the stems will decrease. To produce longer stems, remove whole stem from the centre of the plant out thus thinning the bush out.

The best time to Prune differs between certain varieties:

  • Leucadendron, Leucospermum, Aulax & Mimetes:
    These plants will flower each year. Once the plant has finished flowering or the plant has lost its colour and cones have dried out. Remove the heads by cutting back the stem, leave 10 – 15cm of healthy stem with at least 5 to 7 healthy leaves. Stems which are not flowering be can cut back to the same length. Also remove any weak or unhealthy branches.
  • Protea and Telopea:
    They are pruned in pretty much the same way as Leucadendron except non-flowering branches must not be cut back as they will bear the flowers for the following season.
  • Serruria:
    You can either cut the flowers to use as cut flowers in a vase or you can remove them directly after flowering, leave about 8 cm of healthy stem with leaves from which it can reshoot.
    Remove any unhealthy, bent or those which are growing towards the ground.
    Each cut stem will produce shoots which will flower the following year
    After pruning Serruria shoot fairly quickly. If you wish to have a more compact plant with shorter flower stems, tip prune your plants when the new growth is 10 to 15cm long.
  • Geraldton Wax
    Head cut the entire plant after flowering, about 5 cm higher than the previous year's prune
  • Brunia and Berzelia
    Prune shoots after flowering (it takes two years for a shoot to flower)