Banksia Information – Learn How To Grow Banksia Plants

Banksia Information – Learn How To Grow Banksia Plants

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Banksia flowers are native to Australia, where the familiar wildflowers are well appreciated for their beauty, versatility and drought-tolerance. Read on for more information about banksia flowers and banksia plant care.

Banksia Information

Banksia (Banksia spp.) is a stunning plant with unique leaves and stunning flowers that bloom nonstop. This diverse plant family contains a variety of forms that include 6 to 12 foot (1.8 to 3.6 m.) shrubs and full-size trees that attain heights of 30 to 60 feet (9 to 18 m.).

The tiny blooms, arranged in round, oval or cylindrical clusters, come in a range of colors such as yellowish-green, brown, orange, pale yellow, cream and red. The flowers are highly attractive to birds and beneficial insects.

How to Grow Banksia

Growing banksia is easy as long as you provide well-drained soil, full sunlight and excellent air circulation. If your soil is clay-based, dig in generous amounts of finely chopped bark or compost to improve soil texture. Plant banksia on a low mound of soil to promote drainage, then surround the plant with gravel mulch.

Perfect drainage is critical, as banksia flowers are susceptible to root rot, which is usually deadly. If your soil conditions aren’t right, you can grow banksia flowers in containers. Banksia isn’t a good choice for moist, humid climates, although tolerance varies depending on the cultivar.

Water banksia flowers regularly for the first year or two, then cut back to an occasional deep watering during hot, dry weather.

Banksia Plant Care

Banksia plants are rugged and require little attention. You can fertilize the plant occasionally if you want, but it usually isn’t necessary. If you decide to feed the plant, opt for phosphorus-free products because phosphorus can kill the plant.

Pruning isn’t usually needed, but you can shape the plant or trim it to maintain a desired size. Be careful not to cut old wood.

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Australian Wildflowers: Banksias

Banksias are one of Australia's most diverse & beautiful flowering plants. They bloom in every colour imagineable & range in form from small trees to shrubs & creepers. Read on & find out why you want to grow banksias.

Proteaceae is one of my favourite plant familes for the simple reason that it contains so many stunning wildflowers. The type genus, Protea is an obvious example, but there are many, many more. In Australia, there are around 40 Proteaceae genera including familar names like Macadamia, Waratah, Grevillea & Stenocarpus. Species amongst these groups have achieved amazing variation, whilst remaining typically Proteacean in foliage & bloom. A genus that well exemplifies these wildflowers, is the largest & most diverse of them the beautiful Banksias.

There are over 200 Banksia species & subspecies excluding a possible sub-genus. Each of them different but instantly recogniseable, they are a perfect illustration of nature's ability to vary endlessly on a theme. There are very few hues or colour combinations not represented somewhere in this genus. Similarly, there is considerable variety amongst Banksia foliage, form & climate preferences. All are ruggedly-adapted perreniels & all are beautiful.

It is hard to choose a favourite Banksia. I am fond of the Heath-leaved Banksia ericifolia for example, because of its colourful flower & unusual foliage. The Prostrate Banksia petiolarison the other hand, is another favourite as it is low-growing, drought-tolerant & has a subtle, sandy-hued bloom. Still, talking about wildflowers is not the same as showing them. For this reason I've put together a small gallery of Banksia images supplied by DG members. To expand & contract the images, just click on them. Each picture has a caption including its common & botanic names, plus the member who supplied it. Thanks goes out to these members. This article is dedicated to them.

Banksia "Giant Candles" courtesy of kennedyh
Banksia Gallery

Unlike native pea family species like Acacias & Chorizemas, Proteaceas such as Banksias have no special germinating requirements. They sprout relatively quickly & tend to be fast growing, given alkaline soil & good drainage. A lot can be said about the cold hardiness of Banksias as well. On this site there is a list of 40 variably frost tolerant species including most featured in the gallery. The striking example to the right belonging to kennedyh, "Giant Candles" is a hybrid of the Heath-leaved Banksia ericifolia & the Hairpin Banksia spinulosa. Grown in the US, it would make a great outdoor Christmas Tree complete with natural decoration.

The drought happy B. petiolaris mentioned earlier is one of a number of low-growing varieties. The Creeping Banksia repens is another example, but other species like the Southern Blechnum Banksia blechnifolia also cover ground by sending shoots beneath the soil. Both these Western Australian natives bloom directly from the ground & make great container features. By comparison, the Wallum Tree Banksia aemula can reach 8 metres & there are species growing to all sizes between.

Clarifying the possible sub-genus mentioned earlier, some experts argue for an absorption by Banksia of Dryandra a closely related genus. Dryandras are less widespread than Banksias & relatively unseen in cultivation. They tend to be prostrate, though a tree-like species exists in D. arborea. Dryandras require sandy soils & in the words of the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants, "can be regarded as very suitable for areas with a Mediterranean-style climate with wet winters & fairly dry summers". Like Banksias, these plants form showy flower bracts but in a more restricted range of forms.

Urchin Dryandra praemorsa courtesy of bootandall

Proteaceae species generally speaking, have specialised root systems developed to maximise nutrient intake from sparse soils. This is particularly the case with Dryandras & to a lesser degree, Banksias. Consequently, these plants are sensitive to fertilisers. If such chemicals are used on them, low phosphate, slow release & purpose-made protea mixes are suggested.

The list below leads to plenty of hints for raising & caring for established Banksias, plus information to help decide on the right one. Whether you want an attractive container bloom, a beautiful tree like kennedyh or something colourful in between, Banksias are a great option.


Coastal Plants for Australian Gardens

Coastal Soil Type

No matter where you live, knowing your soil type is a key ingredient to successful gardening.

Many coastal areas have sandy soils with little water holding capacity. In this case, improving the soil with composted organic matter and using products with water holding properties like water crystals will help your plants to grow and flourish.

On the other hand, some coastal areas have heavy clay soils. If you’re unsure, dig a hole somewhere in the garden – about the size of a bucket – fill it with water and see if it drains away within a reasonable time. If it doesn’t, you probably have a clay soil and will need to treat it with gypsum. The addition of composted organic matter, such as 5 IN 1 Organic Fertiliser , can also help in ‘opening up’ the soil and allowing for root penetration.

If your soil has rocky characteristics, you might need to find areas to plant amongst the rocks or consider building up the garden to provide your plants with sufficient soil for root growth. Where this is not possible, the use of a potted garden might be the answer.

No matter what your soil type, it’s always a good idea to have a pH test done. This will be a great help to determine remedial action if necessary and appropriate plant selection.

’Best not to choose plants with large soft leaves which will be constantly torn by the wind. Look for plants with small, tough leaves and flowers that are not easily damaged by wind.’

Know Your Coastal Climate

Many coastal areas are subjected to moderate to strong winds for a considerable proportion of the year. In this situation, choice of plant is imperative. Best not to choose plants with large soft leaves which will be constantly torn by the wind. Look for plants with small, tough leaves and flowers that are not easily damaged by wind.

If you are very close to the sea, you may need to consider the effect of salt water spray or even a salt laden atmosphere and find plants not affected. Look for plants that grow naturally in seaside positions such as some banksias, pandanus and coastal grasses.

Search out sheltered spots for plants more susceptible to damage or create sheltered areas – courtyards, pergolas or fenced areas, or screen with suitable hedging plants, for your special treasured plants.

Know Your Plants

Not all plants will grow and flourish everywhere. Tropical plants are more suitable to the tropics and alpine plants more suitable to colder regions. Humidity and seasonal weather variations also affect many plants. Mediterranean plants grow naturally in areas of cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. If you plant these in areas of high summer rainfall and dry winters they are likely to suffer. Plants like lavender thrive in the sub-tropics during periods of low rainfall but when wet, humid summers return, they’ll suffer and possibly die. Trying to emulate a plant’s native habitat is one way of creating a happy, healthy garden. Be especially cautious with plants originating from different areas of Australia as our country has many different climatic zones. For example, you may experience difficulty trying to grow plants native to Western Australian on the northeastern seaboard. Some recent plant developments have led to the grafting of desirable species from other regions onto local rootstock to overcome this problem.

Wherever you live, be it coastal or inland, if you address these three aspects, you’re sure to have a garden that will give you endless pleasure.

Best coastal plants

Here are just a few suggestions for the basic levels of planting. You should check with your local garden centre about the suitability of any plant to your region.

Groundcovers

Zieria prostrata
Carpobrotus (Pig Face)
Native grasses
Liriope
Dwarf Agapanthus
Gazanias
Succulents

Mid level – Compact

Banksias
Callistemon
Westringia (Coastal Rosemary)
Dwarf Raphiolepsis
Succulents
Bromeliads
Agave
Crotons

Feature Plant

Banksia integrifolia
Yucca
Camellia
Pandanus
Evergreen Magnolia

Screening

Min-a-min
Acmena ‘Allyns Magic’,
Westringia
Photinia
Camellia
Hibiscus
Michelia figo such as Michelia ‘Coco’
Lillypilly


Botanic Notables: Banksia

Ash and warm winds from an approaching fire are a death knell for many plants, but others have evolved to survive in fire-prone landscapes. Some of these, such as the beautiful flowering shrubs and trees of the genus Banksia, are adapted to even thrive in wildfires.

Banksia coccinea. Photo by: Flickr user OwlCottage.

Many of the eighty Banksia species exhibit heat-sensitive serotiny, which means that the plant will not release its seeds unless it perceives a fire. The rather stubborn Banksia cuneata, for example, will nurture 17,000 seeds for more than twenty years, holding each within its canopy of woody capsules. No fire? No seed release. But, when the plant senses the auspicious sign of a hot autumn fire, it will fill the air with thousands of winged seeds. Swept up in the hot winds, the seeds mingle with ash and blanket the blackened ground.

Banksia ingtegrifolia: seed cones sealed, and open, and in flower (left to right). Photo by: Flickr user Tatters.

Seems nonsensical, doesn't it? It isn't. To the serotinous plant, fire is an ally that will literally level the local competition. In Southwestern Australia, where fires are consummate and reliable, the native Banksia plants can repopulate a previously impenetrable bush with the seeds of their stored seed banks—because the seed release was timed to launch when other plants were not.

Banksia cuneata. Photo by: Gnangarra, Wikipedia Commons.

It is not without its risks—what if a fire does not come? Banksias would sooner perish than open their mature seed capsules in a cool environment, and, many do. What if a fire arrives too soon? Many Banksia species have a somewhat delayed life cycle—they require six years or more to flower, fruit, and seed. So if a wild fire sweeps through in the meantime, the seedless plant will likely die, the last of its lineage.

Banksia coccinea. Illustration by: Ferdinand Bauer (1813).

Meanwhile, those Banksia that do manage to successfully schedule their birth, death, and seed release, are growing in Southern California, Australia, and certain other ecologies where fierce fires can be found.

"The Banksia Men Make a Wicked Plot." Banksia seed cones are the villains in Australia illustrator May Gibb's children's book, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918). The young heros are modeled after Eucalyptus, another Australian native.

Banksia villain in "Snugglepot and Cuddlepie," May Gibbs (1918).

Banksia seed cones are used to make various objects, such as goblets. Photo by: John Lucas.

Anna Laurent is a writer and producer of educational botanical media.


20 Replies to “Banksia rose”

I have 2 established banksia roses (1xwhite 1xyellow). I’ve removed the trellis they were on as it was collapsing and had to cut them back to ground level. Will they come back from such a harsh pruning?
I honestly don’t know, Diane. This rose blooms from old wood and experts advise avoiding severe pruning of old branches. You haven’t said where you live, so I don’t know what conditions your area is experiencing. As a perennial, Banksia roses can store carbs for growth in their root system and may produce shoots from the base. I would say keep the soil around it just damp, and keep your fingers crossed.

I am looking for a screening vine to grow across high tension wires to screen out neighbours over the back fence. There is a currently a lilly pilly hedge that is about a metre high to the fence height.
We live in Brisbane and the area is 3.5 metres long. We are looking for something that would grow about 2.5 to 3 metres tall and be reasonably dense. Where we are intending to plant it would most likely put it in a very large pot in the ground to give it protection from other plants that steal the moisture (there was bamboo close by). Would the Banksia Rose be suitable for this?

According to what I can find, a Banksia Rose should grow happily in Brisbane.

Would it be possible to grow a banksia rose in terra-cotta or concrete containers
(rectangular)?
The idea is to have it grow up the front walls around windows of a unit that has only a cement/concrete footpath in front of the windows and it is in order to soften the wall spaces between these windows. Most of the ground soil in other areas is clay.
There is a climbing banksia rose climbing well along a side fence from the ground.
So, this is the reason for considering this plant to grow in other areas of the residence. Live in western suburbs of Adelaide. Thank you.

Shoma, Banksia Rose is not a plant that I would recommend for growing in a pot as it is very vigorous (7-8 metre) and would need a decent sized root system to provide the coverage you are hoping for. It also blooms on old wood, so in order not to cover the windows or interfere with use of the footpath, pruning required would very probably drastically reduce flowering. This plant does better in soil with organic matter added and allowed to form its free-arching shape.
If you want to try growing it in a very large pot, large terracotta and concrete pots commonly have only one hole in the base, and the pot would need to be kept off the pavement using briquettes to ensure good drainage.

Is the Banksia Rose toxic to stock? Am wishing to grow it on a fence that separates the house yard from the paddocks. The animals that have access to the fence are: horses, sheep, deer, cattle and kangaroo? Thanking you in advance.

It is not included in any lists that I searched Fiona, but I would check with a Vet who cares for livestock. I was recently warned by my Vet that the Sago Palm is poisonous to animals, although that doesn’t appear on these lists, either. Best to be on the safe side.

We have an elderly white banksia rose growing on a west facing fence that used to bloom madly every spring and summer. Over the last few year it has not been doing as well despite pruning, feeding and watering. It is probably 20 yrs old. This year it has a few leaves and buds so far but I have had to take off quite a few dead branches. We live in southern Victoria on the coast and it has been a cool, damp spring and none of the roses on the shadier parts of the garden are doing well but this one is particularly sad! Thanks for any advice Silke
It could be water-logged soil if other roses aren’t doing well as roses like sunny positions, or collar rot, or old age. You haven’t said what sort of fertiliser you have used, or when you pruned it. It is difficult to identify the source of the problem with the information you have provided.

I recently bought a home in Hobart and there is a banksia rose at the back of the garden that is about 6 cubic metres large. There’s a significant amount of dead wood underneath and it takes up so much space. I’d love to prune it back but the advice a lot of people are giving me is to remove it and then put in a smaller trained one. Any advice?

It is quite common for these roses to reach 6 metres, so they are best grown over a pergola or where they will not crowd other plants. Cutting it back hard will remove the wood where flowers form. As the post above indicates, now is not a good time to prune it. You might be best to remove it and plant another one where its mature size won’t cause a problem.

Hello, I live on a farm in Victoria, we only have bore water, I’d like a rose to climb up an old verandas. Would the banksia be tough enough for our conditions, or too tough for a verandah? Many thanks.

Hi Heather, the vigorous growth of the Banksia Rose is very suitable for verandahs and pergolas, and it does grow in Victoria. Bore water is merely ground water. Some can be high in calcium and magnesium, others can be salty. It depends on how your other plants respond to your bore water. Make sure your planting spot has good drainage and compost mixed into the planting soil, and check your soil pH (6.5 is perfect). The humus in mature compost and a suitable pH prevent plants from absorbing excess amounts of particular nutrients. – Lyn

Hello, I have a yellow banksia rose and live in Victoria. Do I leave those really really long canes or do I prune them off? Thank you

Barbara, if you have a lot of very long canes, you can remove some of them to thin out growth. First remove any dead canes, then those that are damaged. Then, as it says in the post above, shorten the remaining canes by one third so that you don’t lose next season’s flowers.

Hi, I live in Adelaide and our house is facing north. I have 2 banksia rose plants about 2 years old. They have never bloomed. I am wondering why. The plants look healthy too. Please instruct me how to promote blooms my banksia plants. Thank you

Hi Sepalika,
You haven’t said what you have used to fertilise your plants. Banksia roses are not heavy feeders, however, at this time of year they do appreciate a 5 cm layer of organic compost applied to the soil surface over the root area (keeping it well clear of the trunks.) Water the compost, then cover it with several cm of organic mulch to keep it damp.
In spring, rake back the compost and give the trees a light application of slow release rose food – applied to the root area, watered in and recovered with the mulch. These should provide your trees with the nutrients they need to produce flowers.

I’m in Sydney. My banksia rose baby is growing fast (less than a year since I planted it and already some stems are over 2m). But it is lacking foliage. What’s there looks healthy, but there just isn’t much. How can I encourage it to fill out? So far, I’ve added some lucerne mulch and upped the watering. Thanks!

I’d say your rose is doing well for its age, as the root ball would be fairly small at this stage. Don’t over-water it as it says in the article, as the weather is currently quite wet where you are. When you prune it after flowering, rake back the mulch and apply some complete native plant food to the soil surface, water it in, and recover with mulch. – Lyn

I have bought to ver small banksia roses and want to train them to grow up into my lattice.
I would like to know if I can manage these plants early so as they do not grow as wide as they do by continual pruning. Are the roots of these plants deep and would they destroy things in the way and if they do not have room to expand and grow further or do they grow as much as they can in a restricted area?
Thank you

Banksia roses are quite vigorous plants, easily reaching 6 metres, and need a strong root system to support their vigorous growth. The problem with continual pruning to keep it small would come at the expense of loss of flowers. You would be wise to choose a less vigorous plant for your situation. – Lyn

My banksia rose has white markings on the leaves and I’m not sure why, can you help. Thanks Linda
Linda, you haven’t said where you live, so I don’t know what sort of climate conditions are affecting your area. ‘White markings on the leaves’ is a pretty vague description of your problem, as they could be caused by several things. A photo would be helpful in helping you to find a solution. Lyn

Sorry Lyn, I live in the NSW snowy mountains I’m not sure how to attached a photo or explain it any better
As you are in a very cold climate, it is not likely to be the most common cause of leaf damage. Isn’t there anyone who can help you by taking a photo on a phone and emailing it to me?

Hi Linda, Thank you for the photo. The damage does not look like frost or rose virus damage. Surprisingly, it looks like powdery mildew, which is very unusual in the current temperatures in your area. These roses are pretty much disease-resistant, so I would say the problem is due to a potassium deficiency. Roses have a high potassium requirement. See: Powdery mildew

In your case, I would remove damaged leaves (if the problem is not too wide spread) and put them in a sealed bag. Then spray the plant with seaweed extract, diluted to weak black tea strength. Also water in ‘seaweed tea’ around the base of the plant. As well as being an essential nutrient, and helping to build disease-resistance, potassium helps plants to resist extremes of heat and cold. Don’t apply fertiliser at this time. You don’t want to encourage new growth with the two coldest months ahead of you. An application of complete fertiliser as the soil starts to warm in spring, and again after flowering in late summer, along with regular watering, should see you overcome this problem.

We are planting Banksia roses along the side of an open carport in Ipswich, Qld. How far apart do we need to put horizontal wires for them to climb on?

30 cm apart should be enough to give the young shoots support.

Hello Lyn, I am looking at plant options for a mass planting along an open wire fence to create a neighbour-friendly screen on my property in central Victoria, which has rich volcanic soils and cold wet winters, with frosts and even occasional snow. I’d very much appreciate your advice regarding Banksia Rose and its suitability or not, and maybe alternatives to consider. Many thanks, Debra

According to the minimum temperatures that Banksia Roses tolerate in the USA, Debra, it should be fine where you live, although it may not be completely evergreen if you get an extreme winter. To keep the fence ‘neighbour-friendly’, you will have to prune it regularly, after flowering, as these plants are very vigorous growers. – Lyn

It’s winter here on the Victorian Surfcoast. I have a pergola which receives full sun and I love to plant a yellow Banksia rose. The Square pergola has 4 old telegraph poles about 2 metres apart As it’s base. There are then cross beams rising to a higher centre. Do you think I should plant 4 Banksia roses, one at the base of each pole? Or would one spread to cover the roof? TIA

Banksia roses can spread up to 6 metres, Jennie, but it takes them a while. To get good coverage for your pergola, planting them 2 metres apart would probably work well, if you give them early training on where you want them to spread. – Lyn

I live in Victoria and my banksia rose loses all its leaves has heaps of flowers at the moment then when they die the leaves start growing again I thought they are meant to be evergreen, it’s about 4 years old

In cool climates, Susan, Banksia roses do lose their leaves in winter. It must get cold in winter months where you live.

Hi Lyn, I’m looking to plant a Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ beside my pool (in a decked area) to grow over the pergola for some shade. Just wondering if the root system is such that it would damage the pool walls or pipes? There should be ample room for the roots to go without needing to push on the pipes, but don’t know if they’ll be drawn to them. Likewise, does this particular plant send out ground runners? Thanks, Georgie

Banksia roses can reach 6 metres, Georgia, and when you consider that the feeder roots are usually underneath the outer canopy where they collect rain falling off the foliage, this plant is probably not a good choice where the roots may be restricted by a structure. Confining roots also confines the canopy of foliage. They are vigorous plants in our climates, but I don’t know if the roots can damage structures. However, if something causes a crack in a pipe, roots will be drawn to the moisture in that area. Roses generally will send up suckers where a root has been damaged. – Lyn

Hi Lyn, I am in western Sydney and have a Banksia Rose climbing up over my shed. We have had some bad windy days and the bulk of the rose has now fallen off the shed and is now almost flat, nearly coming out of the ground under it’s own weight. I’m thinking of taking some cuttings to grow a new 1 in case we can’t get this one upright again. It weighs a ton! When would be the best time to try to propagate a few cuttings?

I would definitely take some cuttings, Sandra. Take more cuttings than you think you will need. Prepare a pot/s with good quality growing mix with 25% propagation sand added. Moisten the mix and make sure it is firm in the pot. As Banksia roses tend to be evergreen in most climates of Australia, choose strong young growth where leaves have formed, but not soft tissue at the tip. Trim the cuttings to about 15cm with the bottom cut just BELOW a joint in the stem, and remove the lower 2/3 of leaves. It may help to dip the base of cuttings into rooting powder or bush honey. Use a pencil to poke a hole in the mix for each cutting, then add the cuttings to the pot. I find putting cuttings next to the edge of the pot helps to support them. Water gently, but do not fertilise until strong signs of new growth. Keep pots in a warm, protected spot out of direct sunlight.


Watch the video: Growing Western Australian Banksias