The banksias are iconic Australian plants and are members of the Proteaceae family in company with the grevilleas, hakeas and South African proteas.
Banksias are almost uniquely Australian.
Banksia dentata, from the Northern Territory, is also found in New Guinea.
Over 70 Banksias call Australia home with the lion’s share of species occurring in the southwest corner of Western Australia.
NSW is well represented with 16 varieties. Until recently there was thought to be 15 NSW species, then a new banksia was discovered on the south coast. This new species is very rare and vulnerable with only 14 plants found so far.
Banksias are characterised by their colourful flower spikes. Each spike contains dozens of individual blooms. Each flower is rich in nectar and, in the flowering season, some spikes will drip nectar. The flower spikes are dearly loved by insects, small possums, honeyeaters and florists who frequently use the colourful spikes in flower arrangements.
Banksias are characterised by their colourful flower spikes. Each spike contains dozens of individual blooms.
Banksias prefer reasonably drained sites in full or partial shade.
Once established they have low water requirements. In their establishment phase they require frequent watering.
Depending on the weather a deep watering at least one a week is appreciated. We place a 30 centimetre length of poly pipe in the same hole when we plant banksias. The pipe is filled each time plants are watered. This takes the water straight to the roots. This watering regime continues for the first two growing seasons.
Banksia marginata, the Silver Banksia, is usually a much-branched tall shrub or small tree. Leaves are green above and silvery beneath, hence the common name. The lemon-coloured flower spikes are up to ten centimetres long and six centimetres in diameter. The lengthy flowering period extends from spring to early winter. Mature plants are crowded with spikes at various stages of development.
The Empress Josephine grew this Banksia in her garden, near Paris, in the early 1800’s.
The Silver Banksia occurs in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Banksia ericifolia, Heath-leaved Banksia, is another NSW species. This is a compact, tall, shapely shrub that in cultivation may reach a height of four metres. The dark green leaves are small and crowded. The large flower spikes, up to 30 centimetres long, are a brilliant orange-red in colour. The flowering period extends from late autumn to spring. Plants are in full flower during winter and a mature plant, at this time, will carry dozens of bird-attracting spikes.
A Heath-leaved Banksia, in full flower, rivals many of the better known Western Australian species that appear in cut flower arrangements.
Banksia Giant Candles is a hybrid with Banksia ericifolia one of its parents.
This large shrub will reach a height of five metres with a similar spread. The flower spikes are a deep bronzy-orange and up to 40 centimetres long. Flowering occurs in autumn and winter.
This is a beautiful shrub that could be grown with the Heath-leaved Banksia as an informal hedge that will provide eye-catching colour in the winter garden.
This is just a sample of the range of Banksia suitable for cultivation in local gardens.