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Protea Cynaroides * South Africa King * Spectacular * Very Rare * 3 Seeds *

Protea cynaroides is probably the most striking and spectacular of all the Protea species. The King Protea was originally from the Cape Town area of South Africa. It is actually the national flower of South Africa. Most plants are one metre in height when mature, but may vary according to locality and habitat from 35 cm to 2 metres in height. Protea cynaroides is a spreading evergreen shrub with long, oval green leaves borne on reddish green stalks. The leaves look like flat spoons, or paddles, which grow alternately along the several stems of the plant. Their petioles, leaf stems, are quite long, about 1-2 inches. Protea can take moisture in through its leaves. This works well where it grows, there isn't much annual precipitation. Ocean fogs frequently blanket the area of the coastal chaparral and plants have adapted to getting their water through their leaves. Large, vigorous plants produce 6 to 10 flower heads in one season, although some exceptional plants can produce up to forty flower heads on one plant. The flower of the King Protea can get to be 12 inches across. On the outside it has many stiff, pointed, narrow bracts, or petals, that give it the appearance of a cup. The bottom half of the petals starts out cream colored or yellow, which turns into bright pink or velvet red on the top half. Inside the cup is a mass of white stamen about 1-2 inches long which all bend towards the center. The flowers are hermaphrodite, have both male and female organs and are pollinated by bees. The flowers in the centre of the flower head open over a fairly long period of time, which makes it such a stunning sight in the garden for weeks at a time as well as a long lasting cut flower. They dry very well and are commonly used as focal pieces in flower arrangements. Flowering all year round, the period is depending on the locality. 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. Hardiness zone 9, (-5°C/25°F) in Winter. King Protea can be found all over the world where the atmosphere is dry and the soil has good drainage. It can be potted or be grown successfully as a garden plant in the right type of soil. Likes acid sandy soil. Mixtures of 25% to 50% peat moss with the balance being polystyrene or perlite has given good results. Relatively low concentrations of nutrients are required for normal growth of Protea. Good soil drainage is the most important requirement for Protea production. Those plants are very sensitive to nitrates and phosphates in the soil, these can prove toxic even at moderate levels. When fertilizing, use a product which contains no phosphorus. Plants may also suffer from magnesium deficiency. Grow with a pH of 5.0 - 5.5.
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