From Banksia to Leucadendron, we can’t get enough of the protea family’s blooms
1 of 16Thomas J. Story
Alien-like stamen emerge from a fuzzy center.
2 of 16Thomas J. Story
Leucospermum ‘Flame Giant’
Bright red stamen with yellow tips give this pincushion the appearance of a fireball in motion.
3 of 16Thomas J. Story
Elongated flowers come in a piercingly bright shade of yellow.
4 of 16Thomas J. Story
Leucospermum ‘High Gold’
Dome-shaped yellow pincushion flowers resemble a mass of insect antennae.
5 of 16Thomas J. Story
Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’
The center of these pincushion flowers resemble bright red ribbons, hence the name of this total stunner.
6 of 16Thomas J. Story
Endemic to Australia and commonly known as waratah, this Protea-family member is the floral emblem of New South Wales.
7 of 16Thomas J. Story
Protea cynaroides (King Pink)
In its bud stage, the king protea is yet to reveal its showy insides, giving us a moment to admire the pale pink bracts.
8 of 16Thomas J. Story
Creamy bracts fringed with furry tips conceal a bright magenta center.
9 of 16Thomas J. Story
Golden yellow stamen stopped with bright pink tips extend outward, giving this flower an arachnoid feel.
10 of 16Thomas J. Story
Long orange flowers sit atop serrated green leaves. These giant blooms are great bird attractors.
11 of 16Thomas J. Story
Leucadendron ‘Red Eye’
Creamy white flowers with bright red centers make this flowering leucadendron a great addition to any bouquet.
12 of 16Thomas J. Story
Leucadendron ‘Red Gem’
Loved for its foliage, ‘Red Gem’ has green leaves with green and red bracts.
13 of 16Thomas J. Story
Pink bracts form a cone-shaped flower that looks almost luminous.
14 of 16Thomas J. Story
Where to buy
Unless you have the perfect conditions for proteas (plenty of sunshine, dry summers, and fast-draining soil), enjoying the blooms as cut flowers is your best bet. Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers, in Rainbow, California (pictured, resendizbrothers.com), is currently wholesale only, but is slated to launch The Protea Store for retail orders of Protea along with Banksia, Grevillea, Leucadendron, Leucospermum,and others by early 2015. Western farmers who sell to the public: Rainbow Protea (rainbowprotea.com),also in San Diego County, and Kula Farm Flowers (kulafarm.com),on Maui.
15 of 16Thomas J. Story
Sturdy stems and long-lasting blooms make proteas the perfect cut flowers. Extend their life in a vase by following these steps:
Snip off about 1⁄4 inch from the end of the stem.
Strip stems of any leaves that will be below the water’s surface.
Add 1⁄4 teaspoon of bleach per quart of water to prevent algae from growing—or change water daily.
Keep out of direct sunlight.
16 of 16Thomas J. Story
How to dry
Faded blooms often dry without losing any petals or leaves, and they can last for years. Stand the stems in an empty bucket or vase, or hang them upside down (they’ll lose their shape if stored in a pile or on a flat surface). Expect the colors to fade to shades of tan.