The Banksia is named in the honour of the famous botanist Sir Joseph Banks, the man who was on the first voyage with Captain Cook to our beautiful coasts back in the day. On this voyage Sir Joseph discovered the banksia and aren't we all glad that he did.
Banksias are indeed one of my favourite Australian plants to use, with their beautiful flower spikes to the plethora of native fauna they attract, these truly are a great plant for any garden. The huge quantity of nectar that is produced by the flowers are similar to a fly in buffet especially catering to the birds and bees. Also the flower spikes make for great cut flowers to brighten up any flower display in your home.
We are blessed with the huge variety of banksia species, more than 170 to be exact. And all these species are pretty much endemic to the beautiful shores of Australia. There is 1 wee guy who is however not. They range for ground covers to tall trees and everything in between, truly a diverse genus of plant. The flowers can be pink, orange, red or yellow. Probably the most common species of banksia that are grown in our gardens are the Banksia spinulosa, Banksia speciosa and the Banksia ericifolia. Two main very popular species come to mind that are wildly grown due to there prolific flower quantities, they are the Giant Candles and the Birthday Candles.
How To Grow
Banksias love to stationed in a sunny spot in your garden with free draining soil. The last bit of that statement is most important as the plant will develop root rot if left in soggy soil. However the good old banksia is not too picky when it comes to which soil they are planted into. If they are planted into a sandy soil they will appreciate a bit of organic matter added to it. Likewise if the soil is a heavy clay, then the addition of an organic gypsum would go down a treat. As gypsum does take sometime to work its magic, the use of raised garden beds to help with drainage would be a much better way to get your lovely new Banksias into the ground quicker. The addition of some eco-seaweed in the first few weeks after planting will help the wee beauties settle into their new home.
Now be mindful that even though native plants are known for being pretty low maintenance and hardy, they still need time to become established before this will take full effect. With the Banksia this is usually around the 2 years mark. One of the main reasons for this is they lack a main taproot so make sure to water them during hot spells. After this initial 2 year period they will become quite drought tolerant and low maintenance.
Banksias are pretty perfectly suited to our soils here in Australia but can benefit from a little helping hand once in a while. As nutrient levels in the soils here in Australia are relatively low the Banksia has developed these special roots called proteoid roots which basically let them prosper in our soils. But if you want to give them that little helping hand make sure to use a low phosphorous organic fertiliser which has been certified to be used with native plants. This is especially true with the younger plants as they are even more sensitive to the use of higher levels of phosphorous. So use the organic fertiliser only once or twice a year at a push to help your little beauties along.
Banksias require very little to no pruning at all. just simply remove any dead wood that sometimes appears and gently prune to help restrict the form of the plant. If you like you can remove the spent flower spikes, but this is not necessary and sometimes they can be just as striking.
Pest & Disease
So pests and diseases are a problem for pretty much every plant and unfortunately Banksias are no different. Here are a few for you to take note of and be aware of:
Scale - Just simply apply eco-oil spray to control these small sap suckers. they are generally found on the stems and leaves of your Banksia.
Caterpillars - On larger plants these arent such a huge problem and not really a worry but on your smaller plants they can be devastating. Luckily they can be treated pretty simply by the addition of organic neem spray.
Well thats it from me on Banksias, i hope you find this helpful and hopefully you can start creating a native holiday spot in your garden for the birds and bees.
See you next for some more handy tips on beautiful native plants for the garden.