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Gardening 101: Leucadendrons

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Gardening 101: Leucadendrons

February 20, 2017

Leucadendron, Protea: “Problem Solver”

Busy gardeners always want to know what to plant that is low maintenance, looks great year-round and is drought tolerant. I am enthusiastically raising my hand here with the answer:  Leucadendrons.leucadendron-inca-gold-bernard-spragg-flickr

Above: Photograph by Bernard Spragg via Flickr.

Native to South Africa, Leucadendrons are evergreen shrubs and tall trees (like the towering ‘Silver Tree’, which reaches heights of 25 feet)  and are related to other stellar plants such as Banksias, Grevilleas, and Leucospermums. Most of the Leucadendrons that I plant in my clients’ gardens are of a tamer size, such ‘Pisa’ or ‘Safari Sunset’, which grow to a height of from 4 to 8 feet.

leucadendron-safari-sunset-jean-michel-moullec-slickr

Above: Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’. Photograph by Jean-Michel Moullec via Flickr.

I use Leucadendrons in my garden designs for many reasons, and one thing is certain, these evergreen queens have graduated to my Top Ten list of favorite plants. Why? These evergreen shrubs are avoided by deer, love to be pruned to produce a full effect and create new colorful growth, and have distinct foliage to provide four-season colorful interest. And then the flower bracts. A bunch in a vase and you are done, or mix them with…basically anything. Not kidding.
Sophia_Moreno_Bunge_Gardenista_Arrangement_DIY_Wild_Grape_Leucadendron Above: A floral arrangement by Sophia Moreno-Bunge artfully incorporates Leucadendrons, Tillandsias, and wild grapevines.. Photography by Sophia Moreno-Bunge for Gardenista. See more at Bouquet of the Week: Celebrating Decay for Halloween.

Cheat Sheet

  • Leucadendrons are grown for their cone-like flowers that are stellar, long- lasting cut flowers. They even survive in my vase long after the water has dried up. Leucadendrons also like to be pruned hard to produce a nicer shape so this is a complete win-win.
  • Grow in full sun for the best color and fullness and plant with other low-water plants.  However, don’t allow the plant to touch other shrubs because it needs good air circulation.
  • Hardy? Well, only a few survive in temperatures below 20 degrees F.. So consider these semi-tropical specimens.

Keep It Alive

  • Leucadendrons despise wet feet and soggy soil, causing them near instant death. To avoid this, plant them on a slope or mound.
  • When planting, try not to disturb the roots too much.
  • Fertilizing isn’t really needed, but if the plant seems stunted then make sure to avoid high phosphorous fertilizers. Another instant killer.



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Above: Leucadendron ‘Inca Gold’ resembles pale yellow tulips in this simple, long lasting arrangement. Photograph by Kier Holmes.

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