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Banksia Ericifolia | Australian Native Guide

I have always been a great admirer of our beloved Banksias and the Banksia ericifolia is one of the most cultivated of its genus. Famed for its flame-like orange-to-red autumn inflorescences which contrast beautifully with its green fine-leaved heath-like foliage, this medium shrub can make for a fantastic ornamental addition to almost any Australian garden.

This iconic and very popular native plant is notorious for its prolific flowering and thick dense habit, boasting extremely striking large and long-lasting orange cylindrical flower spikes atop fine green foliage, all of which can add a colourfully lush and textured appeal to your outdoor spaces.

Here is everything you need to know to grow and care for this showy native shrub.

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Banksia Ericifolia commonly known as Heath Banksia

Genus:

Banksia

Species:

ericifolia

Common Names:

Heath banksia, heath-leaved banksia, lantern banksia

Location:  

Outdoor

Type:  

Shrub

Growth: 

2 to 5 metres tall, 2 to 3 metres wide

Sun requirements: 

Full sun to light shade

Foliage Colour: 

Green

Flower Colour: 

Reddish orange

Flowering: 

Spring to autumn

Maintenance level:

Low

Poisonous for pets: 

Toxic to cats and dogs

Getting to Know Banksia Ericifolia

Being a very hardy, adapted and low-maintenance species, this plant is a great pick for any grower looking for an easy-to-grow native that can offer brilliant long-lasting displays of colourful blooms. Thanks to its autumn blooming, this shrub is also a vital source of nectar for many local birds, bees and other indigenous wildlife. 

Botanically labelled Banksia ericifolia, the shrub is now well-known by its common names which include the heath banksia, heath-leaved banksia or lantern banksia. Part of the Proteaceae family, this plant is native to Australia, occurring largely in New South Wales across the eastern coast. 

Thanks to its extensive adaptation, this shrub can be grown in most of our endemic climates and it can also tolerate most soils with good drainage. In cultivation, heath banksia will usually reach about 2 to 5 metres tall and 2 to 3 metres wide with a very fast-growing habit in good conditions.

How to Grow Banksia Ericifolia

Common landscaping applications include:

Special uses include:

  • Banksia ericifolia will look fantastic planted alongside other native shrubs like grevilleas or lilly pillies. 
  • The large blooms will make for good cut flowers in floral arrangements.
  • The famous cultivar, ‘Little Eric’, is the perfect substitute for smaller gardens.

How to Grow Banksia Ericifolia 

Banksias can be reliably propagated by seed or cuttings. Seed-grown shrubs can take around 4 years to flower whereas cuttings will ensure faster flowering. Alternatively, buying a more established nursery plant is also always a good idea when it comes to our natives.

Best Conditions Planting and Growing for Banksia Ericifolia

Thankfully these hardy native shrubs require only basic growing conditions to thrive and flower best. If you can provide your lantern banksia with similar conditions to these, you will enjoy an easy-going experience with your plant. 

The ideal planting time is spring to summer. 

Ideal Sun Exposure

Banksias thrive in sunny, sheltered garden positions. However, they can tolerate light shade and should still flower well. Try to position your banksia so that it gets a good chunk of full sun each day with some afternoon shade. 

Use the Best Soil for Your Heath-Leaved Banksia

As mentioned, this shrub can tolerate a wide range of soil types so long as the mix is light and well-draining. Sandy soils are preferred with a slightly acidic pH level. Try to avoid alkaline heavy soils.  (Check your soil with this 3-in-1 Soil, Light, PH and Moisture Tester).

Quick Planting Tips for Lantern Banksia

  • If you’re concerned about the drainage in your garden bed's soil, mix some sand and perlite in before planting to ensure adequate drainage.
  • Be sure that the entirety of the root ball is submerged in the soil when planting. 
  • Water well after planting and during early development. 

Propagating Heath Banksia

Banksia Ericifolia Propagation from Seeds

  • Prepare seed trays or containers and fill them with a high-quality seed-raising mix that is very free draining. 
  • Sow seeds in spring by planting them lightly into the topsoil. Pour a little sand onto the top of the mix to slightly weigh the seeds down into the soil.
  • Keep the soil moist at all times. 
  • Once germination has occurred and the first true leaves have appeared, you can transplant the seedlings into small pots filled with a quality potting mix for continued growth. 

Propagating Heath Banksia Using Cuttings

  • Take a healthy semi-hardwood stem cutting of around 25 cm long from a mature shrub. 
  • Place the cutting into rooting hormone and prepare a growing container filled with a high-quality potting mix. Mix in a little sand as well to ensure good drainage.
  • Ideal temperatures for cuttings are between 20 to 25°C. 
  • Keep the soil moist while the cutting develops. 
  • After about 3 months, your cutting should be ready for transplantation into the garden.

How to Care for Banksia Ericifolia

Once established, these shrubs will be tolerant to drought, frost and heat. During initial development, your banksia will appreciate some extra care and attention to ensure you have a healthy and happy parent plant.

How to Care for Banksia Ericifolia

Watering Heath Banksia

Banksias require regular water until being fully established which usually takes around 2 years. Water about twice a week during this stage. Extra water will also be needed during long and dry periods. Once established, water deeply about bi-monthly to maintain your plant. 

Pruning Lantern Banksia

Prune regularly to maintain shape, keep your shrub neat and encourage flowering. It is best to frequently tip-prune banksias and avoid any hard pruning, this will also ensure you avoid any leggy or stunted growth. Snap off spent flowers as needed.

Mulching for Ideal Moisture

In summer, add an organic mulch around the root zone of your plant to help with moisture retention during the warmer months.

Fertiliser Needs

As this plant is part of the Proteaceae family, be careful not to use a fertiliser that is high in phosphorus as this can quickly kill your plant. Rather feed your banksia with a specially formulated organic native fertiliser once to twice a year for the best results.

Banksia Ericifolia as a Bush Tucker

While this shrub cannot be used very extensively in the kitchen versus other bush tuckers, the nectar-rich flowers can be steeped in water to make a delicious and nutritious tea.

  • Using a sharp and sterilised pair of secateurs, cut ripe banksia flowers straight from your shrub. 
  • Lightly rinse the flowers then soak them in cold water for a few hours. 
  • Place the soaking flowers in the fridge or a cool spot. 
  • When ready, drain the sweet water for drinking. 
  • Banksia tea contains vitamin C and other useful minerals.

Lantern Banksia Pests and Diseases to Look Out For

Being hardy native shrubs, these plants rarely struggle with any pests and disease issues if positioned correctly in your landscape and cared for properly. 

Here are some problems you may run into in poor conditions:

Root Rot

If you notice signs of root rot, this should indicate that your soil is not draining well enough. Signs can include browning leaves and soggy roots. Allow your soil to dry out and then mix in some sand, perlite or other organic material like compost to help improve the overall drainage. Regularly and lightly aerating your soil will also certainly help. 

Caterpillars

Caterpillars will usually only negatively affect developing banksias. If you have a larger established plant and notice a small amount of foliage being eaten, you needn’t panic. If you notice significant damage, especially on younger plants, spray your shrub with organic neem oil to reduce infestation

Scale Insects

These small sap-sucking insects are usually located on the stems of your plant. Be sure to treat them as soon as you can to prevent sooty mould from forming. They can be reliably cleared by using an organic insecticide. 

Phosphorus Poisoning

If you notice the leaves of your banksia are yellowing with brown tips or edges, this should indicate that your fertiliser is too phosphorus heavy or you may even be feeding too often. Be sure to use a fertiliser low in phosphorus and add an iron-inducing product to the soil to help rebalance the mix and reduce the phosphorus levels.

Banksia Ericifolia Frequently Asked Questions

Conditions Planting and Growing for Banksia Ericifolia

What is the lifespan of a banksia?

Usually, these hardy shrubs live for over 100 years in good conditions.

Is banksia ericifolia evergreen?

Yes, this shrub along with its entire genus is evergreen. 

Are banksia roots invasive?

Yes, the roots can become invasive and messy over time. It is best to plant any banksia away from water lines or paved areas.

Interested in establishing other gorgeous banksia shrubs in your landscape? Be sure to check out some of our other helpful banksia guides below for more information:

Add Native Spectacle to Your Garden with Banksia Ericifolia

This showy native shrub is a must-have addition to any native garden or any garden that needs a little extra colour and spectacle. Whether planted as a feature or as a screen, this plant will always impress with its long-lasting bright orange blooms and fine green foliage. 

It will be easy for anyone to enjoy the fantastic pops of native colour and texture that banksia ericifolia can offer in your outdoor spaces. 

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Author:

Nathan Schwartz

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