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Banksia | Australian Ultimate Grow and Care Guide

If you’ve ever travelled the east coast of Australia, you’re guaranteed to have seen a range of banksias growing. However, banksias are also a great option when it comes to garden plants.

This fuss-free flora has spectacular foliage and eye-catching blooms, which will attract a range of wildlife to your garden, with such a wide variety of species to choose from, from larger trees to medium-sized shrubs and even ground covering varieties.

Perfectly accustomed to our landscapes, banksias are a great option for beginner growers who want a striking garden plant – without too much maintenance.

Here is some more insight on the banksia species and varieties, as well as helpful tips on how to grow and care for them. 


What Are Banksias? 

how to grow banksia

Banksias are a native Australian flowering plant with a continuous bloom cycle. These drought-tolerant, attractive and incredibly versatile are often used in landscaping as a feature garden plant, filler plant or ground cover. 

The most striking feature of the banksia plants is its bottle-brush-like blooms which come in a variety of colours, including cream, yellow, brown, orange and green.

These blooms are brilliant pollen producers and will attract a range of birds, bees and butterflies throughout the year. Part of the Proteaceae family, the banksia genus encompasses over 70 different species. 

While there are too many to mention each in detail, we will take a look at some of the most popular species available. 

Popular Banksia Varieties

There is an endless variety of beautifully blooming banksias to choose from. Each has unique flowering and growth habits, and it will be up to you to decide which will suit your garden best.

Here are some of the most popular and successful varieties to grow: 

Banksia integrifoliaAlso known as the coastal Banksia, this variety is most commonly found along the east coast of Australia. This hardy, shrub-like cultivar is incredibly resistant to salty winds, frost and drought.  

Banksia Integrifolia Australian Grow & Care Guide

Banksia Integrifolia, also known as the coastal Banksia, this variety is most commonly found along the east coast of Australia

Banksia menziesiiIf something more striking is what you’re after, consider the banksia menziesii or firewood banksia. This is an incredibly ornamental cultivar with serrated, dull-green leaves and this red and yellow blooms. 

Banksia menziesii or firewood banksia

Banksia marginata. Also known as the silver banksia, this cultivar is most commonly found across south-eastern Australia. The silver banksia has long green leaves with striking silver undersides. 

Banksia Marginata, also known as the silver banksia, this cultivar is most commonly found across south-eastern Australia

Banksia serrataIf you’re considering something taller-growing, you may want to look at the Banksia Serrata or old man banksia. This species has wonderfully thick blooms, said to resemble a protea, which ranges in colour from white to yellow. 

Banksia Serrata Growing + Care Guide Australia

Banksia Serrata or old man banksia

Banksia spinulosaAnother heavy bloomer is the Banksia spinulosa or hairpin banksia, and it’s the perfect option for first-time banksia growers. With blooms in every shade of the sunset and a hassle-free care routine, you won’t regret growing this cultivar. 

Banksia Spinulosa Growing and Caring Guide

Banksia spinulosa or hairpin banksia, is a perfect option for first-time banksia growers

Banksia coccinea. Also known as the scarlet Banksia or waratah Banksia, the banksia coccinea offers one of the most curious blooms. Its dramatic flowers are slightly wider than most other varieties and contrast beautifully against the larger green leaves. 

Banksia Coccinea, also known as the scarlet Banksia or waratah Banksia

Banksia prionotes. The banksia prionotes or orange banksia is another cultivar with heavier set blooms. This cultivar can be grown as a tree or as a shrub, and when it blooms offers an incredible spectacle for the eye to see. In its habitat in Western Australia, the banksia prionotes reach as much as 10 metres high. 

Banksia Prionotes can be grown as a tree or as a shrub, and when it blooms offers an incredible spectacle for the eye to see

Banksia speciosa. The banksia speciosa or showy Banksia is one cultivar that absolutely lives up to its name. Found on the south coast of Western Australia, this stunning species is best recognised by its prominent flowers and geometric leaf design. 

Banksia speciosa or showy Banksia

Banksia attenuata. More commonly known as the candlestick banksia, this cultivar has unlikely, oblong growing blooms, which come in a range of white to bright yellow. Although often grown as a shrub reaching only 2 metres tall, the candlestick banksia can grow as much as 10 metres tall. 

Banksia Attenuata, commonly known as the candlestick banksia

Banksia grandis. As grand as the name suggests, the Banksia Grandis or bull banksia is a common species with large, yellow flower heads and huge, toothed foliage. The bull banksia is particularly suited to very sandy soils and offers a lot of bang for your buck. 

Banksia Grandis or bull banksia is a common species with large, yellow flower heads and huge, toothed foliage

Banksia blechnifolia. Looking like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland, the banksia blechnifolia is most praised for its intricate blooms and wide-spreading foliage. Often used as a ground cover, this cultivar only grows about half a metre tall but can spread as much as 4 metres wide. 

Banksia Blechnifolia Growing + Care Guide

Banksia Blechnifolia is most praised for its intricate blooms and wide-spreading foliage

Banksia baueri. Ideally suited to more humid climates, the banksia baueri is another fantastically blooming cultivar, best grown as a lower-growing shrub. 

Banksia Baueri Australian Growing Guide

Banksia Baueri is best grown as a lower-growing shrub

Banksia ashbyiAs exotic as it sounds, the banksia ashbyi is another smaller growing shrub or tree with fantastically alluring yellow blooms.

Banksia Ashbyi Australian Growing + Care Guide   

Banksia Ashbyi is a smaller growing shrub or tree with fantastically alluring yellow blooms

How to Grow Banksia Plants

Almost all of the banksia species are relatively easy to grow, provided they’re getting enough sunshine. This is where picking the right spot for you, Banksia, is crucial. As these plants are sun-lover, they are best suited for the outdoors. 

  • Sunlight. Banksias need a  lot of sun and warmth in order to be able to bloom. Full sun for at least 6 hours of the day is a must. 
  • Soil. As these plants are drought-tolerant, you’ll want to avoid moist soil at all costs. Sandy, well-draining soils are the best option. Should you be trying to plant in an area with clay or heavier-set soil, you could consider using a raised bed. 
  • Water. When it comes to Banksia, less is definitely more. Waterlogged soil will only lead to major issues like root rot. So, it’s best to avoid soaking the soil altogether. A little bit of water every few weeks will do the trick. 
  • Nutrients. Although it’s not necessary, feeding your Banksia with some multi-purpose fertiliser can help to support growth and bigger, brighter blooms.

    It is important to note that this species is incredibly sensitive to phosphorus. So, a low-phosphorus fertiliser is the way to go.

Propagating Banksia

propagating banksia

The most common means of propagating is through banksia seed. Although the banksia seed can often take a little longer to germinate, the method is often successful. Plus, seeds are readily available from other banksia plants. 

You will, however, have to prepare the seed cones in order to release the banksia seed. Here’s what you’ll need to do: 

  • Place the seed cone into the oven at 120°C for about an hour. 
  • Allow the follicles to open, then remove the seeds using a pair of tweezers. 
  • Seeds should be sown freely onto the surface of a porous seeding mix.
  • Once the first leaves appear, the seedling can be transplanted into a small pot. 

Banksia Plant Care

banksia plant care

There really won’t be much banksia care required once the plant is established. Be sure to keep seedlings slightly moist as they start the growing stage; thereafter, you can cut back on watering every so often. 

Take care not to over-fertilise your Banksia. Once or twice every year is more than enough. Again, as these species do have nutrient-sensitive roots, over-fertilisation can lead to other issues. 

While pruning may not always be necessary, it can be done to maintain shape and size or to remove any spent flowers once bloomed. Here, it is important to note that most Banksia has their peak flowering season during the winter.

As such, pruning should be carried out towards the end of winter. When pruning, take care not to cut back too much old growth. Rather focus your pruning efforts on the new growth.

Banksia Common Pests, Problems and Diseases

Although a low maintenance plant, certain issues can arise that will need to be dealt with to protect your plant. These issues will depend on the location, environment and type of Banksia you have planted. 

Some common issues include: 

  • Root Rot. One of the most common issues is root rot, which is caused by overwatering. Unfortunately, the signs of root rot make your Banksia look like it may be too dry.

    As a result, many gardeners then continue to overwater, essentially killing off their plants. Should you see wilting or browning leaves, cut back on watering almost completely.

    Should the problem continue, you may need to consider re-planting. 
  • Phosphorus Toxicity. As we’ve mentioned, Banksia does not do well with high levels of phosphorus in the soil. Phosphorus toxicity will cause your leaves to be yellow and become damaged or warped.

    Only fertilise your Banksia once or twice per year, and be sure to check whether the fertiliser you are using is low in phosphorus.

Common Banksia Questions

How long does it take Banksia to grow? 

If you’re starting with a banksia seed, your cultivar can take anywhere between 2 to 3 years to begin flowering and around six years to reach its full height. 

How long do Banksia trees live? 

Although they’ll take a few years to be established, once established, banksia trees can survive for over 100 years. 

Will Banksia grow in the shade? 

While it is possible to grow your Banksia in part-shade, the downfall would be a far lower production of blooms. Rather play it safe and plant your Banksia in a beautifully sunny spot. 

Can you grow Banksia in pots? 

Especially when soil conditions aren’t optimal, growing your Banksia in a pot is a great option. Just be sure that your put has plenty of drainage holes and well-draining soil.

Celebrate Native Plants in Your Garden – Start Growing Banksia Today! 

Growing Banksia in your garden is not only a great way to add some colour and invite wildlife. Growing Banksia is a great way to homage to many beautiful Aussie natives we’re so blessed to have in Australia. 

Whichever banksia variety you decide to grow, you’ll be able to enjoy a wonderous, flowering spectacle throughout most of the year. 

Give your garden that glow it deserves – start growing Banksia in your garden today! 

Banksia Australian Ultimate Grow and Care Guide

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Gary Clarke

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