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Protea Popularity Keeps Growing

King Protea

As floral professionals, what do we look for in the perfect flower? It should be colorful, interesting, long lasting, easy to handle, have a good vase life and be affordable. The exotic protea family has all of that. The exotic protea plant family has existed for millions of years. It is believed when the Southern Hemisphere was combined into one continent, also known as Gondwanaland, proteaceae, the family of protea, was growing along dinosaur highway. When this continent began to breakup and drift apart, the proteas moved to Africa and banksias moved to Australia.

This floral family has more than 1,600 different varieties. Of those 1,600, approximately 150 are of commercially use, 20 are leucospermums, 73 leucadendrons and 70 banksias.


These colorful flowers range in size from 2 to 12 inches in diameter. As a family, proteaceae is so diverse it did not receive a botanical name until 1735. The Swedish naturalist Linneaus imagined these flowers to derive their name from Homer’s “Iliad.” The Greek mythological god Proteus was a sea god who was able to change his form, a very interesting concept when one thinks of all the unusual exotic beauties in this family. Can you imagine how to use this diversity in your floral marketing?

Protea is grown commercially in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Spain, South America, Hawaii and California. As you can see from the growing areas, protea is more of a Mediterranean-grown exotic flower than a tropical.

Spoon Protea

I will give credit to the Hawaiian growers for their marketing. They have just about succeeded in getting most of the floral industry in the United States to believe protea is a tropical flower. Although not a tropical, proteas have been used with these types of flowers. I have heard it said that some are intimidated by the size of protea.

Whtie King Protea


Possibly because of their size, proteas are thought hard to work with. Large exotic arrangements are special and fun to create, and have their spotlight but, so do table arrangements with shorter stems and small headed protea flowers and foliage when combined with more conventional flowers.

As people in the floral trade, be creative. You are only limited to your own imagination! Use protea with your favorite flowers and foliage, or just let the floral display dictate to your craft. Exquisite arrangements equal increased profits. TRY PROTEA!

Although protea are mistakenly used as tropicals, these exotics should not be kept in your tropical cooler. This could mean loss of inventory or reduced shelf life. Proteas should be kept with your regular floral population. Temperatures around 34-36 degrees Fahrenheit with 85-90 percent humidity will keep your protea flowers ready for that special customer.

Sugarbush Protea
Proteas, leucospermum (pincushions), leucadendrons and banksia are available from California almost all year. The main bloom times are fall, winter and spring, with some of the banksia and King Proteas blooming into summer. The diversity you can add to your floral pallets by using the protea family is unlimited. The extended vase life of these flowers and foliage (10-15 days) makes them a great buy, but you can add value to your sales by saying “They do not die, they dry.”

Give your clients and customers that little extra for the investment. As you start to notice more of this exotic family of flowers show up in your area, ask your supplier to send you some protea flowers and foliage that are a little different. Explore a well established, but little recognized flora family for the millennium. Surprise and delight your customers, clients and staff. Expand your floral horizons.

This article was previously published in The Flower News, April 22, 2000.
Written by Ben Gill, California Protea Managment.



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