Plant of the Week – Banksia spinulosa ‘Cherry Candles’
Author: Amy Davidson
Endemic to Australia, Banksia is a genus of around 170 species in the plant family Proteaceae. Easily recognisable by their characteristic flower spikes and fruiting cones, Banksias range in size from 30m tall trees to prostrate groundcovers.
90% of all Banksia species originate from southwest Western Australia. Eastern Australia has fewer species; however, the list includes some of the best known and widely distributed species including the Coastal Banksia and the Hairpin Banksia.
Banksias are a vital part of the food chain in Australia – they are heavy producers of nectar and provide a food source for birds, bats, rats, possums, bees and a variety of invertebrates. The plants have been long utilised by the indigenous community for their nectar. The flower heads are of economic importance to Australia’s nursery and cut flower industries while the best known cultural reference to Banksias are the ‘big bad Banksia men’ of May Gibbs’ children’s book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.
Banksia plants are naturally adapted to the presence of fire and utilise the process to stimulate the opening of seed bearing follicles and subsequent germination. Banksias are popular garden plants because of their large, showy flower heads. Dwarf cultivars and prostrate species are becoming very popular for urban gardens where space is limited.
Our favourite Banksia cultivar is Cherry Candles – a superb dense and compact small shrub growing to 500mm x 500mm that looks great in rockeries and small gardens. The plants can be mass planted for dramatic effect or grown in containers. The flower heads are as large as the ones produced by the parent plants and have a red hue.
The plants are low maintenance, drought-resistant and will tolerate light frosts. A related and larger cultivar is Banksia spinulosa ‘Honey Pots’, which grows to 1 metre and has golden flower heads