Banksias are members of the Proteaceae family in company with the Grevilleas, Hakeas and South African Proteas. Banksias are amongst Australia’s most spectacular native plants. Their large, nectar-rich flower heads attract native birds and other wildlife and are composed of hundreds of individual flowers. Banksias usually flower in autumn and winter. There are 76 known species and, with one exception, are restricted to Australia. South-west Western Australia is home to 60 species.
Banksias from the eastern states are the most widely cultivated in North and Northwest gardens. Most species from Western Australia have yet to be cultivated in locally. A few western Banksias have proved to be successful and no doubt other species will find their way into local gardens in the future.
In general Banksias need a trifle more care and attention than other native plants. Banksias have a fibrous root system and juvenile plants will sometimes expire during dry periods. When planting, build up a saucer shaped depression around each plant. This will concentrate the water directly around the plant. The plants should also be well mulched with organic material. We have started to plant a 30 cm length of polypipe beside each Banksia. About 15 cm is left above the ground and the pipe is filled with water at regular intervals. Young banksias should be watered every ten days or so depending on weather conditions. Maintain this watering pattern for the first two years. After this watering should only be required during dry periods. With this extra care your Banksias should grow vigorously, flower prolifically and attract a host of native birds to your garden.
Banksia aemula and B. serrata: are very similar. Both Banksias grow into tall shrubs or small trees sometimes with gnarled trunks. Their leathery leaves have toothed margins. The large flower heads are greenish-yellow and are followed by grey, woody cones.
B. baueri: is a native of Western Australia and is known as the Possum Banksia and has been cultivated in some local gardens. The Possum Banksia is a medium shrub with toothed leaves and large, soft cylindrical flower heads. The flowers are lemon-yellow at the base with grey-mauve or orange-brown tips.
B. blechnifolia: is an unusual prostrate Western Banksia. The branches are horizontal and sometimes creep slightly underground. The flower heads are dusky-red to salmon and appear, almost magically, out of the ground. We have a specimen that flowered within two years of planting.
Banksia ericifolia: is known as the Heath Banksia and is one of the most widely cultivated Banksias. The Heath Banksia develops into a large compact shrub with small leaves. The spectacular flower heads are orange-red. A mature plant will carry dozens of flower heads that are rich in nectar.
Banksia Giant Candles: is a hybrid and develops into a medium to tall shrub with narrow leaves and large orange flower heads that often reach 40 centimetres in length. “Giant Candles” also carries large numbers of flower heads.
Banksia integrifolia: is found on both the Coast and Tablelands. It is a tall shrub or small tree with attractive foliage. Pale yellow flower heads are carried on the ends of short branches.
Banksia marginata: is known as the Silver Banksia and ranges in height from compact shrub to small tree. The cylindrical flower heads are either creamy-yellow, brown-yellow or brown-orange.
Banksia oblongifolia & Banksia paludosa: are both eastern species that develop into spreading shrubs. Both species have pale yellow flower heads.
Banksia spinulosa: is the Hairpin Banksia and is a widespread species. The Hairpin Banksia is a medium to tall shrub with narrow, toothed leaves. The flower heads are bright yellow often with black, hooked styles (hence the common name).