Star of the season: Dwarf Banksia14 November 2019 Linda Ross and Mez Woodward
Dwarf Banksias prove that no space doesn’t mean no impact.
These low-growing banksias have full-sized flowers that are shining beacons all through winter, drawing nectar- loving big birds as well as tiny little insect-eaters.
Name: Banksia sp
Belongs: to the Proteaceae family
Flowering: Late-summer to spring
The Banksia genus contains 75 species, all indigenous to Australia bar one, B. dentate, which is also found in New Guinea. Banksias prefer a sunny position with well-drained sandy soil and they’ll withstand drought and frost once established. They can be slow to get going, but persist, they’re worth it.
B. integrifolia ‘Roller Coaster’ is a ground cover banksia with lemon flowers appearing from late summer to early spring.
Dwarf banksias can be used as ground covers, rockery fillers, foreground plantings and potted specimens in native and coastal gardens.
Nectar-rich blooms provide food for birds when there isn’t much else around.
B. spinulosa ‘Cherry Candles’ gets better as it ages, so that at five years old you can expect 20 or 30 flowers covering the plant. Photo - Angus Stewart
Prune spent flowers and feed with a native plant food.
Although drought-tolerant, plants benefit from one good soaking a week through the hottest months.
Banksias show off their distinctive large flowers through autumn and winter.
We love them:
Dwarf banksias are a great match with other natives such as paws, fan flowers, paper daisies, and leptospermums. Lomandra ‘Tanika’ and Acacia ‘Dazzler’ have soft foliage that contrasts well with hard banksia leaves. They thrive too with their South African cousins, the proteas and leucadendrons.
As is the case with all plants in the Proteaceae family, banksias are sensitive to phosphorous so ensure you only use native plant food.
Banksia spinulosa - 'Birthday Candles', the most popular of the dwarf banksias, was developed in 1985. It’s 0.6m tall and 1m wide, with 15cm long orange and red flower spikes. Also worth looking for: ‘Lemon Glow’, with pale yellow flowers; ‘Honey Pots’, with gold and red flowers; ‘Cherry Candles’, smaller, with deep cherry flowers; and ‘Stumpy Gold’, a cultivar selected from material collected at Catherine Hill Bay, NSW, with completely gold flowers and grey foliage.
B. spinulosa ‘Birthday Candles’ led the way in dwarf banksias for the garden. Use in pots or in the garden. Photo - Angus Stewart
Banksia blechnifolia - from Western Australia but grows well in coastal Sydney, with a prostrate habit to 0.7m wide, reddish flower spikes and lobed foliage.
B. blechnifolia is a naturally occurring ground cover with long-lasting, burgundy-pink flower spikes and striking foliage.
Banksia pteridifolia - does well in the Eastern states despite its WA origins, shrub-like to 0.5m high with creamy yellow flowers.
Banksia serrate - ‘Pygmy Possum’, with furry silver-tipped gold flowers, will cover 2.4m and reach just 0.6m.
Where to buy:
Available from our Nursery Partners from autumn to spring and from specialist native plant growers year-round.