Banksias are small trees and shrubs that have distinctive candle-like blooms. Each candle is made up of hundreds and hundreds of individual flowers, ranging from yellow to red and flowering throughout autumn and winter. These develop into woody cone-like structures that contain hard follicles that look a bit like eyes that wink open when the seeds are ripe and completely dried out, or when they have been fired.
Banksias arenamedin honour of Sir Joseph Banks. The old man banksia(B. serrata) and coast banksia (B. integrifolia) were two of the species originally collected by him in 1770, and are still popular for cut flowers and gardens, especially in coastal gardens. Banksias have played an important part in Aboriginal culture for thousands of years. Their blooms where sometimes soaked in water to favour it with nectar, and the individual flowers were sometimes used as fine paintbrushes. Smouldering cones where sometimes carried too as a way of transporting fire.
Banksias grow best in an open, sunny position, and many are happy with salt spray and light frosts. They attract birds and small mammals, as well as lots of nectar feeding insects into your garden. We recommend feeding with a low phosphorus plant fertiliser like Bush Tucker Native Plant Fertiliser by Neutrog. If you’re growing them in pots, use Martin’s Native Potting Mix, and check out some of the ground cover and dwarf types which are perfect for containers. One variety is actually named ‘Birthday Candles’ and makes the perfect potted birthday gift.