Sugarbush - 5 seeds

Sugarbush - 5 seeds

5.99

Protea repens is a sturdy, dense shrub, 1-4 m tall, with linear hairless leaves and fairly large oblong flowers ranging in colour from cream to deep red either during summer or winter, depending on the variant. The 'flowers' of Protea repens are actually flower heads with a collection of small flowers in the centre, surrounded by large colourful bracts. The shape of the flower heads is very distinctive, chalice-shaped, and forms an inverted, brown 'ice-cream cone' seedhead. 

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Protea repens is one of the easiest, most adaptable and reliable proteas in cultivation. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils, from heavy clay to deep white sand. The plants are tolerant of a large variety of growing conditions but will show frost damage at temperatures below -4 degrees Celsius. With careful selection, suitable variants can be chosen for cultivation in areas, which experience winter frosts as well as for gardens with nearly subtropical conditions.

Protea repens can be propagated from seed or from cuttings. Good colour forms, hybrids and cultivars have to be propagated from cuttings.Cuttings are made from semi-hardwood, 6-10 cm long, of the current season's growth. The cuttings are dipped for about four seconds in a rooting hormone solution and placed in a growing house with bottom heat (25ºC) and intermittent mist. The rooted cuttings are potted up when the roots are well developed and planted out in the late autumn in South Africa, or in spring in colder areas.

The slender nut-like seeds have to be treated during storage with a systemic fungicide with the active ingredient of metalaxyl (Apron) and sown from the middle of March, when the day temperature starts to drop. The seed is sown in open seedbeds, in a light, well drained soil and covered with a layer of sand (about 1 cm or 1 1/2 times the size of the seed). The bed is then covered with a grid to protect it against attacks from birds and rodents. The seed will germinate three to four weeks after sowing.

The plants are generally about four or five years old from seed before they flower. On older plants the side shoots tend to be quite short, so to encourage the development of new shoots and long stems, the stems bearing old flower heads should be cut back the new growth.

Protea repens has quite hard, leathery leaves, which protect it against most insect attacks and not much damage is visible on the leaves, except from leaf borers. Like all other proteas, the most harmful and destructive diseases are fungal. Most losses occur during the summer months when a virulent root fungus (Phytophthora camphora) can attack the plants. Control through the use of fungicides in the garden is difficult and expensive. By the time the plant shows distress, it is normally too late to arrest the problem. The best methods of control are cultural, i.e. water plants early in the morning; keep soil surface cool by mulching; remove diseased plants immediately; do not overwater in summer and prune and remove diseased material.

Protea repens occurs in fire prone vegetation, where natural fires occur every ten to thirty years. This 'Mediterranean' type of vegetation grows in soils with very low amounts of nutrients. These nutrients are used up by the plants during their lifetime and need to be returned to the soil to provide the food for a new generation of plants. Protea repens is adapted to survive the fires by producing seeds throughout its lifetime, some of the seeds being distributed and stored in the soil, others being stored in the old seedheads, which will only be stimulated to open and release the seeds when the plant dies or is killed by fire. These natural fires occur mainly in late summer or autumn and are followed by the first winter rains, which provide the moisture the young seedlings need to grow to a size at which they can survive the long, hot summer.