Protea cynaroides

king protea
The superlative coastal flowering shrub. Exceptional large blooms, good cut. Shiny, attractive foliage. Good in pots. Avoid phosphorus, potassium, clay soils.
Protea cynaroidesProtea cynaroides
height 3–5ft
width 4–6ft
tolerates Coast, Drought, Pots, Rooftops, Wind
roteas are well adapted to our Mediterranean climate, making them carefree plants with bountiful rewards. After a few years, when your protea is established, it will want deep watering every couple weeks, though it will tolerate more if the drainage is excellent.

Protea respond very poorly to clay soils, especially if they are overwatered. If you just have to plant one in your clay garden, mounding or planting on a slope can help. Also amending with liberal minerals such as lava or pumice helps.
exposure Part Shade – Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing Bloodmeal, Fish Emulsion, Low Needs, No Phosphorus
origin South Africa
16, 17, 19–24, H2

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

We also grow a plant named Protea cyanoides ‘Pink King’. While Protea cynarioides (this guide) will typically have flowers in shades of pink it is seed grown and thus flowers are more variable than the cultivar ‘Pink King’ which is grown from cuttings to have consistently large pink flowers.
Proteas can be kept smaller by pruning, but don’t prune more than two years of growth where there are no leaves and the branches are woody. Proteas can even be espaliered or pruned into a loose informal screen.
By tip-pinching buds early on (each time they have grown a few leaves), you can force your protea to become more dense. Since they bloom on the terminal buds, this will delay flowering.
Proteas have evolved to live in very poor soils, and so they should never have phosphorus fertilizer, which many a grower has learned the hard way. If you give your protea all-purpose fertilizer, it’ll likely be completely dead within a couple weeks. They do respond well to light acidic fertilizer, such as cotton seed meal, or nitrogen fertilizers such as blood meal and fish emulsion. Generally its better to sit back and see how the plant grows without fertilzier, which is typically not needed.

Special Interest

Their coveted flowers on stiff stems are long-lasting after they’re cut, perfect for arrangements.