Protea venusta

My First Protea – from seed to blossom

When I first started talking about growing Protea in Oregon, everyone told me it couldn’t be done. That was not enough to deter me. Many people grow Grevillea in Portland and even more can be grown on the Oregon Coast. There are botanical gardens growing other members of the Protea family in Seattle, and all of them seem to grow well in San Francisco – a climate not that different to here – just a few degrees cooler.

I got my first batch of seeds from Ole Lantana in Australia (no longer shipping seeds to the US). One in particular I had high hopes for – Protea venusta. Not only was it rare and endangered in the wild, but it is a high-altitude Protea, growing between 1700 and 2000 meters above sea level in South Africa.

Protea venusta seedlings
Protea venusta seedlings

Seeds Sown 2019

After giving the seeds a smoke treatment, they were sown in September of 2019. By May of 2020, I had a bunch of little seedlings in the greenhouse. In 2021 they were large enough to plant some of them out in the area of the garden I call Gondwana. This is reserved for plants, like those in the Protea family, that initially evolved when the land masses of the southern hemisphere were joined. Protea venusta is almost a ground cover. It is said to spread over time and can get to be about 2′ tall and 6′ or more feet wide. I planted 4 of them along the top of a retaining wall.

Protea venusta
Protea venusta

Blooms in 2022

Three of the plants have been doing well, while the fourth has struggled, although it is still trying. But today was a day to remember, when I got the first bloom – September 2022. That is pretty good going for seed to bloom in three years. I have to say the bloom is prettier than most pictures show. It is about 3″ across and has a range of delicate pinks to white. The little fuzzy hairs on the ends of the bracts also add charm.

Protea venusta
Protea venusta

In the wild, the plant is pollinated by birds, so there is a fair chance that it could get pollinated. It would be fun if I could complete the cycle.

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