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Turquoise Puya

Banksia speciosa

Banksia speciosa - the Showy Banksia - is a beautiful member of the Protea family from southern Australia.  Its dramatic, saw-toothed leaves make it look more like a power tool than a plant!  Both the leaves and flower clusters are used in florist's arrangements for their intriguing appearance.  The plant has specific requirements, but in the right conditions it is easy and well worth the effort.  Fresh seeds (not stored) are rarely seen for sale.

Banksia speciosa

Banksia speciosa forms a large bush or small tree about 12 feet tall here in San Francisco, but reportedly it can get 20 feet tall.  A nice photo of a mature tree is here.  The leathery leaves grow 12 to 18 inches long, with a bluish-green top surface and silvery undersides.  The plant flowers throughout much of the year, with cone-shaped clusters about 6 inches long.  The flowers range from orange to creamy yellow in color, and have a soft, wooly texture.  Cut flowers can last for weeks in a vase!

Banksia speciosa

The Showy Banksia comes from a Mediterranean-type climate, with mild temperatures all year.  It has handled temperatures in the upper 80s (31C) in areas with cool nights.  I suspect it might not thrive in hot conditions if nights are warm, such as Florida.  It is frost tolerant only to about 27F (-3C).  It may be grown indoors in a pot, and pruned to any height that is convenient. 

Like other Protea family members, it requires sandy soil and no phosphorus fertilizers.  A good soil mix is 2 parts sand to 1 part compost, peat, or coir fiber.  While the plants are young, keep the soil evenly moist (but not soggy), then after 2-3 years keep it on the dry side.  Full sun is preferred, although some afternoon shade might be needed in warmer climates.  Give moderate amounts of slow-release fertilizer - and remember, little to no phosphorus.  Avoid disturbing the roots when transplanting.

Banksia speciosa

Banksia speciosa

A fuzzy flower cluster emerging

 

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Turquoise Puya

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