Growing and Caring for Your Fynbos
Fynbos…our pride and joy!
From the daintiest Erica to our majestic national flower, the Protea, we all want to add these indigenous beauties to our gardens. The only problem is most passionate gardeners literally love them to death! Growing fynbos with success requires a certain measure of restraint – call it tough love – and by following a few basic guidelines they can be grown with success and a great deal of pleasure.
Fynbos is one of only 6 floral kingdoms around the world, is the most biodiverse plant habitat in the world and the only one that is located entirely in one country. No wonder we all want them in our gardens…what’s not to want?
Although most of the Fynbos are endemic to the winter rainfall area of the Western and part of the Eastern Cape, some, particularly the Proteas, Pincushions and Leucospermums, also occur naturally in the summer rainfall areas, like here on the Highveld.
Keep in mind that most fynbos plants are relatively short-lived and will have to be replaced occasionally.
Plant in full sun, i.e. at least 6 hours of sun per day. Morning sun is preferable to the hot, afternoon sun. Plant in a position with very good air circulation.
Plant fynbos in August or September when all danger of frost has passed, but days are still cool.
Very important is well-drained, acidic soil that is well-aerated with no more that 30% clay in top and sub-soil. Choose the position with care as transplanting is not recommended at all.
Dig a hole twice the size of the pot the plant is in. When removing the plant from the pot, avoid root disturbance as much as possible.
Do not add bonemeal, fertilizer or compost when planting. Acid compost or well-composted pine bark can be added to the soil that was removed to increase acidity in the soil, if needed. Mix in thoroughly.
Place some of this soil back into the hole, ensuring the plant is at the same level as it was in the pot. Firm the soil down around each plant and water well.
Proteaceae like to be planted in groups, as they occur in nature. This provides support in strong wind, root protection, keeps the soil cool and gives a gorgeous display.
Low growing species of fynbos lend themselves very well to containerizing and have become very trendy. The plant’s suitability to pots will be indicated on the label. Ensure that the container has sufficient drainage holes and spread a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot. Plant your fynbos in a mixture of organic potting soil to which acid compost and river sand has been added. Do not add bone meal when planting.
Click |HERE| to read our simple step-by-step guide to potting plants in containers.
Cover young plants (first 2 years) with frost cover until they are well established. Mature plants can tolerate light frost.
During the first two summers after planting, water your plants thoroughly and deeply 2-3 times per week, depending on the rainfall conditions. Most fynbos are waterwise once fully established and watering can be reduced accordingly. If planted in sandy soil or in containers, they need to be watered daily or every second day, especially during the hot, dry season.
Watering is best done in the early morning to avoid fungal infections.
After planting, spread a thick (5-8cm) layer of mulch around the plant. Keep away from the stem to avoid fungal diseases. Mulch will help to retain soil moisture and keep roots cool. The surface roots of fynbos are very sensitive and mulch also helps to suppress weed growth, resulting in less interference with the area around these roots.
Acid compost, Eucalyptus mulch and well-aged pine needles or bark make excellent mulch. Avoid using mushroom compost as this is high in phosphorus.
Proteacea naturally thrive in nutrient-poor soil and there is very little need for additional fertilizing. Healthy plant material, removed during pruning, can be cut into smaller bits and scattered around the bushes to decompose and replenish soil. Fertilisers derived from seaweed and fish can be applied at half the recommended rate with plenty of water to assist in root formation, particularly in young plants. In sandy soils and in potted plants one of the recommended organic, granular fertilisers can be applied at the rate of 60g/m² on the surface around the plant and watered in well. Apply three times a year from August to April.
Absolutely avoid the following:
- Artificial fertilisers high in phosphorus and nitrogen
- The addition of compost to the soil
- Manure, mushroom compost and bone meal
- To create bushier, more compact plants
- To improve the quantity and quality of flowers
- To extend the plant’s lifespan
- To reduce the occurrence of disease
How to prune?
- Tip-prune young plants six months after planting to encourage branching.
- The following year prune the bush after flowering and before active growth begins, usually in late spring. Remove all old heads and cut back 2 or 3 straight stems. Proteas should be cut back to 10-15cm from the main stem. Leucospermum, Leucadendron and Serruria bearers should be cut back to 7-10cm from the main stem. Never cut into old, dead wood, but ensure that the remainingbearer, form which new shoots will sprout, has 8-10 healthy leaves.
- The following year and every successive year, again in late spring, remove all old flowering heads and cut back all flowering stems as above. With Proteas do not cut back non-flowering stems as these will produce flowers the following year. With Leucospermum, Leucadendron and Serruria non-flowering stems can also be pruned. Never remove more than 50% of the plant leaf area on the bush.
- Remove any weak, damaged and crooked stems and stems that have failed to flower from the plant.
Fynbos may show signs of Iron deficiency or leaf chlorosis. The symptoms are yellowing of the leaves while the veins still stay green and it is typically caused by high soil alkalinity, too much clay in the soil or high levels of phosphorus which hinders proper absorption of iron. Treat by firstly improving the soil condition as recommended above and then watering in 5ml Iron chelate, dissolved in 1L water per square meter.
FYNBOS VARIETIES STOCKED AT LIFESTYLE
Protea (Sugar bush)
South Africa’s National flower.
Serruria (Blushing Bride)
A delicately beautiful smaller shrub.
The most aromatic member of the fynbos family.
Leucadendron (Cone bush)
Wide spread and long flowering with brilliantly colourful leaves and bracts.
A spectacular garden plant, very popular for cutflowers.
An elegant little shrub with fine foliage and masses of delicate flowers.
Chamelaucium (Geraldton Wax)
An Australian fynbos grown locally for its beautiful cut flowers.
Click |HERE| to listen to our podcast discussion with The Gareth Cliff show team about planting your own Fynbos