This pruning guide focuses specifically on Protea varieties. Pruning Proteas is not difficult, does not have to take too much time and the rewards you will get for doing it will make it all worthwhile.
Pruning allows you to shape the plant and encourage new growth and flowers for the following year. In the case of Proteas, there is a specific method to pruning these to get the best results. The key is to only prune the stems that have flowered that year. Because Proteas flower on a two year cycle, the stems that have not flowered in one year, will flower the next year. If you prune all stems every year, you will not see any flowers.
Firstly, start with a stem which has a finished flower head on it – see image below (Picture 1).
To prune a Protea correctly it helps to understand about how they grow. Each year new growth is put on by the plant. This can be identified by looking at the stem. When you look closely, you can see the point where the previous years’ growth finished and the newer growth began (Picture 2). You will notice a change in the stem colour and often see smaller and different shaped leaves at this point as well.
Once you have identified the different points of growth, simply cut the stem back in the previous years’ growth leaving approximately 10cm – 15cm of healthy stem with leaves (Picture 3).
You will end up with a stem as below (Picture 4). By pruning like this, you encourage the plant to fill out and develop a nice shape rather than growing too tall which occurs if pruning happens too high up the stem. Prune all other stems with finished flowers in the same way.
Note: Do not prune stems without finished flowers unless they need tidying up (e.g. they are misshapen or growing on the ground).
One of the common mistakes that people make when pruning Proteas is cutting directly under the flower. This encourages new shoots to begin to grow from this top point, which causes the plant to become taller and more untidy in shape. Instead, prune the plant as we have described above for best results.
The end result
Notice we have left the un-open buds on the bush. You can wait until these last buds have opened before pruning them in the same way as above. The remaining un-pruned stems will be our flowers for next year.
By following these easy steps you can create a well shaped, healthy plant which produces fantastic colour and flowers for years to come.
For information on pruning your Leucadendrons, we recommend reading Pruning Leucadendrons.