Monday, April 29, 2024

Proteas: Think Twice Before You Fertilize

Did you know California is one of five Mediterranean-climate regions on the earth where proteas are grown? It’s true! And since springtime is a popular planting time… I have an important growing tip for you.

These amazing plants are cherished for their exotic flowers and foliage that symbolize diversity and resilience. Thanks to their wide variety and low maintenance, proteas can easily be grown in California and bring long-lasting color year after year.

When it comes to resilience, proteas are notorious for thriving in poor, infertile soils. Why? They have ‘cluster’ roots that benefit from nutrients released from decomposing leaves. What’s intriguing is their ability to access enough phosphorus when there is very little available. It’s due to the citrate acid that is released by their roots and is bound to the soil. The citrate frees the phosphorus allowing it to be taken up by the roots. Proteas are very sensitive to phosphorus, and so phosphorus fertilizers can be deadly. Most plants stop absorbing phosphorus when they have their fill, but proteas don’t know when to stop. They take it all… making them sick to the point of dying.

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