Growing Proteas in an Egg box
Germinate your proteas on your kitchen window-sill
These instructions are the ones we put into the eggbox starter kits that we sell at Kirstenbosch Gardens. Unfortunately, because this starter kit contains soil, it cannot be imported into other countries. However, if you purchased the envelope-sized Starter Kit (without soil), you can have a look here to see how it might be done once you have made up your own soil mix.
Julie has grown these seeds on our (south-facing = away from the sun in South Africa) kitchen window sill (inside). There were times when she forgot to water them, and when the cat knocked them out the window for a day or so, but as the photos show, the plants grew.
Using the Egg Box
Put the soil mixture supplied into the little cups of the egg box.
Treat your seeds with Smoke Primer as described in our Smoke Primer in Protea Seed Germination page.
Plant both seeds of each species into each eggcup.
Plant the seed to a depth equal to its size and water well. Keep the seedlings in semi-shade, and protect against rodents, birds and large insects (30% shade-cloth works well for outdoors - a window sill works well indoors). Water with a fine rose spray and do not allow the soil to dry out at any time.
In climates with harsh winters, you should place the seedlings in a greenhouse during the winter. Keep the temperature at 5-8oC at night and 15-20oC during the day. Humidity must be kept low with circulation of cool air. Extra light may be needed in areas of extreme latitudes.
The germination period varies from 1 to 3 months, depending on the species. The cotyledons appear first, then the true leaves. Once the true leaves appear, the seedlings can be exposed to full sunlight.
When the seedlings are about 1cm tall cut out each cup and plant the cup straight into the ground, a pot or a larger seed bag. To give the roots unhindered access to deeper soil, carefully remove the bottom of the egg cup. The rest of the egg box will decompose naturally, feeding the young plant and allowing the roots to grow through.
If both seeds germinate, you should seperate them carefully with minimum root disturbance.
Take care to leave the roots undisturbed during planting out. If your garden soil is well drained and acidic, and your climate frost-free, choose a sunny spot and plant the proteas out in square holes 500 mm deep. The young plants appreciate some well-matured compost (non animal) mixed into the soil with which you fill the hole.
Mulching with well-rotted compost or wood chips helps keep down the weeds, retain moisture, cool the roots and supply some nutrients.
If you need to keep the proteas in a pot, you must make up your own potting medium. This should be similar to the mixture you used for germinating the seeds, but needs more perlite or vermiculite and some well-matured compost. Ensure that the pot's drainage holes are open.
Feeding your Proteaceae
Since the proteaceae are adapted to nutrient-poor conditions, chemical fertiliser or manure will burn their sensitive root system.
The starter kit contains a small amount of a specially formulated fertilizer that is designed for fynbos and Proteaceae. Sprinkle this around your proteas when they are around 6 to 9 months old and water well. You can buy more of this fertilizer from the Kirstenbosch garden supply shop, or directly from our protea growing accessories store.
Fungus poses a serious threat to proteas, and causes sudden death in some species if it attacks the roots. To avoid exposing the plants to fungal infections, keep the plants dry when it is hot. This means water the plants only early in cool of the morning - never in the evening. Also, water the plants once (or twice when they are young) a week for an hour. Shorter, more frequent, watering encourages weak root systems and fungal infection.