The Protea has many different types, as indicated by the origin of the name ‘Protea’ – it comes from the mythical Greek God Proteus, who could change his form at will. Some of the more common varieties of Protea that are produced en masse for florists include the King Protea, Queen Protea, Honey Protea, Pink Ice and Pink Mink. Proteas are large flowers, and King Proteas can open up to 20 centimetres across. They grow on woody stems and have sturdy long leaves, which brown or spot easily. The Protea flower itself is formed by many bracts that curve up and slowly open outwards, revealing a fluffy flower centre. The bracts and flower may be orange, cream, brown, pale pink, red or a combination of these.
Proteas are one of the oldest flowers known to us, and are native to Australia, South Africa and South America. Similarities and differences in the Proteaceae Family have led to the belief that the African continent split away before South America and Australia were divided. Proteas grow best in fields, where the bushes can receive full sun and have room to grow. The cut flowers are usually available in late summer /early winter.
Proteas are a fantastic flower for arranging, either fresh or dried. The King Protea can be dried as a large star shape that is great for Christmas decorating – simply leave the flower to open, allow it to dry out and remove the pointed flower centre.