The Banksia ericifolia is a medium-large shrub native to Australia; for some years now this species has been divided into two varieties: B.e. var. ericifolia and B. e. var. macrantha, which has slightly larger inflorescences than the previous one. These are vigorous and rustic shrubs, fast-growing, which reach in a few years the 3-4 meters high, in fact in Australia are often used in hedges. The foliage is small, evergreen, greyish green, shaped like small needles, covered by a thin down.
From late spring till summer, it produces countless large inflorescences, in the shape of erect panicles, tall up to 25-30 cm, of yellow or orange colour; the banksia inflorescences have a typical shape, similar to that of the callistemon flowers. Once withered, the flowers on the plant remain the fruits, of the species of hard cones, of real colour, which contain the seeds.
These large shrubs have a very decorative and exotic appearance, and despite this they are well suited to European gardens.
The Banksia ericifolia plants should be grown in a sunny or semi-shady place; they are not afraid of frost, even if intense, but it is advisable to position them in a place not too subject to winter winds. They bear without any problems the high summer temperatures and the salty winds, but not those too cold. They also have the ability to grow back after a fire.
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From March to October, the plants of Banksia ericifolia should be watered sporadically, leaving the soil dry for a few days before watering again. During the cold months we can suspend watering, acting only in case of prolonged drought, especially in the case of specimens grown in pots. It is good to check that there are no stagnations of water at the base of the plant, which could compromise its health.
In the growing season it is good to provide an acidophilic plant manure once a month to give the plant all the nutrients it needs.
The Banksia ericifolia prefers an acidic soil, very well drained and with low water retention. Usually, specific soil is utilized for acidophilic plants, formed by a good part of peat, mixed with the same quantity of river sand. The specimens cultivated in pots are to be repotted every 2-3 years to provide them with fresh soil rich in nutrients and to allow a better development of the root system.
The multiplication of this type of plant usually takes place by seed; the propagation by cutting does not always give good results, so it is advisable to prepare a large number of cuttings, to be buried in a soil mixed with peat and sand, to ensure proper drainage.
Banksia ericifolia: Pests and diseases
Banksia ericifolia plants are generally resistant and not attacked by pests. In case of soil with a very high pH, they can suffer from iron chlorosis and, for this reason, it is advisable to intervene with specific supplements that will counteract the phenomenon, or if the plant is grown in pots, arrange a repotting in a soil more suited to the needs of the plant.