The Leucospermum in the garden
Leucospermums have been grown in Europe for many years, especially as cut flower plants; in fact the large flowers of the plant are very suitable in the compositions to be dried, and remain beautiful for weeks, or even months, once cut from the plant. In reality, even the shrub bearing these flowers is very decorative and not very difficult to cultivate, so it can find a place in our gardens.
These are slow-growing shrubs, with fairly roundish development; the long erect stems, poorly branched, bear fleshy and leathery leaves, without petiole, dark green, glossy and waxy; already in autumn the plants begin to prepare the large buds, which in late winter will produce large inflorescences, similar to huge pincushions, hence the common name of the plant. The colors of the Leucospermum they are in shades of yellow and orange, with some hints of bright red.
How to grow leucospermums
These plants are native to southern Africa, where the climate is not so different from that of Mediterranean Europe, with rainy spring and autumn, cool and dry winter and hot, dry summer.
Certainly in Italy these species are to be considered plants not entirely rustic, as they fear frost, especially if intense and prolonged; for this reason, if we want to cultivate a leucospermum and live in the Po Valley, it is advisable to place it in a large vase, so that it can be moved to a protected place during the colder weeks of the year; it is not necessary to place it in a heated greenhouse, it may be sufficient to find a sheltered position, facing south, like a terrace; in any case, a cover of non-woven fabric guarantees us to keep the plant away from frost. We consider however that where a lemon lives it can also easily live a leucospermum.
These shrubs prefer full sun; cultivation in the shade, in addition to making flowering unlikely, tends over time to cause the entire plant to perish.
They can withstand periods of drought even very prolonged, even if to get large and numerous inflorescences it is good to provide watering from when the plant begins to prepare the buds until the end of flowering. Generally the buds and flowers appear in autumn and spring, therefore in periods that are already rainy: the specimens exposed to the elements may not need watering in case of persistent rains.
therefore in doubt we check the soil, if it is wet the plant does not need water, if it is dry we water.
The ideal terrain
The leucospermum prefer very well drained and slightly acid soils; we can prepare a good substratum by mixing soil for acidophilic plants with little pumice stone, or perlite, in order to lighten the substrate and make it very permeable; when we plant in leucospermum in a vase, we place a few centimeters of pebbles or shards on the bottom of the container to help the excess water run off.
During the rainy months therefore we can thin out the waterings, as well as in winter; after flowering we remove the withered flowers and then further thin out the waterings, because the shrub with the dry heat tends to enter in partial vegetative rest, and generally does not require large quantities of water.
These shrubs do not like the strong presence of mineral salts in the soil, so we avoid fertilizing them, or we provide fertilizer for flowering plants in spring, once a month, using about half of the fertilizer recommended on the product packaging.
If our leucospermum lives in a pot, and is repotted periodically, we avoid fertilizing, given that the soil on the market already has fertilizer in them.
Often we happen to grow evergreen plants in the garden, not entirely rustic, which continue to grow even in the middle of winter; just as often our "exotic" plant grown in pots is stored at the end of summer and forgotten until spring; the result is almost always a dry, leafless, dying plant.
Remember that many evergreen plants need watering and care even during the winter; the evergreen shrubs of the garden naturally receive water from the elements; those in greenhouses or sheltered by fabrics, polyethylene or other, unfortunately do not always receive rainwater, and therefore we will have to intervene. When? In general, we should follow nature: when it rains, let's lightly water the soil of the greenhouse plants that are still growing, but only if the soil is dry. We avoid watering the little rustic plants grown outdoors on sunny winter days, often in the sun and on clear skies, followed by nights of frost, and the plants, with earth bread soaked in water, are certainly more sensitive to frost.