Restios and Proteas

While the Trevena Cross offering today stretches far beyond just the ‘exotica’ that at one time was its main claim to fame, it is still very passionate about the plants that could be coined the nursery’s ‘signature plants’ – plants like Restios and Proteas.

The wide selection of Restios and Proteas on offer at one time may have narrowed due to the climate and harsh winters in past decades dictating which remain in the Trevena Cross selection today, but there is still plenty of choice amongst the very hardiest of their kind, (Restios that can survive -8 degreesC to -10 degreesC, Proteas that can survive -5 degreesC to -8 degreesC)

Both with real historical significance to the nursery – Trevena Cross was the first in the UK to introduce Restios and Proteas to a retail nursery, growing on a large scale for a mass market.


Over twenty years ago a local plant enthusiast invited owner Graham along to view his garden. He was truly astounded by the display and variety of Restios happily growing there. Thriving in the mild Cornish climate, Graham thought they’d be a perfect addition to the nursery’s own plant collection and as such began growing them for his customers…

But what are Restios?
Attractive sculptural accent foliage plants – or great in a group, you could say Restios lie somewhere between grasses and bamboos, although they are unique in their own right. They don’t run like many varieties of bamboo and they aren’t self-seeding like many grasses. In fact they can be very difficult to propagate and also challenging to divide and replant, so we recommend buying more mature plants, as you need them, in the final quantity you require.

The true ‘wow-factor’ of a specimen can’t be truly realised until planted out, but its robust ‘see-through’ foliage means it can be planted in any position – bed/border/pot in the garden without screening out that which surrounds or complements it.

They enjoy full sun and although drought tolerant once established, should be kept well-watered in the summer for the fast growth they’re prone to. A well drained acidic soil that retains moisture in the summer is therefore ideal. Adding some Topgrow compost to the planting hole and then mulching will help retain this much needed moisture in summer but also protect it in winter, stopping frost getting to the roots. Slow release fertiliser should be added to the planting hole but avoid overfeeding – Restios have fine root networks that are efficient at sourcing their own food from the soil (when in the ground) as required. Requiring an acidic soil, feeds that include phosphates should particularly be avoided (e.g. bonemeal) too.

Pot Stars
Attractive, in fact rather striking in a pot, Restios should be planted in the same conditions that they enjoy in the ground – a well drained acidic or ‘ericaceous’ compost (Sylvagrow Ericaceous) with a slow release fertiliser, positioned in a sunny spot.

All of this information can be found in our handy, free Restios guide here, or is available to pick up in the shop.


Proteas first appeared in the UK many centuries ago, when a niche group of affluent collectors grew them in flue heated conservatories. It is only in recent decades that a much more mainstream popularity has taken over, and as previously mentioned, Trevena Cross can take responsibility for being one of the first, if not the first to introduce them to a retail nursery, grown for a mass market.

But what are Proteas?
A variety of plants from the same South African family fall under the ‘Protea’ headline. These include Banksia, Grevillea, Hakea, Leucadendrons and Protea, all of which enjoy a very free draining, acidic soil, low in nutrients.

A show-stopper in a pot, particularly a terracotta pot we find… they will thrive with excellent drainage, in a Protea compost in a full sun position. Using pot feet and crocks/small pieces of polystyrene in the bottom of the pot will aid with the drainage part. Great air circulation is also important – they don’t like humid or stale air. If overwintering in a greenhouse or conservatory, be aware of this and ensure that ventilation is still good.

While excellent drainage is very important, don’t avoid watering altogether when they are planted in a pot. In such circumstances Proteas are reliant on you for all of their moisture, unlike in their natural habitat where they can send roots out in search of moisture in the ground. Do only wet the compost not the plant though, and let the top two inches of compost dry out before re-watering again (i.e. don’t completely saturate and over water).

When it comes to food, Proteas are naturally very good at sourcing nutrients from the poorest of soils using their fine root network. This generally sits close to the surface of the ground (shallow rooters) and so a mulch with something like pine needles would be an excellent way to provide a mild fertiliser to this acidic loving plant, whilst also protecting it from excessive drying in the heat of the sun. Our specially formulated Protea fertiliser is also an excellent slow release option to keep the Protea(s) fed for the year. We’d also recommend Mycorrhizal (also available to purchase here), which is a friendly fungi that germinates to produce almost a secondary root system to help with the uptake of moisture and nutrients.

If you’d prefer to plant your Protea in the ground, on a south facing steep slope is ideal, where drainage will be naturally excellent and exposure to the sunshine at its maximum.

All Proteas should be protected from frosts, moved undercover if pot grown or protected with decent horticultural fleece if in the ground.

Proteas are unique and intriguing, with the most incredible flowers, unlike anything else you’ll come across. It may seem like there are a lot of conditions to meet when it comes to growing one but just think about emulating the South African landscape…their native home, and you’ll be half way there! It isn’t as complicated as it may read, and when it comes to flowers like those of the King Protea, perhaps the most impressive of all, it is totally worth that little extra thought and time!

All this information can be found in our handy, free Protea guide here, or is available to pick up in the shop.