Planting out my Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’

If you read my recent posts (1 2), you know that my current plant crush is Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’. I bought a 5-gallon plant two weeks ago at the grand opening of the newly enlarged Ruth Bancroft Garden nursery and I know right away where I wanted it to go: outside the front yard fence, replacing a Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’. (Nothing wrong with the ‘Hot Lips’ but I was ready for a change.)


Here’s what this spot looks like now. The photo was taken from a slightly different angle to include the Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’ which is now at its winter best:


I’m really happy with the placement of the ‘Scarlet Ribbon’. I hope it’ll thrive in this sunny spot.


Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ is a hybrid between Leucospermum glabrum and Leucospermum tottum created in 1974 by South Africa’s Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute (VOPI). It’s one of the hardier leucospermums (to 25°F) and is able to tolerate a wider range of soil types than others. Still, like all members of the Proteaceae family, it needs well-draining soil that’s slightly on the acidic side. Too much water will kill them.


I planted my ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ on a slight mound, using sandy loam to which I added elemental sulfur. I erred on the side of caution because I think the loam I was using had a fairly neutral pH already. One of these days I’ll invest in a soil pH meter so I’ll know for sure. If needed, I can then sprinkle more elemental sulfur on top of the soil like they do at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.


A note on fertilizers: Proteaceae are adapted to thrive in nutrient-poor soils and generally do not need to be fertilized. In fact, a sure fire way to kill them is to use a conventional plant fertilizer that contains phosphorous. Professional growers recommend an occasional light feeding with cottonseed meal or highly dilute fish emulsion.

Another thing that’s important: good ventilation around the plant to prevent fungal infections. I don’t think that will a problem in this spot since it’s quite exposed.


I know I’ve been talking too much about this particular plant, and I promise I won’t lose another word on it until I have something newsworthy to report.


  1. So glad someone else has "current crushes" LOL. And fair enough. Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ is a beautiful plant. Even though Leucospermums are common enough here in Adelaide, I still stop and admire each one I see. Rave on! :-) -Vicki

    1. Greetings to Adelaide! I've always had a fondness for Adelaide although I've never been there. Our best friends are both from Adelaide, and we've met their parents and siblings so it feels like we have a connection to South Australia. The climate is apparently quite similar to ours.

  2. The Leucospermum is beautiful and looks perfect in the spot you've chosen. I've killed 2 yellow ones but I'm tempted to try another. Two of my neighbors have them, one of which is absolutely huge, so the climate doesn't seem to be a problem - I just need to hit the sweet spot with watering.

    1. Kris, from what I've read watering is a bit tricky, at least initially. They do want regular water during the first year, after that they're quite drought-tolerant. And I was told to put a thick layer of mulch over the root zone to keep it moist and cool. Knock on wood!

  3. Talking too much? What? You could post a photo and few words about this plant every day and I wouldn't question...

  4. Talk away Gerhard, was taking your words in :) I might try and grow proteas again but this time in pots at the front where they will get lots of sun and I can control their nutrients better. I have difficulty keeping them alive in the greenhouse...

  5. Do I see another blog title change in the near future? "Proteaceae and more..." doesn't really roll off the tongue though. :)

    I read garden blogs to experience the passion of gardeners. So keep on talking!


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