Protea repens

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Botanical Name
Protea repens
Proteaceae - The Protea family
PROH-tee-uh REE-penz
Common Name(s)
English: Common Sugarbush
Afrikaans: Suikerbos
IsiXhosa: isiqwane
Plant Group
  • Fynbos Certain plants endemic to the areas of the Western Cape of South Africa that have a Mediterranean climate of cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers.
  • Shrub A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
Plant Size
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Roots Non-invasive Safe to plant near pools, paving, walls or buildings.
  • Sand tolerant Plants adapted to survive in nutrient poor, very sandy soils.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

The Sugarbush Protea is an upright, low-branching shrub or small tree. It is one of the easiest to grow and a good species for the beginner. The pale green foliage consists of leathery, rather stiff leaves which deter most insects. The Sugarbush tolerates soils from heavy clay to deep white sand and will grow in near subtropical conditions to areas with some frost. It has a life-span of about 30 years and will flower four to five years from germination. The shrubs flower in summer or winter, depending on where they are grown, although I have found that my bushes are seldom without at least a flower or two.  The copious amount of nectar produced by the flowers attracts birds, bees, beetles and other insects. This is a 'must have' addition to any garden within its tolerance range.

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flower heads are chalice-shaped with a collection of flowers in the center, surrounded by large colourful bracts

  • Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • Winter Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • pink
  • white
  • red
Growth Rate
  • Moderate Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Border A strip of ground, at the edge of a driveway or path in which ornamental plants or shrubs are planted.
  • Cut Flowers Plants that provide flowers suitable for ornamental uses.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Rock Garden An area constructed of larger rocks, arranged naturally, to emphasise the use of stones as a main element. Generally plants used do not need a lot of care.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Suitable for seaside gardens Plants that will survive the hostile environment of harsh salty winds, dry sandy soil, irregular rainfall and heat found in seaside gardens.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

from the Bokkeveld Escarpment in the Western Cape Province to east of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province, on flats, coastal facing slopes, lower and middle mountain slopes, scattered between other fynbos varieties or in dense stands

Planting Suggestions

If growing Protea from seed, see this blog:

I am in the process of writing an article about growing and care of Protea and will include the link shortly.

For the moment however, go to http://( for details about planting and care.

Most Protea losses  are due to fungal diseases and by the time you notice the plant is in stress, it is usually too late to do anything to save the plant. The best control is preventative: water plants early in the morning; keep soil surface cool by mulching; remove diseased plants immediately; do not over water in summer and never disturb the roots. Burn any diseased material.

Stems bearing old flower heads should be cut back to encourage the development of new shoots and long stems.

Medicinal Uses

Protea repens was used as a source of firewood as well as for the nectar produced by the flowers. The abundant nectar was collected and boiled into a sugary syrup called 'bossiestroop' (bush syrup', which was an essential component of 19th century medicine chests in the Cape. The collected juice was strained and boiled until the amber liquid formed a thick ruby-red syrup. The syrup was used for curing coughs and other chest complaints.

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Hi there just wanted to tell u, I have about 4 diff varieties of Protea Repens in my garden, they're gorgeous shrubs, I have protea repens Guerna, Embers, repens white and Rubens. Rubens being my favourite. I heard of Ice White and Honeyglow varieties as well, where can I find those two varieties? Any blues or maybe u guys have it? Lemme know please. Thanks guys and keep up the stunning work.

Hi Abdul

Rubens is stunning but Embers is also lovely. Sadly I have not been able to find a South African protea supplier so I can't help you. Perhaps you can get more information from, who sell protea and fynbos seeds. There must be growers in the Western Cape. If you find any, do let us know as we get many people asking for proteas and are unable to help.

Kind regards

You may find protea seeds on the website: I bought some from a suppliers: Seedsforafrica

Hi Elsa

Thanks for the tip. I get mine from Fine Bush People ( and I have found them very reliable.

My main problem is finding Protea growers who sell the plants, not only the cut flowers. Any suggestions?


Arnelia Farms
PO Box 192, Hopefield, 7355, South Africa
Tel / Fax +27 (0)22 723 1022
Cell +27 (0)72 197 6784

Hi William

Many thanks for your response. I had a look at their website and it has a list of the nurseries they supply across the country which will be most useful. I shall add this link in my protea blog as well.

Kind regards

We are living on a 35 hectare portion at Kalkheuvel near Hartbeespoortdam and would appreciate help regarding past experiences of growing blooms in our area to augment our retirement venture!
Ant help out there...thanks regards

We recently bought a Protea Farm with about 10 hectare of Protea Repens Bushes. We are also cultivating a small area of Repen Bushes for sale. Kind regards, Aletta Wilson

Great site. Thanks for the information.

Do proteas need to be planted in full sun or would partial shade be ok? We have morning sun areas that I would like to plant my proteas in.

Hi Sheila

As I have never had experience with this, I am unable to answer your query with any certainty but here is my opinion:

As with all sun-loving plants, your proteas are likely to become leggy and flowering will be negatively affected. If the plants are under the shade of other trees, you will need to be sure that they do not get too wet in summer (if you are not in a winter rain climate), that the plants get sufficient wind and that the area is not humid. Where these conditions are not met you have a recipe for the development of fungus growth - a death knell for proteas.

If you do decide to take the chance, do let me know of your results as my assessment may well be incorrect.

Perhaps another reader will be able to supply some first-hand information.

Kind regards

Thank you for that Lorraine. I think the shade will pose a problem so will keep you posted.

I would like to know if you can extract essential oil from protea plant material? Know of anyone doing it at the moment?

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