Banksia serrata: Old Man Banksia

The Old Man Banksia, native to the eastern states of Australia, is renowned for its unique flower spikes and resilience, making it a valuable addition to gardens.

The Old Man Banksia, scientifically known as Banksia serrata, stands out for its distinctive large flower spikes. These, coupled with its rugged appearance, have cemented its place in many Australian gardens.

From offering shelter to local wildlife to serving aesthetic and practical purposes in landscaping, this plant’s versatility is noteworthy. Its resilience, especially in fire-prone areas, further emphasises its adaptability and appeal.

Whether you’re a gardening beginner or a seasoned expert, there’s no denying the charm of the Old Man Banksia.

Family and Subfamily: ProteaceaBanksioideae

The Old Man Banksia belongs to the Proteaceae family, predominantly found in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Australia and South Africa. This large family includes over 1,600 species, many of which are admired for their showy, vibrant flowers.

Digging deeper, the Old Man Banksia is a member of the subfamily Banksioideae, distinguished by its characteristic inflorescence structure. The intriguing “cone” or “spike” of the Banksioideae is a result of numerous individual flowers grouped closely together.

Old Man Banksia: Basic Information

  • Common Name: Old Man Banksia
  • Scientific Name: Banksia serrata
  • Origin: Australia
  • Plant Type: Large shrub/small tree
  • Size: 4-10 meters in height and 3-6 meters in width.
  • Leaf Type: Leathery and serrated
  • Flower Colour: Pale yellow


Banksia serrata 1 | Plant Profiles

The Old Man Banksia, with its gnarled trunk and rough bark, provides an evergreen presence in gardens. Its bushy and spreading nature is evident in both wild and cultivated settings.

Dark green, serrated leaves adorn the plant year-round, and its signature pale yellow flowers grace the plant from late summer to winter. Following the blooming season, woody, cone-like follicles appear, each housing seeds.

Banksia serrata 2 | Plant Profiles

Natural Habitat

This plant thrives in the coastal regions of eastern Australia, predominantly from Queensland to New South Wales. Commonly, you’ll spot it in heathlands, woodlands, and coastal dunes.

How to Grow Old Man Banksia

Banksia serrata plant | Plant Profiles

Growing the Old Man Banksia offers the dual benefits of adding aesthetic value while supporting local ecosystems. Although not an everyday household plant, its unique features make it a compelling choice for many.

Growing Conditions

  • Soil: Sandy or sandy-loam, well-drained. pH: 6.0-7.5.
  • Light: Full sun or partial shade.
  • Climate: Temperate, with limited frost tolerance.

Planting Guide

Plant in spring or autumn, spacing each plant 3-4 meters apart.

Care and Maintenance

Regularly water in the initial year. Once established, it withstands dry spells. Prune post-flowering and mulch with organic matter annually. Avoid high phosphorus fertilisers, as they can be harmful to Proteaceae plants.

Pest and Disease Control

The Old Man Banksia remains mostly untroubled by pests or diseases.

Special Features

  • Unique Flower Spikes: Can extend up to 30 cm.
  • Attractive Seed Pods: Valued in floral displays.
  • Fire Resilience: Ability to regrow post fires.

Wildlife and Pollinators

The plant magnetises nectar-feeding birds like honeyeaters, as well as native bees and butterflies.

Uses in the Garden and Beyond

Used as a centrepiece, windbreak or screen. The flower spikes are also infused in honey or tea preparations. It’s a boon for water-efficient gardens and serves as a sanctuary for wildlife.

Banksia serrata prostrate

Banksia serrata has a prostrate form that stays close to the ground while still producing its characteristic flowers and fruit. The prostrate form can spread widely but remains low, usually just a few centimetres to about half a metre in height. “Banksia serrata Pygmy Possum” is a popular prostrate cultivar of this species.

Old Man Banksia FAQ

Why is my Old Man Banksia not flowering?

Flowering depends on factors like age, sunlight, and soil conditions. Ensure optimal growing conditions.

Can Banksia serrata withstand extreme heat?

Once established, Banksia serrata is drought-resistant and can survive in high temperatures.

Is Banksia serrata suitable for small gardens?

Given its potential to grow tall, plan your garden space accordingly. Regular pruning can help manage its size.

Photo of author

Linda Jones

Based in sunny Brisbane, Linda has a keen interest in ornamental plants. She firmly believes that gardens are as much about aesthetics as they are about functionality. Despite being a life-long gardener, she still enjoys learning about new plants and gardening techniques and sharing her discoveries with the Ultimate Backyard community. When she's not immersed in her garden, Linda loves reading and walking.


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