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Types of Banksias: A Guide to the Different Banksia Varieties

Living in coastal Victoria means that I get to admire lots of gorgeous banksias that grow naturally along the coastline. These hardy plants are dotted everywhere and are such a delight when they’re in full bloom. They’re also loved by many of the bird species that call this area home.

There are also many types of banksias that you can easily grow in your own garden. This means you can enjoy their gorgeous brush flowers and attract some pretty birds to your garden.

Here is a selection of the most popular varieties along with some tips for growing them.

Banksia ericifolia (Heath Banksia)

Banksia ericifolia Heath Banksia | Plant varieties
Banksia ericifolia

This species is commonly found in NSW and loves to grow in acid and sandy soils. It has small slender leaves and delightfully long slender flowers in orange. The heath banksia is also Sydney’s official flower.

In the wild, the heath banksia can reach a height of 6 metres. However, when grown in a home garden, it will usually only reach around half that height.

If you want to grow one of these in your garden, make sure your soil is free-draining and preferably sandy. It should also be on the acidic side.

Some popular cultivars include:

  • Golden Girl
  • Bronzed Aussie
  • Red Rover

Banksia integrifolia (Coastal Banksia)

Banksia integrifolia tree and flowers | Plant varieties
Banksia integrifolia / Photo by Ixitixel / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

This is the species that grow around my area and I can tell you that it’s simply stunning. Actually, the coastal banksia grows naturally almost right along the eastern coastline from Victoria right up to central Queensland.

The coastal banksia has dark green leaves that are white underneath. The beautiful candle-shaped flowers are a pretty yellow colour. 

In natural coastal areas, this banksia will only reach a height of around 5 metres but when grown in a more protected garden environment, it has the capability to reach a height of 25 metres.

Banksia integrifolia is an easy species to grow in your garden as it will handle most soil types including clay and sand and doesn’t mind if the soil is acidic or alkaline. It handles coastal salt spray very well and can even be found growing at higher altitudes such as the Blue Mountains.

Some popular cultivars include:

  • Sentinel

Banksia robur (Swamp Banksia)

Banksia robur Swamp Banksia | Plant varieties
Banksia robur / Photo by Fishinglife2012 / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

The swamp banksia grows naturally along creek beds and river banks from NSW to the top of Queensland. It prefers damper soils to the other species.

The leaves of the swamp banksia are much larger, leathery, and bright green in colour. The gorgeous flowers start out being cream and yellow and mature to a striking golden colour.

The swamp banksia doesn’t grow as tall as many other species and will only reach a height of around 2 metres. However, it will also spread to 2 metres in diameter, so make sure you give it plenty of room in your garden.

Additionally, if you want to grow this species in your garden, you need to ensure that you give it more water than the other species.

Banksia serrata (Saw Banksia or Old Man Banksia)

Banksia serrata Pygmy Possum | Plant varieties
Banksia serrata ‘Pygmy Possum’ / Photo by Melburnian / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

This is another banksia that has quite an extensive spread along the east of Australia. Banksia serrata can be found growing naturally in the south of Tasmania and the coastal tip of Victoria as well as the Fraser Coast of Queensland.

This banksia has serrated green leaves and pale cream flowers that are shorter and fatter than some of the other species. You’ll also find the shape of these banksias quite interesting as they form naturally twisted trees that are quite compact. 

Some popular cultivars include:

  • Pygmy Possum which is a dwarf ground cover

Banksia spinulosa (Hairpin Banksia)

Banksia spinulosa | Plant varieties
Banksia spinulosa

This is another common banksia found along the eastern coastline from Victoria right through to central Queensland. It has fine leaves and the most stunning dark orange flowers. It prefers acidic sandy soils but can grow in rocky clays.

Banksia spinulosa is one species that is very popular with the horticultural industry and many cultivars and hybrids have been produced including:

  • Cherry Candles
  • Dwarf Red
  • Honey Pots
  • Coastal Cushion
  • Birthday Candles
  • Stumpy Gold
  • Black Magic
  • Bird Song (a hybrid of Banksia ericifolia and Banksia spinulosa)
  • Giant Candles (also a hybrid of Banksia ericifolia and Banksia spinulosa)

FAQ

How many varieties of Banksia are there?

There are about 170 different species of Banksia and many cultivars and hybrids that have been produced from these. All but one of the species are entirely native to Australia.

What is the smallest Banksia?

There are many dwarf banksia varieties including Banksia menziesii dwarf, Banksia spinulosa ‘Birthday Candles’, Banksia spinulosa ‘Honey Pots’, Banksia spinulosa ‘Cherry Candles’, and Banksia spinulosa ‘Coastal Cushions’.

How big do Banksias grow?

The larger species of banksia, like the coastal banksia, can grow to a height of 25 metres.

Are Banksia trees hard to grow?

Banksia trees are easy to grow in your garden. Most prefer slightly acidic and sandy soils but some will even grow in clay. Once established, banksias are drought-tolerant and don’t need special care. However, they are phosphorus sensitive so need a low-phosphorus fertiliser.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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