My Favourite Banksia spinulosa Dwarfs

There are many dwarf forms of Banksia spinulosa, so many it can be quite confusing and seem a little ridiculous when it comes to choosing one. There are slight variances in the foliage, the flower colour, the flower size and in the size and shape of the shrub itself. For most people these difference would seem minuscule, especially when you are trying to choose from some little plant 10cm tall in a pot.
Therefore I thought it high time I put word to image and clarify what I see as the differences and why I like some better than others.
The image above is of Banksia ‘Stumpy Gold’, one of my top favourites, it is actually Banksia spinulosa var. collina which gives it a thicker, tougher leaf. It comes from the central coast where it grows on a silty loam soil and therefore tolerates heavier clay soils quite well. It grows to about 1 metre x 1 metre and this particular specimen was growing in heavy shade, giving it a more open habit.

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I have used Banksia spinulosa ‘Coastal Cushions’ a lot in my garden designs and have always found it to start off rather prostrate, filling out its mature width before taking much height. I like this about Banksia ‘Coastal Cushions’ it only gets to about .5 metres high x 1-1.5 metres wide. The foliage is a dark green and is very dense the flowers are small but plentiful and it will grow quite happily further north, up into southern QLD. In the image above the shrubs have not had the spent flowers removed, this is something that can be done for aesthetic reasons, if you don’t like the dry look of the older flowers.

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This is Banksia spinulosa ‘Cherry Candles’, so named because it produces flowers with an orangey-red tinge. As you can see above it has a very compact habit growing to approximately .5metres high x 1 metre wide.

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This is Banksia spinulosa ‘Honey Pots’ one of the larger dwarf forms, the specimen above was close to 1.5 metres high x 1.5 metres wide. It has very large, bright flower spikes at 20cm tall. It is a stunning shrub, the foliage is quite contrasting with an almost white underside to each leaf, it is a thick, dense shrub that lends itself to low hedging.

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And last but not least Banksia spinulosa ‘Birthday Candles’! It is the original Banksia spinulosa Dwarf, making it one of the best known. It is unfortunately one of the most expensive and in my view not one of the hardiest. It comes from southern NSW near Ulladullah and tends to turn up its toes in areas with humid summer months. This is unfortunate as it is a lovely shrub with an even compact shape and fine bright green leaves. It grows reliably to .5metres high x 1 metre wide.
All the Banksias above a wonderful garden plants and in my humble opinion a place should be made for them in all native gardens.

8 thoughts on “My Favourite Banksia spinulosa Dwarfs

  1. Stephen Ceccato on

    Just discovered your website – which is fortunate as I am embarking on a native garden project.

    I just planted a raised bed of “birthday candles” and am a bit worried as this is the second time I’ve read that they are not very hardy. Fingers crossed that mine go alright. In retrospect I should have planted stumpy gold as its indigenous to the Central coast which is where I am.

    Interesting to see that the photographed specimen of stumpy gold is growing in heavy shade. Do you think it could grow down the southern side of the house where it would get full sun in summer and heavy shade in winter?

    If not, could you suggest some shrubs or slender trees that could grow in this challenging aspect – I really want to soften the look of the stark paling fence!

    • Stephen on

      Follow up from above comment re Birthday Candles. During the relatively dry spring my birthday candles were seemingly growing vigorously with numerous flower spikes developing. The rain started again in January accompanied by humidity and it appears all of my 5 birthday candles are suffering, maybe root rot. My soil is a silt loam with plenty of organic matter in a raised bed above a retaining wall. Is it worth trying another banksia cultivar such as Coastal cushions or Stumpy Gold. Ideally want a low growing variety.

      • Kath Gadd on

        Hi Stephen,

        Yes, you are right your Banksias would be suffering from the humidity, have you tried clearing away the mulch from the base to encourage air circulation? its also good to place some stones around them so the stems aren’t resting directly on the soil/mulch.
        If they were budding up to flower maybe also try giving them a feed with Potash and if they are yellowing some Iron Chelates also helps.
        If you want a low growing variety ‘Coastal Cushions’ is the lowest growing and one of the hardiest for a humid climate.

        Best Wishes,

        Kath

        • Stephen Ceccato on

          Thanks, I cleared away the mulch and gave some iron chelate, fingers crossed. I think my main problem is the soil is a rich silty loam that I enriched with compost, coupled with the onset of rain and humidity. It soaks up the water and really holds onto it. If the birthdays candles don’t survive, I’ll replace the soil around the plants with free draining native mix and plant coastal cushions.

  2. Kent Smith on

    Hi Kath,
    We would like to plant some of your favourite dwarf Banksia’s in two areas of our back garden near the coast in Adelaide. Our summers are hot and dry. Certainly not humid.
    One area is fully shaded by a 2m high fence for about 4months in winter, but is then in full sun from Spring to Autumn.
    The other area is dappled shade all year.
    Do you think any, or all of your favourite dwarf Banksia’s will do ok in these areas?
    Our soil is very sandy, but we’ve added a lot of organic compost to improve it.

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Kent,

      If you have added plenty of organic matter to the soil and have drip irrigation over the hot dry summer you should be able to grow most of the Banksia spinulosa Dwarf species. I would start with ‘Coastal Cushions’ and ‘Birthday Candles’ and probably steer clear of any with collina species in them as they are from the central coast where the Summers are milder.
      You would also be able to grow Banksia blechnifolia, petiolaris and Banksia marginata ‘Mini Marg’ which are other great low growing Banksias!

      Enjoy,

      Kath

  3. Matthew T on

    Hi Kath, any idea where we I could buy the Banksia spinulosa ‘Coastal Cushions from?

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Matthew,

      You should be able to source Banksia ‘Coastal Cushions’ from Sydney ey Wildflower Nursery ph 95482818

      Good Luck!

      Kath

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