Banksia blechnifolia

Fern-leaved Banksia, Groundcover Banksia

Family: Proteaceae

A prostrate banksia from WA which generates much interest as it grows along the ground. Found naturally in the south of WA, in a fairly narrow range, growing on sand in heath or mallee communities. It grows to 0.5 m tall and can spread to 4 m wide.

The leaves are alternate, to 45 cm long and to 10 cm wide, and deeply lobed / dissected, blue-green in colour. It has attractive new growth tinged red due to hairs. Leaves are paler on undersurface.

The inflorescences of banksias are generally referred to as spikes or a spike-like structure which consists of fused racemes of paired flowers (hence it gets referred to as a conflorescence). There can be 100s of flowers in each spike. The flowers of banksias have 4 tepals (petals or sepals) in a tubular formation, 4 anthers hidden inside and an elongated carpel (female part) where the style and extends outwards forming the edge of the spike (somewhat similar to individual grevillea and hakea flowers).

In this species, the spikes are generally to 15 cm long and up to 8 cm wide, with each flower thin but up to 4 cm long, reddish-pink to woolly orange when developing, becoming cream when the flowers open.

The spike then turns into a cone-like structure of follicles; a fruit which splits open on one side. Each follicle has one or two winged seeds which is actually a fruit in itself called a samara. The follicles can take a long time to mature and open, usually needing a fire or a drying out period. Each “cone” can produce a fair amount of seed with this species having follicles to 20 mm long with up to 50 follicles per “cone”.

In the garden

Very popular in cultivation and has proven to be very hardy on the east coast of NSW.

Plant in a sunny spot and allow for drainage. Suited to rockeries and large landscape beds where groundcovers are needed. Many banksias benefit from growing on a slight slope. Do not mulch too heavily. Very hardy once established. It is excellent for attracting honeyeater and other birds. It does need some water in very dry conditions.

Will grow consistently if happy and can spread to 4 m wide along the ground. Prune early to encourage more stems and flowers. Very suitable for sandy and coastal gardens. Prune after flowering or harvest cut flowers

Do not apply a high phosphorus fertiliser as Proteaceae are generally sensitive.

Likely not overly frost tolerant. Very tolerant to coastal salt spray.

Susceptible to Phytophthora and any other root rotting fungus.


Propagation from seed is very reliable and not too difficult.

Other information

This species can regenerate after fire from the seed bank or from epicormic shoots.

Banksia is a now a genus of about 170 species (with the inclusion of the genus Dryandra) occurring in Australia but also 1 species in New Guinea and the Aru Islands Regency. NSW currently has about 16 species.

Banksia – named in honour of Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820), famous naturalist and botanist on the Endeavour and other expeditions, and President of the Royal Society for over 40 years. The genus was named in his honour by Linnaeus filius (Carl von Lynne – the Younger, son of the famous Carl von Lynne (Linneaus)).

blechnifolia – Latin referring to Blechnum – a genus of fern with species having dissected / pinnate fronds. The leaves of this species bear a strong resemblance.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

Australian National Herbarium – Banksia blechnifolia profile page    https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2014/banksia-blechnifolia.html

Gardening with Angus – Banksia blechnifolia profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/banksia-blechnifolia-ground-cover-banksia/

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Dan Clarke