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PROTEA nitida

Image of Protea nitida

John Rickard



Botanical Name

PROTEA nitida

Plant Common Name

Protea, Waboom, Wagon Tree

General Description

This is a South African shrub with many uses, both functional and ornamental. In Africa waboom was traditionally used to tan leather, make ink, and construct wagon brake blocks and wheel rims, but this compact protea is also an ornate small tree with large, ivory flowers and pleasing blue-green foliage. It is native to the dry slopes and screes of South Africa where it often attains a gnarled, picturesque habit. In its native habitat, it has become adapted to cyclical fall brush fires followed by winter rains.

Waboom bears long, oval leaves that are leathery and fully evergreen. They emerge opaque magenta but mature to a pale seafoam or pale silvery blue-green. Large, greenish white flowers bloom at any time of year in subtropical climes but appear most heavily in fall and winter. Each blossom opens from a tidy bud that opens to an impressive flower with quill-like stamens of creamy whit. These tend to flop and scatter and create quite a mess. The long-haired fruits are shed 9 to 12 months later.

Grow waboom in full sun and gritty or rocky soil that is well-drained, not overly fertile and has a relatively neutral pH. Wild plants thrive where summers are hot and dry and winters moist, so ensure plants have enough moisture in the winter months and not too much in summer. Fertilizers containing phosphorous will damage proteas, so refrain from using them. Waboom makes a fine specimen tree for hillside plantings or rock gardens where the climate is mild and dry. Its flowers are long-lasting when cut.

Propagate waboom from seed. Sow seeds in midwinter; germination occurs when nights are cool and crisp and days pleasantly warm.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 8

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    10'-16' / 3.0m - 4.9m

  • Width

    8'-16' / 2.4m - 4.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Fall, Late Fall, Early Winter, Winter, Late Winter, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    South Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH


  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances


  • Growth Rate

    Very Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    White, Light Yellow, Light Green, Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    White, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Red, Sea Green, Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Light Green, Sea Green, Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Green, Sea Green, Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Light Green, Sea Green, Blue Green

  • Bark Color

    White, Tan

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number

    Double, Semi-Double

  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture


  • Usage

    Container, Cutflower, Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Attracts


  • Self-Sowing