Australia, this showy flower is bright, unusual and long lasting.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Photo courtesy of the
Australian Flower Export Council
1 big red.
Telopea, pronounced “te-LO-pee-uh,” produces spectacular crimson-colored
blossoms as large as 6 inches in diameter. Each distinctive
inflorescence is a dense head of tubular racemes, or styles, surrounded
by showy red bracts. The actual flowers develop at the raceme tips. Each
plant can produce from as few as 10 to as many as 240 individual flower
2 protea cousin.
Telopea belongs to the Proteaceae family, which also includes Protea,
Banksia, Leucadendron (conebushes), Leucospermum (pincushions),
Grevillea and Dryandra. And although Telopea is a member of the
Proteaceae family, don’t refer to these flowers as Proteas; their common
name is “waratah,” which is an Aboriginal word.
3 down-under delight.
Telopeas are native to southeastern Australia—New South Wales, Victoria
and Tasmania. There are only four species of these flowers; the species
most commonly produced as a cut flower is T. speciosissima (New South
Wales waratah), which also is the state floral emblem of New South
4 a sight to behold.
The name “Telopea” is derived from the Greek word “telopos,” which means
“seen from afar.” It refers to the great distance from which the crimson
flowers can be spotted. The species name “speciosissima” is the
superlative of the Latin adjective speciosus, meaning “beautiful,”
“handsome” or “showy.”
5 hybrid colors.
Although most Telopea flowers are crimson, new varieties have been
developed, including ‘Fire ‘n’ Ice’ (red with white tips), ‘Songlines’
(pink in bud, opening flame red), and ‘Dreaming’ (opens white and
matures to pink). The most well-known white variety is ‘Wirrimbirra
6 cool blooms.
Telopeas bloom during the cool seasons. They are grown commercially in
Australia, New Zealand, Israel and the United States (Hawaii and
California). From these various worldwide sources, they are available
7 choose carefully.
Purchase Telopeas when the flowers have developed and the racemes
(styles) are separating from the centers. Look for signs of fungus or
mold, and avoid stems that have blackened foliage (caused by lack of
nutrients and warm temperatures).
8 necessary care.
Remove packaging and bindings from these flowers immediately upon their
arrival. Trim at least 1 inch from the stems with a sharp knife or
pruner, and remove all leaves that would fall below the water line and
any that cover the blossoms. Dip or place the stems into a hydration
solution, then place them into a clean container partially filled with a
properly prepared fresh flower food solution.
9 chill-out time.
Store Telopeas in a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F. Provide good air
circulation, high humidity, indirect light and flower food. The blossoms
will last for approximately 10 to 14 days if cared for properly.
10 design tips.
Telopeas dry naturally and can be used in dried and preserved floral
arrangements. Use them in fresh designs with other flowers that will
dry, then instruct consumers to stop adding water when the blooms have
reached the end of their fresh life, and a natural dried design will
Thanks to the International Protea Association; The Hawaii Tropical
Flower Growers Association; and Roy Borodkin of Brannan Street Wholesale
Florist, San Francisco Flower Mart.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and
department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San
Francisco with 27 years of consulting and educational experience in the
floral industry. You may contact him by e-mail at
or by phone at (415) 239-3140.
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