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Plant Profile: Parrot’s Beak (Clianthus puniceus)

Clianthus punicensAlso called lobster’s claw, this native of New Zealand’s North Island, is a small bushy evergreen shrub in the legume family (Fabaceae) . The dark green to gray green leaves are six inches long and divided into fifteen to twenty pairs of leaflets. In spring and early summer, the plant produces clusters of fifteen to twenty five bright pink to red flowers that are waxy, three inches long, and look like a parrot’s beak or lobster claw, accounting for the common names. In New Zealand the plant is called kakabeak, referring to the kaka, a native parrot there. The fruit is a pea-like pod with numerous small seeds. Parrot’s beak is an excellent choice for growing on a wall or trellis because of its sprawling habit. It is a short-lived plant but can be easily propagated. It is endangered in New Zealand. The generic name, Clianthus comes from Greek, kleios meaning glory and anthos meaning flowers. The specific name, puniceus beans blood red and refers to the color of the flower.

Type: Evergreen shrub

Outstanding Feature: Flowers

Form: Sprawling

Growth Rate: Moderate

Bloom: Clusters of three inch long, pink to red, pendulous, waxy flowers in spring and early summer

Size: 13’ H x 10’ W

Light: Full sun

Soil: Fertile, medium moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 8-9

Care: Plant in a site that is protected from cold wind; mulch in winter to protect the base of the plant; prune by one third immediately after flowering.

Pests and Diseases: Slugs, snails, caterpillars, mites

Propagation: Seed; semi-ripe cuttings; stem layering

Outstanding Selections:
‘Red Cardinal’ (Red flowers)
‘Albus’ (White flowers)
‘Roseus’ (Deep red flowers).

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