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Plant type Natives, Shrubs
Plant Uses

Best uses

Great for incorporating into native plantings and can be used in plantings to attract nectar-feeding birds. A fantastic shrub trained against a wall.

Physical characteristics

A medium-sized native evergreen shrub growing to around 3m tall and 3m wide.

Flowers and foliage

Pendulous clusters of bright red beak-shaped flowers are produced from August to November. Flowers are followed by green pods which turn black with age as the seed ripen. Leaves are bright green with many pairs of small leaflets.

Preferred site

Prefers full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Avoid planting in areas prone to frost.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy, well-grown, plants and plant after autumn rains, when the soil is moist and warm allows shrubs to establish a good root system well before summer. Planting is often improved on clay soils by adding extra topsoil and forming raised beds. Incorporate coarse sand, bark, peat, compost or other organic material to improve soil structure. Before planting ensure the root ball is saturated and remove the planter bag or pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots or branches and plant at the same level as in the container. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball to plant in. Long term slow-release fertilisers may be added at this stage. As soil is placed in the prepared hole tread firmly to bring soil in close contact with the root-ball. Unless the soil is very wet water thoroughly making sure that moisture penetrates to the depth of the root-ball.

Maintenance tips

Water well over the summer months and mulch annually with an organic mulch. This will suppress weeds and help conserve moisture. Feed with a balanced fertiliser in spring such as blood and bone. Prune Clianthus after flowering to encourage new bushy growth and keep the plant a good shape, if left unpruned they can make some interesting shapes.

Pests and diseases

The native Clianthus caterpillar can be troublesome and can strip plants of foliage literally overnight. Keep an eye out in the evening once it is dark for these black hairy caterpillars. Slugs and snails may also be troublesome. Leaf miners may cause unsightly leaf veination. Rabbits love Clianthus too.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Threatened Native Plant Garden

Interesting facts and tips

Kaka beak produces copious amounts of nectar so tui and other nectar-loving birds love them. Maori used kakabeak to feed caged tui, these native birds were used to help capture other birds for food.