Evergreen shrub, endemic to New Zealand, but rare in the wild. The pinnately compound, 15-25 cm long leaves resemble those of another New Zealand native plant, the kowhai (Sophora species). Drooping, 8 cm long, red flowers, shaped somewhat like the New Zealand native parrot's (kaka's) beak. May flower at any time during the year, but most specimens flower during spring or summer. The photo was taken in early spring. Green, pea-like seed pods.
Clianthus maximus is similar to Clianthus puniceus, and for a long time was treated as a variety of the latter. Also sold as Clianthus 'Kaka King'. Compared to Clianthus puniceus, Clianthus maximus has larger flowers and leaves, and its foliage is glossy and darker green.
Prefers an open sunny position in well-draining, fertile soil. Not tolerant of very wet, waterlogged conditions, but tolerates dry soils once established. When growing conditions are not ideal, Clianthus maximus is susceptible to a range of pests, including caterpillars, slugs, snails, leaf miners and thrips. The shrub tends to have an open habit, in particular when not grown in full fun, so prune regularly to keep the plant compact. Tolerates light to medium frosts. Suitable for coastal gardens and exposed sites. Can be short-lived, and may need to be replaced after 3-5 years. Easy to propagate from cuttings or seed.
Attractive, fast growing, New Zealand native plant with gorgeous flowers in large clusters. Can be trained as a climber or espaliered.