Common Name: parrot's beak
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: Red
Sun: Full sun
Suggested Use: Annual, Ground Cover
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where it is best grown in light, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates some part shade conditions in hot summer climates. North of USDA Zone 10, plants are typically grown as warm weather annuals. Pinch stem ends to promote branching. Plants require excellent soil drainage. Too much or too little watering typically causes foliage drop. Addition of some sand to the soil or potting mix may help promote better drainage. Plants perform best with even moisture, but allow the top of the soil to mostly dry before rewatering. Best flowering occurs in the cool weather of spring and early summer. Plants dislike hot summer temperatures and may stop blooming in summer, particularly when nighttime temperatures remain at high levels. Propagate by stem cuttings. Rooted cuttings or seed may be purchased at some nurseries. Seed should be started indoors about 8-10 weeks prior to the last spring frost date. Plants grown from seed will not produce flowers in the same year, but are greatly appreciated for their attractive foliage. Plants from cuttings may produce flowers in same year, but not in all cases. Overwinter containers and/or cuttings taken in late summer in cool temperatures (45-55 degrees F.) with bright light and somewhat reduced watering.
Parrot's beak is a trailing tender perennial or warm weather annual vine that grows to 8" tall but spreads to 2-3' wide or more. Where not winter hardy, it is grown as an annual in containers or hanging baskets. It features soft silver-gray leaves and sharply-contrasting, pea-like, crimson flowers. Leaves are divided into needle-like leaflets (each to 1" long) that are spaced along the stems in attractive whorls (3-7 leaflets per whorl). Stems will spread to 2-3' long or more. Flowers bloom in clusters at the stem ends in spring and early summer. Each flower (to 1" long) is red (maturing to orange red) and sickle-shaped with a prominent beak. Plants are native to the Canary and Cape Verde Islands where they are severely endangered, but this species survives in cultivation. This lotus is totally unrelated to the water lily (Nelumbo) also commonly called lotus.
No serious insect or disease problems. Root rot will occur in poorly drained soils. Leaf spots. Watch for spider mites, mealy bugs and aphids.
Where winter hardy, it is an excellent small-scale ground cover. Beds, borders, rock gardens. Also may be cascaded over rocky areas or walls. North of USDA Zone 10, it is typically grown in hanging baskets and containers as an annual.