" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Monday, March 25, 2013

Plant Profiles: Lotus Berthelotii

Although this year spring is not quite willing to install itself in many parts of Europe and winter  seems not to loose its grip, we all are already thinking about our summer plantings and can't wait to assault the local nurseries, planting schemes at hand, in search for the new plants.

Well, if you like me, are not into pot geraniums and plain daisies there is a plant worth knowing : the Lotus Berthelotii, also known as Coral Gem, Parrot's Beak, Cat Claw and Pigeon Beak.... In spite of all this animal related names, the Lotus B. ( no relationship whatsoever with the Nelumbo - water Lotus) is a very interesting plant originate from the Canary Islands, Tenerife and Cabo Verde.

A member of the Fabaceae Family, the Lotus is not fully hardy and stays green only in mild Mediterranean areas. In colder climates it is grown as an annual. It has a trailing growing habit and if it pleases itself in a spot, it can grow to impressive dimensions.

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. 

Its claw like flowers come in two colourings a orange yellow or deep velvety red ( which I prefer). Foliage is very light, a nice glaucous and mate blue grey. This was actually the main reason I bought it a couple of years ago. I came across a tiny plant which looked not very impressive at all. But since I was looking for a silvery leaved plant - I decided to give it a try. And boy, what a surprise!

Tiny and frail it seemed at the beginning, but once comfortably installed in a generous pot at the feet of a very young bougainvillea, my Lotus took it very serious and in one season covered the entire container, draping itself graciously over the borders. Mind you this was only one plant!
The grayish leaves were pretty on their own but quite early in the season it covered itself entirely with blooms! It went on blooming for month to end, demanding not more than a sunny spot and generous watering - but this was quite acceptable since it was performing in a pot.
All I can say is that my Lotus was a very hard working plant, easy to live and healthy as a fish. No bugs, no fungus, nothing to be bothered with. 
When it eventully started to sprawl on the terrace floor, I gave it a nice trim and it all started again. 
So I did after the first winter, when it started to look a bit raggy, but the lotus does not seem to mind the scissors either.

I kept my first lotus for three years, after that it started to battle with the Bougainvilea for living space...

Growing conditions:
Full sun, well drained soil ( the Lotus dreads heavy, soggy soil in wich case it my rot), moderate watering ( remember it grows on the Canary Islands) and an occasional organic fertiliser will perfectly do the game.
It is a great and unfuzzy plant for covering ugly walls or balcony borders and is an interesting solution as an original ground cover.


  1. Wow! What a beauty! I hadn't heard of this plant, but now I'll be on the look out for it. I love the red with the silver foliage.

    1. Hi HolleyGarden! you'll be amazed what an easy plant this is! minimum efort for maximum impact.

  2. Numele te duce cu gandul la un nufar ... O planta surprinzatoare !

  3. Śliczna roślina. Płatki wyglądają jak płomyki ognia. Bardzo ładnie rozrasta się w donicy. Pozdrawiam cieplutko.
    Hermosa planta. Pétalos parecen llamas de fuego. Muy bien creciendo en una maceta. Un cordial saludo.

  4. It is a very interesting plant and easy to grow here. I also grew it for a few years cascading out of a pot but then got rid of it (too rampant). Where was the second picture taken? I have never seen a whole field of them...

    1. Hi Masha,
      The second picture is from the Canary Islands where the plant is native... It makes an incredible groundcover!

  5. I got 2 of these this year the are looking lovely but no buds or flowers yet I believe I got the red kind since that is what the tag said I seen the orange kind at another garden center but I prefer the foliage on the ones I got and the ones I got already have nice woody stems . The orange ones did not and also se to have a bit mor compact growth habit I plan on overwintering mine will keep you posted on my progress

  6. I live in the Seattle, WA area and have been enjoying this plant all summer long. I have had to constantly water and trim thru out the summer. It almost died. It is now about 3 feet long in a hanging basket. There have been several humming birds suckling the flowers at the last blooming. I intent to trim and start new starts within the week and hope to find a way to save this plant to transplant next year. Wish me luck.

    1. Hi Teresa,
      It's a pleasure you stopped by!
      Well, to be honest my first attempts to grow Lotus weren't that brilliant...
      The first one died, and for me, the yellow one works better than the red one (even if I prefer the red!). Don't give up, and chop the plant , it will grow back stronger !
      lots of luck

  7. I bought 3 of these at a street market because they looked hardy and fit my colour scheme! I need to cover some bare areas that constantly grow weeds. Am now researching it online and love your pics! I hope mine do as well. The challenge in Australia is to survive the hot summer.

    1. Hi Jeanette! thank you for your comment.
      I think you will have no problems with your Lotus - they love heat. On the Cannary Islands they literally bake in the sun.