Plant Profiles Australian Coral Pea

The genus Kennedia has 16 species with all bar one being endemic to Australia. It has the common name of Coral Pea. These evergreen climbers and trailers are part of the pea-flower subfamily of the Fabaceae family which are legumes. Each leaf is made up of three leaflets and the flowers are usually brightly coloured. A contrasting colour appears at the base of the petals. Flowers appear in spring and summer followed by pea-style pods.

Kennedia glabrata is native to Western Australia. It has a prostrate habit and is very quick-growing but short-lived. Thus it is useful to quickly cover new garden areas. By the time it dies off, new plants will hopefully be partly established. The plants flower and seed profusely. The fragrant pea-flowers are a brick-red colour and appear on stems above the shiny, dark foliage. Flowering is from November to December. Birds are attracted to this plant.

Another kennedia native to Western Australia is the climber, Kennedia macrophylla. This strong-growing species will also twine or act as a groundcover. Large, bright red pea-flowers blotched with yellow are produced in racemes up to 15cm long mainly from November to December. It is adaptable and suited to well-drained positions. It is drought tolerant and can be used in coastal gardens.

Another really vigorous climber from Western Australia is Kennedia nigricans (Black coral-pea). The flowers are a deep purple-black with greenish yellow splotches. Flowering is mainly from September to November. Although excellent for covering large areas it will also strangle less vigorous plants if allowed. It can be susceptible to frost.

Kennedia rubicunda or Dusky Coral-pea comes from coastal eastern Australia. It is a vigorous climber or groundcover and has dusky pink to dark red pea flowers mainly from October to January. This species is excellent for coastal positions but can be frost tender. It is another variety which will strangle other plants if allowed. It grows to 4.5 metres and is a favourite with birds.

Kennedia prostrata is also called Running Postman or Scarlet Coral Pea. It hails from Western Australia. It is an open growing, creeping groundcover. The scarlet pea-flowers have small yellow-green blotches. It can spread to 2 metres.

Kennedias tolerate drought and poor soils so long as they don’t have to contend with too many frosts as well. They can be grown as groundcovers or trailed over fences and arches. Kennedias can be propagated by seed in spring. To propagate new plants from seed, soak the seed in hot water before planting.