To grow kangaroo paws, start by giving them their basic necessities - full sun, well-drained, slightly acidic soil, and attention at specific times of the year. Then follow these kangaroo paw care tips to help your plants live longer and produce more beautiful flowers.
Top Kangaroo Paw Care Tips
Want to make your kangaroo paw healthy and beautiful? These top five tips are essential for vibrant plants.
1. Pruning Is Vital
Kangaroo paw is pretty easy to care for, but it's susceptible to a number of fungal diseases. By removing dead and dying flowers, you can encourage new shoots and increase air circulation around the plants so they're less likely to succumb to a fungal infection. Kangaroo paw pruning is a little different to pruning other grassy plants, though. Here's what you need to know:
- Once a flower is finished, the leaves it sprouted from stop growing and won't produce any more flowers, so removing those leaves (while leaving actively growing leaves) will do wonders for your plant.
- This is the best way to encourage lots of future flowers.
- If you're short on time, growing a tall kangaroo paw variety in a frost-free area, and your plant is well established, you can cut all the foliage back to ground level.
- In frosty areas, you can do this after your last frost.
- If you're growing a shorter variety, or you've only recently transplanted a specimen, you must use the slower method, or you risk killing your plant.
2. Feed Organic Matter at Least Once a Year
Organic matter (for example manure or compost) is the very best fertiliser for kangaroo paws. It provides nutrients, feeds beneficial microorganisms, and improves soil structure, all of which will help keep your plants in tip-top shape.
- You'll get the best results if you apply organic matter to your kangaroo paws whenever they sprout new shoots, so they've got the nutrients they need to produce strong new growth.
- At the very least, apply organic matter when you first see new shoots after they break their dormancy each year.
- Applying regular doses of worm tea is another fantastic way of providing nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. And worm tea works as a foliar fertiliser as well as a soil fertiliser, so you get additional benefits from it as well. (If you've never heard of worm tea, it's the liquid that comes out of a worm farm.)
3. Divide Large Clumps in Early Summer
Because kangaroo paws produce underground rhizomes, they become less vigorous when they're too crowded, as the rhizomes can't store as much energy. Dividing large clumps will keep your plants healthy and allow you to propagate them.
4. Cut Off the Top Part of the Flower Stem Once the First Flower Opens
Apart from giving you a lovely indoor flower display, cutting off the top part of the flower stem once the first flower opens is super beneficial because it encourages the plant to put energy into growing the dormant flower buds on the bottom half of the flower stem. This is the best way to 'force' the maximum outdoor flower display, and you'll get indoor cut flowers too.
5. Work to Prevent Ink Disease
No discussion of kangaroo paw care would be complete without mentioning disease prevention. So, this final tip is designed to work with the previous tips to prevent the most common disease these plants face, a fungal infection called ink disease.
- Ink disease presents with large, black blotches on the leaves. It's most common in cool, moist areas, however, any moist climate will increase the chances of infection with this intractable fungus.
- The first four tips in this list all prevent fungal infections by either strengthening plants, so they're better able to fight off pests and diseases, or improving airflow, so conditions are less conducive to fungal growth. Watering the soil, rather than the foliage, complements these strategies by reducing local humidity among plant foliage.
- If you do notice black blotches on your kangaroo paw leaves, remove the infected leaves and destroy them. Don't compost infected foliage, otherwise your compost may become a source of infection for healthy specimens.
- If your garden is in an area with high humidity, consider choosing a kangaroo paw variety that's been bred for resistance to ink disease.
How to Grow Kangaroo Paws
Kangaroo paws are reasonably forgiving, but giving them their favourite conditions will help them grow better and live longer.
Kangaroo paws prefer slightly acidic soil with good drainage. However, they'll cope well with a range of soil types, provided your soil has good structure. Be warned though: these plants dislike wet feet. Anigozanthos viridis is also a little sensitive to very high levels of soil phosphorous, but the other varieties should be fine.
All kangaroo paws prefer full sun. They'll grow in partial sun, but they won't flower nearly as well.
Once established, kangaroo paws are highly drought tolerant and need very little water. However, if you want the best results, it's a good idea to give them a good water during specific times of the year.
- In sub-tropical areas, water them once a week from early winter until they've finished flowering.
- In cooler areas, don't water them while they're dormant (in winter). Once they break dormancy, water them once a fortnight until they've finished flowering.
Kangaroo paws generally grow best in USDA zones 9-11. That means there's a variety that'll grow well in areas that range from not having more than 210 days a year above 30°C, down to areas where temperatures drop no lower than about -6°C. However, some varieties are not frost tolerant, so if you garden in a frosty area, you'll need to select a variety that's known to be frost tolerant.
Kangaroo Paw Varieties
There are 12 species of kangaroo paw - 11 belong to the genus Anigozanthos while one belongs to the genus Macropidia. The most commonly grown varieties are hybrids of Anigozanthos flavidus.
- Most varieties tend to produce flower stalks that grow to 0.5-1 m, though some grow as tall as 2 m.
- They have differing resistance to frost and disease and come in a wide range of flower colours.
- The most distinctive are Anigozanthos manglesii, which produces striking red and green flowers, and Macropidia fuliginosa, which produces green flowers and stalks that are covered by a dense layer of black hairs.
- Some varieties are very short-lived and are best treated as annuals. However, most of these wonderful Australian natives live for 3-5 years. Some can live as long as eight years.
- Across the majority of Australia, most kangaroo paw varieties are dormant over winter. Depending on the severity of your winters, many will die right back in early winter.
- However, in the warmer areas of Australia (e.g. Brisbane and areas further north), some varieties die down during summer and reappear in late autumn or early winter.
- Kangaroo paws tend to flower for 3-6 months of the year, usually during spring and summer (except in the warmest areas). However, they can flower all year round if you grow them in pots indoors.
Careful Care Provides Beautiful Flowers for Years to Come
If you get the basics of kangaroo paw care right, you'll grow healthy plants. If you follow these top tips, your plants will reward you with more flowers, over a longer period, and your plants will live longer. Some people can even manage to get wonderful kangaroo paw flower displays for 10 or more years!