Upper North Shore Sydney Australia

Growing Kangaroo Paws

Kangaroo Paw

The iconic floral emblem of Western Australia, the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii) has inspired many gardeners to plant Kangaroo Paws. Their abundant nectar attracts honeyeaters and their unique flower is a great asset to your native garden.

Their Natural Habitat

To grow this plant successfully it helps to have some understanding of where and how it grows naturally. The Anigozanthos genera includes 11 species of Kangaroo Paw indigenous to the southwest corner of Western Australian.

In its natural range it has evolved with dry, hot summers averaging 29°C during the day and 17°C at night with mild winters. It may be found along roadsides, creeks and in forests and swamps preferring unshaded wet areas.

It grows an extensive underground root called a rhizome, capable of producing the shoot and root systems of a new plant. Many species are fairly short lived and the rhizome allows it to regenerate after drought or fire before being succeeded by larger and longer lived species.

The species Anigozanthos flavidus can live for over 30 years in cultivation. Plant breeders have been busy creating hybrids using this hardy plant, crossing it with many others to create different colours and long lived plants. These cultivars are able to handle more humid environments rather than the dry, hot climate of Perth.

Growing Requirements

Kangaroo Paws prefer an open sunny position with sandy soil or a sandy soil with plenty of organic matter added to create a sandy loam. The more humid the environment the more important it is to have good drainage. They should be given plenty of water when flowering but otherwise they are fairly hardy.

Their Flower is a Honeyeater Magnet

The flowers derive their colour from fine velvet-like hairs. The five protruding stamens remind you of a kangaroo’s paw. The flower colours range from yellow and green to many shades of red, pink, orange, or brown. The flowers appear during spring and summer and are a favourite with honeyeaters. As the birds feed on the nectar, pollen is deposited on their head. Different species deposit the pollen on different parts of the bird’s head. This lessens the possibility than pollen from one species will be used to fertilise the flower of another species.

Pruning is Essential

Before the flower has died completely cut it at the base of the stem. This may encourage another flowering. When it has completely finished flowering cut the stem and leaves down to the ground and let it regenerate the following year.

Propagation

Kangaroo Paws can be propagated from seed by placing in a seed-raising mix, keeping it covered and spraying it to keep the soil moist until germination which may take up to a month. Then transfer it to a pot with an Australian Native potting mix.

You can also divide the clump if they are getting very large by lifting them with a fork and cutting using a knife or the blade of a spade. The best time to divide the clump is early summer or autumn when the weather is not too harsh. Cut all of the leaves back by a third and place in a well drained Australian Native potting mix in a sheltered position. When you see some new growth in the leaves and roots it is ready to plant in the garden. Beware that if you have a hybrid it may be sterile.

Ink Disease

Large black blotches may be this fungal disease which is more prone to occur when the plant is under stress and in humid environments. Just remove the diseased areas of the plant and let it regenerate the following year.

Some Cultivars

Cultivar or Hybrid

Parentage

Comments

A.flavidus forms

A.flavidus

The typical A.flavidus has tall stems with greenish-yellow flowers. A number of more attractive colour forms are available (red, orange, pink) which are just as hardy as the common form.

Big Red

(A.manglesii x A.flavidus) x (A.rufus x A.humilis)

Moderately vigorous plant with deep red flowers on stems to about 1 – 1.5 metres.

Bush Haze

A.flavidus x A.pulcherrimus

Moderately vigorous plant with yellow flowers suffused with red on stems to about 1 – 1.5 metres.

Bush Ranger

A.flavidus x A.humilis

One of the hardiest of the small-growing cultivars. Bright red flowers on stems to about 0.5 metres.

Gold Fever

A.flavidus x A.pulcherrimus

Moderately vigorous plant with yellow/orange flowers on stems to about 1 – 1.5 metres.

Pink Joey

Probably a form of A.flavidus

Bright pink flowers on stems to about 0.5 metres.

Red Cross

A.flavidus x A.rufus

Moderately vigorous plant with deep red yellow flowers on stems to about 1 metre.

Yellow Gem

A.flavidus x A.pulcherrimus

Moderately vigorous plant with bright yellow flowers on stems to about 1 – 1.5 metres.

 

 

44 thoughts on “Growing Kangaroo Paws”

  1. barry delamere says:

    Thank you for your info, I am having trouble with My kangaroo paws. good show for two years, but having trouble at the moment. Will try some native fertilizer and see what happens. they are in a raised bed with sand added,and commercial compost, half strength.

  2. Ronan says:

    Hi thanks for the info!! 🙂

    Am trying to find out if Its possible to root kangaroo paws from cuttings? I’ve been looking all over the net but can’t seem to find out. I’ve had them on a self watering pot for almost a week with potting mix and also dipped them in some root powder.
    My plan was to just see of they will work but will I be better off using the cuttings I’ve currently got for their seeds and plant these instead?

    Any light you could shed on my current mini project would be fantastic 🙂

    Many thanks!!

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Ronan,
      I spoke to the folks at Wirreanda Nursery and their comments were that to propagate vegetatively you would normally divide the root. They also said that the taller varieties do better than the dwarf ones and that normally ink spot causes them to be short lived, as little as 12 months to 2 years. But if they are happy they will go for much longer periods. Good luck with your mini project!

      Karen.

    2. holly says:

      i’m not sure how cuttings work but if you look into the tissue culture side of things it might shed some light on the topic.
      On another note you can divide the Rhizome Root Structure up and create more plants from that.

  3. Henry Cross says:

    How long does it take Kangaroo Paw seeds to germinate, and will they survive if seeded directly into the ground?

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Henry,
      Here is a good article from the Australian Native Plants Society on the propagation of Kangaroo Paws. http://anpsa.org.au/paws2.html
      It should be noted that most Kangaroo Paws in Nurseries have been propagated using tissue culture, they are usually hybrids which means there is a good chance they are sterile. So if you were lucky enough to have a seed from a wild Kangaroo Paw then you could try propagating from seed. The ANPSA recommend using a conventional seed raising mix and to cover it lightly with the soil and to keep moist for a few weeks to a month. It would be great to hear how you go.

      Karen.

  4. anais says:

    im doing a school project for school and need to find out this answer but i cant. anyone know what addaptions allow the kangaroo paw survive in australian environments?

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi anais,

      I’m wondering if the fine velvet-like hairs on the flowers are an adaptation to preserve water by reducing air flow and providing some shade. Another obvious adaptation is the extensive underground root called a rhizome which is capable of producing the shoot and root systems of a new plant. The rhizome allows it to regenerate after drought or fire.

      Good luck with your project.

      Karen.

  5. Teresa says:

    Hello
    First year my KP’s flowered great .. Did all the right stuff .. This year they haven’t flowered .. Why ???

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Teresa,

      Do you know what species of Kangaroo Paw that you have? It depends on the sun and soil and some are only now just flowering so it may also be a timing thing.

      Cheers,
      Karen.

  6. Ianeta says:

    Hi there,
    I have planted a few kangaroo paw plants recently along the front boundary. They have been flowering very nicely. Last week though we were alarmed to find 2 of the plants looking as though someone had evenly trimmed all the leaves down by half. We could not understand why. This morning we found a third plant in the same state! We know our 4 neighbors wouldnt cut them, but it dawned on us that we have in recent months seen wild rabbits in the street & park near our place plus bandicoots have also appeared because we are finding evidence now in the front yard. Could the culprits be either of these? Or is there another animal or bug that eats the paw leaves?
    Any suggestions?

    Regards
    Ianeta

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Ianeta,
      According to this site very few animals eat the Kangaroo Paw http://www.answers.com/Q/What_animal_eats_a_kangaroo_paw but they do think the snail will eat the foliage. However on this conversation in the US on Kangaroo Paws MattyB mentions that the ones he planted were eaten by rabbits! http://www.palmtalk.org/forum/index.php?/topic/17232-kangaroo-paws/ Also from this post on toxicity from the Australian Native Plant Society they say “I’m not aware of Kangaroo paws being toxic to humans or animals. They are certainly grazed by native wildlife and rabbits without any apparent ill effect.” http://anpsa.org.au/APOL33/mar04-8.html It is unlikely to be bandicoots as they would be more interested in the roots rather than the stems. Bandicoots mainly forage at night, consuming insects, earthworms, insect larvae and spiders. They also feed on plant tubers, roots and truffle-like fungi to supplement their diet. Bandicoot foraging performs an important role in keeping bushland ecosystems healthy. They can be useful in gardens due to their appetite for grubs and garden pests. They are perhaps best known for the snout-shaped holes they leave in suburban lawns.

      So yes it looks like rabbits are a likely culprit.

      Cheers,
      Karen.

      1. Ianeta says:

        Thanks Karen, Im going to stake some weed sheeting around the kangaroo paws for the timebeing to protect them from being eaten by the wild rabbits & hopefully they will give up & move on. Regards

  7. Susan Ulr says:

    I’ve got clumps of Big Red Kangaroo Paw that have continued to give a magnificent display of flowers for several years. I’m doing my post flower trimming and am wondering if the nodes on the flower stems will strike. Some stems have two nodes often the second is quite high up. Please tell me if this exercise is worthwhile or I’ll have a garden bed of little martians protruding from the soil.

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Susan,
      Here are a couple of Videos featuring Angus Stewart and how to prune the kangaroo paw. The first one suggests that you can cut the flower off and the dormant flower buds at the base of each stem will produce a new flowering. Otherwise they recommend that you prune at the base of the stem.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD7X7rDKGaE
      Cheers,
      Karen.

      1. Susan Ulr says:

        Karen, thank you for the videos. For some reason I have great difficulty accepting that I need to take the plant back to ground level. However, if it’s going to keep my plants presenting with stunning flowers I’m in. Also the tip on cutting the flower stems is great. Previously I’ve left the flowers on the plant as they make such a spectacular show.

        susan

  8. Kristie Mamelli says:

    I have some 3-4 year old red KPs with what looks like new small plants growing off the stalks. Is this normal, and can I cut them off and plant them like the original plants? It looks like the bright green leaves but doesn’t appear to have the tuber part necessary for the plant. Just recently, I discovered my sprinkler timer schedule was watering twice in a row, so now I know why my plants were struggling. also, wondered if the over watering created the plant’s need to grow new plants on the stem where it wasn’t drowning?

    1. Kristie says:

      PS…I live in Southern California near the coast.

      1. Kristie says:

        It would be wonderful if you could have some of your info on Pinterest. I couldn’t find you there, unless I’m using the wrong name?

    2. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Kristie,
      I have to admit that I prune the flower stems as soon as they start to brown so have never come across new leaves growing from the stem. My advice is to try replanting just to see what happens. It is possible that the over watering may have prompted this response from the plant. I spoke to the Wirreanda Native Nursery folks and although they have seen this sort of leaf growth they weren’t sure if it could be replanted or what caused it either. I guess its up to you to find out for us! We aren’t on pinterest yet, mainly due to time constraints….

      Happy gardening.
      Karen.

      1. Kristie says:

        Thank you for your timely reply. I did plant some of them out of curiosity on Monday, and there are more on the stalk. Wish I could attach a picture. The bundles actually look like the new bundles of babies that come in at the base of the plant. Will let you know how it goes. The stalk had been cut to about a foot and a half above ground level and left there since about last summer.My gardener probably doesn’t know how to prune them, but now I do. He is more of a lawn guy, and he’s probably learning on the fly about drought tolerant plants, as most people are giving up their lawns in favor of plants. I want to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Any thoughts about the pros/cons of Milkweed that butterflies love?

        1. Karen Benhar says:

          Hi Kristie and Cameron,

          Thanks for the great info on milkweed and butterflies. I also read that the decline in Monarch butterflies is being attributed to the loss of habitat so growing milkweed would be a great idea.
          http://ecowatch.com/2016/03/21/monarch-butterflies-risk-extinction/

          Cheers,
          Karen.

      2. Kristie says:

        Well, my cuttings off of my kangaroo paw plant all survived the planting process, but didn’t how to be much bigger and no flowers. It didn’t help that the neighbor’s kids ran over one and another one was RAKED out by my gardener’s helper as I watched. How disgusting was THAT? I couldn’t bring myself to say anything,so that’s the end of that story!If I get the chance to do it again, I’ll report again!
        I do want to attempt to divide a red one, if I can be somewhat guaranteed I won’t kill off the plant I want to divide. Do you have any advice about dividing a 4 y/o plant?
        Thanks!

        1. Karen Benhar says:

          Hi Kristie,

          Sorry to hear of your woe’s trying to get your new plants established, most worthwhile achievements are a challange! I recommend this article from the Australian Native Plant Society on dividing the clump.
          http://anpsa.org.au/paws2.html

  9. cameron says:

    Katie–I live in San Diego, CA and have one plant that is doing the same thing–almost like new plants are sprouting from the cut back flower stalks like some orchids do. I thought for sure this was how new plants were generated, which is how I ended up here looking for info on how to propagate. I’m going to try planting them as well, using some root growth hormone.

    Re: milk weed. I have a ton of it, which started as a couple of plants. The flower seed pods burst open and seed everywhere, which is fantastic. I also collect and broadcast them elsewhere in the garden. However, I recently read that one of the things contributing to the declining monarch population is that the commercially available milkweed doesn’t die back like native milkweed. And because it doesn’t die back, the butterflies do not continue south for winter migration, but stay on due to the availability of food source. Currently, I have three babies and one chrysalis. My mom, who lives locally as well, just had her last wintering butterfly emerge from a chrysalis last week.

    1. Kristie says:

      Thanks again. I wonder if I could plant in a segregated space, or a pot, and slowly cut them back, so they won’t stay. Glad someone figured that out. Now the industry needs to figure out what to do about their product. Maybe I can find someone who sells native Milkweed?

  10. Chris says:

    Kristie;
    You can get Californian native milkweeds from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials up in northern California –they do mail order. I’ve been growing Virginia silk, which is not a native, and have had just one Monarch larvae in three years. I have a degree in ecology so I should know better!

    1. Kristie says:

      Thanks so much! Will report back when KP cuttings grow or not!

  11. Jim says:

    We live in Moggill in Brisbane and have put in a number of swails to create interest and to divert water during heavy rain. The soil for the swails is red soil ( which came from the old pineapple farms up the road and interestingly is a unique type of red soil found only in this area )and exposed to the western afternoon sun.
    How successful would kangaroo paws be in that environment.
    Would appreciate any advice

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Jim,

      I asked my brother-in-law Ken Smith who teaches horticulture and this is what he said “The area that Jim describes sounds fine for Kangaroo Paws. They tend to have deep roots to gain access to underground water, plus they can regrow from underground stems called rhizomes. Whilst they can tolerate some wetness in the soil they generally grow best in well drained open areas. The Kangaroo Paws would be best on the top or the sides of the swale. The red soil is a clay and is ok for them. Hope this helps.”

      So go for it Jim!

      1. Jim Vagne says:

        Thanks Karen & Ken.

        Will get into it now. As I mentioned the soil for the swales was imported and it is certainly a “clay” When we first put the swales in,it, would stick to boots and anything else that came in contact with it.

  12. Tatiana says:

    Hi, thanks for a good article! I’m trying to grow anigozanthos humilis from seed as a houseplant, and I have some questions, it would be great if you could answer, because there is not much info on propagating this plant.
    Currently I have one seedling, about 1 month old. It’s grown under artificial light (14-hour light period, 90 watt/1 sq.m.) of “fito”-LEDs. But it looks too small to me.
    1. It has about 3-4 pairs of leaves and is about 1 cm tall, is it normal? It seems to me, that it develops too slow.
    2. I keep it covered to retain moisture, I know that’s wrong, but the seedling is too small, I’m afraid that it will dry. How bad is it?

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Tatiana, I’ve asked the Australian Native Plant Society if they can give you any info as they are pretty good at propagating. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear back from them…..Karen.

  13. Tatiana says:

    Hi Karen, that’s very kind of you! Thanks, hope to get more information soon.

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Tatiana,

      I have been most fortunate to talk to Jeremy Smith of TAFE NSW who is an expert at growing Kangaroo Paws. He said that Anigozanthos humilis or Cat’s Paw is a dwarf variety and much slower growing than most Kangaroo Paws. It needs to be grown in a very coarse sand so that it can drain freely. He suggested it is a hard one to grow and you might be better of with some of the larger species such as Anigozanthos manglesii.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Karen Benhar says:

        Hi Tatiana,

        I got another response from Professor Kingsley Dixon ….
        Great that someone is attempting – but the humilis is fussy at the best of times. The hybrids are a lot tougher and certainly do put up with extra humidity which is the major downfall for growing humilis under glass or in a house. It catches just about every disease in the book if not kept in a really dry atmosphere and in bright sunshine.

        I would recommend they have a look on the web for the hybrid paws which are available through the Dutch propagation nurseries.

        Hope this is of some help

        All the best

        Kingsley
        Professor and Director, ARC Centre for Mine Restoration, Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University
        Visiting Professor, Kings Park and Botanic Garden
        Visiting Professor, School of Plant Biology, The University of Western Australia
        Research Associate, Missouri Botanic Garden, Missouri, USA

  14. Dot Babich says:

    I have orange, yellow and red large kangaroo paws that are in flower. This year 90% of the leaves have developed what I understand is Ink Disease (leaves are black) and look unsightly. Is there anything I can do whilst in the flowering season? Or do I have to wait until end of flowering and pruning?

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Dot,
      This fungal disease is a sign that all is not well with your Kangaroo Paws, maybe the humidity is too high or the soil is not free draining enough. As far as I know there is no magical cure while the plant is flowering. The best approach is when they have finished flowering, remove all of the diseased leaves. I have a similar problem and am going to try adding some sand to the potting mix and also look for a micro-climate in my garden, maybe up against a brick wall which will provide a better growing environment.

      Regards,
      Karen.

    2. Barry says:

      Dot.

      Your best bet is after flowering to cut your plant back to ground level, take the whipper Snipper to it. Black spot is a sign of stress so they are either too wet or too dry. They do like free draining soil but they also do like a drink, esp when they are big. If you have clay soli better to plant them on top of the soul and hill up some free draining mix around them.

  15. Jim Kamel says:

    The tip of our Kangaroo plants are covered with tiny black insects… hundreds, if not thousands! I examined one of them under a magnifying glass, they have a rounded body, tiny legs.
    We live in Orange County, just South of Los Angeles, California. The plants are exposed to the sun all day long. Any hints what to do about it?

    1. Karen Benhar says:

      Hi Jim,
      I found this great article from San Marcos Growers http://www.smgrowers.com/info/anigozanthosTalk.asp. Maybe if you contact them, they may have some good local advice. Do the insects fall off if you blast them with a hose, that is normally how I deal with aphids.

      Regards,
      Karen.

      1. Jim Vagne says:

        Thanks Karen – Very good information, really appreciated

        Kangaroo Paws are a big challenge to me.

        1. Barry says:

          Hi Jim

          Karen’s advice is good. Paws are pretty tough and usefully do not attract sap sucking insects. They may just be sitting on the leaves. Kangaroo Paws look best as a massed plantation, so have a go and propagating them.

          1. Barry says:

            Jim

            Ping me on email baz.bazzman@gmail.com and I will send you some pictures of mine. I only started growing them last year.

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