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Growing Kangaroo Paws

Published

July 3, 2024

Author

The Searles Garden Team

The name kangaroo paws evokes the image of one of the most captivating native plants. With 12 species, including the iconic Anigozanthos and its relative, the black kangaroo paw, Macropidia fuliginosa, each one is a testament to nature’s creativity. The black kangaroo paw, in particular, is a challenge to propagate by seed, making its commercial use a testament to human ingenuity through tissue culture. Anigozanthos, on the other hand, can be propagated by division (as they are a rhizome) or seed, offering a more accessible route for enthusiasts.

Kangaroo paws flourish in a full sun position in well-drained soil, typically in temperate climate zones.  Their nemesis is waterlogged soil, which can lead to fungal issues and even death.  Ink spot or ink disease is a common issue with kangaroo paws, often stemming from watering problems. Large black blotches on the leaves are a telltale sign of ink spots and can be challenging to treat. Damaged leaves should be removed, bagged, and binned. Treatment with Copper Oxychloride may only slow the issues if the initial incorrect watering is not addressed. If ink spot persists, removal of the infected plant is necessary.  

Some species of kangaroo paws are considered short-lived or only at their best for three to five years, so replacing them with fresh, clean stock is not a significant issue. More disease-resistant strains are being bred to minimise ink spots.  A heavy cutback in late winter can also help mask ink spots once the watering problem is under control, as the new leaves return a lovely, lush green. Many kangaroo paws are dormant in winter, or they may appear to have completely died back, but since they have a rhizome root system, they are still alive.  After a cut, a controlled-release fertiliser such as Robust Native Plant fertiliser, a 6-month fertiliser perfect for these plants, should be applied. It is crucial not to overwater when the plants are dormant and start up fungal issues. Reapply Robust Native Plants in late spring for optimal results.

They can be grown well in pots kept in the full sun and potted in Native Plant Specialty Mix.  This same mix can also be used when planting them in the garden.  For division, it is best to do this in late summer and into autumn before the plant enters dormancy.  When replanting, add some Native Plant Specialty Mix to give extra organic matter to the plants and water in well with Seamax; beware of snails and slugs lurking around the base of the plants, as they can cause damage to the leaves.

Kangaroo paws are not just visually appealing, but they also attract a variety of birds with their nectar, creating a harmonious ecosystem in the garden. Spring and summer are when they shine, offering a stunning array of colours and plant heights, thanks to their breeding. The overall height for kangaroo paws can vary, so it’s important to read the labels carefully when selecting. Anigozanthos flavidus, known for its height, is a tough variety. The Anigozanthus Bush Gem Collection is a fantastic selection of smaller growing varieties boasting an excellent colour range.