Kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos) is a genus of 11 species and multiple subspecies of flowering plants that are native to Australia. These plants have long, slender, arching leaves similar to the foliage of daylilies or amaryllis plants. The unusual tubular flowers grow on stalks in fan-like rows and are covered in velvety fuzz, giving them the appearance of an animal’s paw. The blooms come in an array of shades, including red, orange, yellow, and purple.
Kangaroo paw plants grow fairly quickly and don’t require much maintenance.
|Common Name||Kangaroo paw, cat's paw|
|Botanical Name||Anigozanthos spp.|
|Plant Type||Perennial, herbaceous|
|Mature Size||2-10 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Sandy, moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, white|
|Hardiness Zones||10-11 (USDA)|
Kangaroo Paw Plant Care
Kangaroo can thrive in the ground or in a container. The dwarf varieties are especially suitable for containers. Either way, one of the keys to growing the plants is fast-draining soil.
If you live in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11, you can plant kangaroo paw in your garden and expect it to come back year after year as a perennial. However, if you live in a cooler climate you’ll either have to bring your kangaroo paw indoors for the winter, or treat your plants as annuals, letting them die at the end of the growing season in the fall and replacing them with new plants the next spring.
These plants prefer to grow in full sun. At least six hours of direct sunlight on most days will enable kangaroo paw plants to produce the best growth and blooms. They can even tolerate intense light from hot afternoon sun. Insufficient light, on the other hand, can cause tall plants to flop over and lessen bloom production.
Sandy soil with a slightly acidic pH (5.8 to 6.5) is their preferred growth medium but kangaroo paws can tolerate a variety of soil types, as long as there is good drainage.
Kangaroo paw plants prefer a moderate amount of soil moisture, though they have some drought tolerance. Soggy soil can cause root rot and kill the plants. So wait until the top couple inches of soil are dry to the touch before watering. However, in the spring and summer when most of the blooming occurs, kangaroo paw does appreciate some additional water.
Temperature and Humidity
These plants thrive in the heat, and frost can be fatal. They like temperatures between roughly 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They also naturally thrive in dry conditions but can tolerate some humidity, too.
Kangaroo paw plants aren't heavy feeders, so regular fertilizing isn't necessary. In the spring before the flower stalks appear, add a cup or two of compost to the soil to promote healthy growth.
Types of Kangaroo Paw Plants
From the wild species, breeders have worked to create cultivars with increased disease resistance and showier flowers. Some popular kangaroo paw plants include:
- Red and green kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos manglesii): The floral emblem of Western Australia, this plant produces green and red flowers and stems.
- Tall kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos flavidus): This species features flowers that are usually a yellow-green color and grows to around 6 feet tall.
- Little kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos bicolor): This plant remains less than 2 feet tall and produces yellow-green and red flowers.
- Dwarf kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos 'Bush Ranger') is a hybrid between Anigozanthos humilis and A. flavidus with red flowers. It only grows to a width and height of 1 to 2 feet.
Kangaroo paw plants respond well to heavy pruning. Cut back the plants—leaves, flower stalks, and all—to 6 inches above the soil line after the blooms have faded. This will prevent old foliage from becoming diseased and promote denser growth. You also might be rewarded with a second, smaller flush of blooms toward the end of the growing season.
Propagating Kangaroo Paw
You can propagate the plants by division. Dividing plants every few years also can help to promote healthy growth.
- Remove the plant from the soil with a shovel. If it is too big and heavy to be lifted at once, cut apart the plant at the roots with a pointed shovel or a spade, then lift the sections out of the ground with a shovel.
- Trim all the leaves to a height of about 12 inches using pruners or shears.
- Replant each section in a new location. Keep the newly planted Kangaroo paws well-watered until you see new growth.
How to Grow Kangaroo Paws from Seed
If you're patient, you can propagate your kangaroo paw plants from seed planted in the spring. Presoak seeds in hot water for two hours to soften the seed coat and increase the chances of germination. Place them on warm, moist seed-starting soil. Keep the soil moist, and don't give up on germination until at least six weeks have passed.
Potting and Repotting
To grow kangaroo paws in pots, choose a smaller or dwarf species or hybrid.
For container plants, use an all-purpose potting mix amended with a few handfuls of sand. This mimics the sandy soil in which kangaroo paws grow in their native Australia.
Once the roots have filled the pots, the plant needs repotting, which is best done in the spring. Either plant it in a larger pot that allows for growth, or divide the rhizomes and replant them in several smaller pots, using a combination of potting mix and sand. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy until the plant shows some new growth, which is a sign that it is getting established. During that time, keep it in a bright location but out of strong sunlight. Once the plant is established, you can move the pot to its permanent location in full sun.
Kangaroo paws are cold-sensitive plants. Once the temperature falls below 50 degrees F, bring the pots inside to a bright location with as much light as possible. Keep the soil on the dry side without letting it dry out completely; water the plant occasionally.
In the late winter to early spring, gradually increase the watering as the growing season restarts. When the temperatures consistently remain above 50 degrees F, move it back outside but keep it in a shady location away from direct sunlight for a couple of weeks. Let it get used to outdoor sunlight gradually, otherwise the leaves might burn.
Common Pests and Diseases
Although these plants have no serious problems with pests or diseases, watch your kangaroo paw plant for signs of ink spot disease. The fungus manifests itself as blackening of the leaves and stems. Remove diseased foliage, and aim to prevent the fungus by keeping plants in full sun with good air circulation and well-draining soil.
Is kangaroo paw plant toxic to dogs?
Kangaroo paws are not known to be toxic to dogs or cats.
Is kangaroo paw plant the same as kangaroo paw fern?
Kangaroo paw fern (Microsorum diversifolium) is a different plant that is also native to Australia.
What's the lifespan of kangaroo paws?
It depends on the species and cultivar; some last two to three years, while others, including some of the taller varieties, can live much longer.