One of the most popular garden plants are Kangaroo paws, and rightly so, they have extraordinary flowers and put on an explosion of colour that attracts nectar feeding birds for kilometres. Kangaroo paws epitomise everything that is distinctive about Australian flora, furry iridescent flowers that adapt to the climate managing to change their colour with variations in temperature.
There are so many different hybrid cultivars available now, you can find a few to suit just about any garden, alfresco area or pot. Kangaroo paws can be divided into three groups, the true species like our Western Australian floral emblem Anigozanthos manglesii and the very tall grower Anigozanthos flavidus with 3m tall flower stems and of course the black Kangaroo paw Macropidia fuliginosa.
The next group are taller growing paws that have been hybridised between a few different species to form different colours. They are all long lived perennials and very resistant to ink spot disease and other fungal diseases. Anigozanthos flavidus is one of the hardiest and can be divided up in autumn. Anigozanthos Big Red, Big Yellow and Green are from this species. These can be hard pruned in autumn and Angus Stewart the Kangaroo Paw King, suggests you cut the very first emerging flower stem in half, this stimulates the dormant buds below to produce side branches.
Then there’s the smaller cultivars that have been bred for extended flowering periods that produce masses of paws. I have Bush Pearl and Bush Diamond in pots and they flower all year round. The downside to the smaller cultivars is that they are short lived and need to be replaced every few years. However, the floral display they produce is well worth the money. Never hard prune the smaller cultivars, you will kill them.
Kangaroo paws need very free draining soil and full sun. The only exception of A. flavidus which will grow in heavier soil. Some prefer slightly acid soils but no single kangaroo paw tolerates phosphorus so use a native or Grow Safe mineral-based fertiliser. In poor alkaline sandy soils, trace elements can be applied during spring and summer. Kangaroo paws require watering during spring and summer and should be planted out with some compost incorporated into the soil. Keep mulch away from the base of the plant to prevent fungal diseases.
Plant Kangaroo paws where you can watch the birds coming to feed on the nectar rich flowers, the small honeyeaters and spinebills will visit every day and bring life into your garden. The shape of the paw flowers is designed to attract these little birds, so they pollinate the flowers and it is pure joy to watch them doing their job.