Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus flavidus, A. manglesii, A. humilis, Macropidia fulginosa)

The blooms of the kangaroo paw are some of the most unique of all our Australian flora. The common name is a reference to the hairy, tubular flowers that resemble the paws on the front legs of a kangaroo. The red and green kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus manglesii) is the floral emblem of Western Australia and all kangaroo paws are native to that state. The black kangaroo paw is now considered a separate genus (Macropidia fulginosa).

Plants have a clumping habit with strappy, dark green leaves emerging from underground stems or rhizomes. Peak flowering occurs during late spring and summer with plants becoming largely dormant during the cooler months of the year. The blooms attract nectar feeding birds and insects which in turn pollinate the flowers. The flowers are long lasting in the garden and as cut blooms. They come in colours including red, crimson, pink, mauve, orange, gold, yellow and lime green.

Check with staff at your local hardware or garden centre to find a kangaroo paw that will suit your garden spot. Some to consider are:

  • Small, less vigorous growers include Anigozanthus manglesii, Bush Diamond, Bush Lantern, Bush Pearl, Bush Ranger, Dwarf Delight, Kanga Burgundy and Pink Joey.
  • Tall, vigorous clumps include Anigozanthus flavidus, Big Red, Bush Dawn, Bush Sunset, Landscape Lilac, Orange Cross, Red Cross and Yellow.

Growing conditions

Climate Plants are best suited to temperate and Mediterranean climates. They cope with cold and light frost. Take advice from staff at your local nursery if you are planting in tropical or subtropical climates as only a limited number of selections are suitable for these regions and the lifespan of plants will be shorter.

Aspect A northern aspect with full sun provides ideal growing conditions. Good air circulation is also critical for strong, healthy growth. Hot courtyards and balconies as well as coastal exposure are well-tolerated. Plants that are shaded during any part of the day bloom less prolifically and are more disease prone.

Soil Kangaroo paws prefer sandy, well-drained soil, but tolerate a range of free-draining soil types and varying pH. Where conditions are less than ideal, the hardy Anigozanthus flavidus is the best option. Undertake some soil improvement before planting by adding home-made compost and/or Seasol Super Compost or Garden Soil prior to planting. Pot culture using Seasol Advanced Potting Mix is recommended for dwarf varieties.

General Care

Watering Underground stems (rhizomes) store nutrients and water and this adaptation enables plants to survive long, dry periods. Garden grown plants need less frequent watering than potted plants. Little to no watering is needed during winter dormancy.

Feeding and mulching Kangaroo paws are not particularly hungry for nutrients. PowerFeed with Troforte All Purpose including Natives provides excellent sustained nutrition without promoting overly-soft, disease-prone growth. Apply in spring to boost flowering and again after pruning in late summer or early autumn. If you prefer a liquid fertiliser apply PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives monthly to the soil around the plant. Mulching is generally not recommended as traditional mulch materials pre-dispose plants to ink-spot disease and root or stem rot.

Pruning It is important to recognise that each fan-shaped cluster of leaves and its associated flower stalk only bloom once. Spent flowers and foliage must be cut down to ground level to allow new foliage and flowers to emerge. While kangaroo paws are considered perennial, you should expect to divide or replace plants every 3-5 years. Dwarf selections are short-lived compared with taller, more vigorous growers. Overcrowded clumps can be divided after flowering or just before late winter/spring growth emerges. Healthy divisions can be potted or planted out.

Watch for Ink disease (Alternaria alternata) causes black discolouration of foliage tips that progresses to rhizomes, eventually killing plants. Perfect drainage, good air-circulation, balanced nutrition, annual pruning and division of overcrowded clumps minimizes disease outbreaks. Anigozanthus flavidus is more resistant to this disease.

Snails and slugs hide within the foliage of kangaroo paws, but are easily removed by hand.