How to grow Kangaroo Paw
Kangaroo paws are among the most iconic Australian plants, instantly recognisable by their unique furry and vibrantly coloured flowers. One of the best known is Western Australia’s floral emblem, the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii). There are several species and many hybrids available to suit most climates and soil types, with the exception of the tropical north of the country as they dislike humidity.
5 Steps for Kangaroo Paw Success
- Choose a species or variety that will perform well in your area
- Select an open sunny position
- Good drainage is essential as kangaroo paws do not like wet feet – a gravelly soil,light loam or well-draining potting mix is best
- Don’t overwater – the occasional drink over a long hot summer is all that’s needed
- Feed with a low phosphorus fertiliser suitable for native plants in Spring and late Summer
Start by choosing healthy, well established Kangaroo Paw plants from your local garden centre or a nearby native plant specialist nursery. There are many different colours and forms available including dwarf forms. Those in stock locally should be suited to your climate zone and soil type. Read the label descriptions and requirements before purchase.
Prepare planting sites for Kangaroo Paws by digging the soil over thoroughly and breaking up any clumps a few days ahead of planting. If your soil is a medium loam that holds on to moisture after rain or watering, add in and work through some Scotts Osmocote Compost Premium Soil Improver to open up the texture and improve drainage.
Clay soils are not ideal for these plants but can be improved by adding gypsum at a rate of 2-3 handfuls per square metre, ideally a few weeks before planting. A faster option is to use a liquid clay breaker at the time of planting. Gypsum does not alter the soil pH and is safe to use around Kangaroo Paws.
Kangaroo Paws will grow best when planted into the soil but, in some areas where the soil just isn’t suitable, they may also be grown in large pots positioned where the plants can be admired while in flower.
Growing Kangaroo Paws in the garden
- Dig a hole twice the width of the pot the new plant is in and about the same depth.
- Carefully remove the plant from the pot and gently loosen the base of the root ball with your fingers.
- Place the plant in the prepared hole and is sitting at the same height as it was in the pot – the top of the potting mix should be level with the surrounding garden soil.
- Backfill around the plant, firm with your fingers and water well to settle the soil.
- Apply a generous layer of natural mulch (woodchip or eucalyptus).
- If planting more than one Kangaroo Paw, space them about 80cm apart.
Growing Kangaroo Paws in pots
These plants make great pot specimens, particularly some of the smaller hybrids such as ‘Bush Diamond’ and ‘Bush Pearl’, which may flower almost all year round in frost-free areas.
- Choose a pot that is one or two sizes larger than the nursery pot the plant came in.
- Make sure the pot has good drainage – check the size of the hole/s in the base and either enlarge or add more if necessary.
- Use Scotts Osmocote Native Premium Potting Mix, which is specially formulated to suit Australian plants. It includes a low phosphorus controlled-release fertiliser that will feed for several months.
- Check the plant is sitting at the same level in the new pot and mix as it was in the old – don’t set it any deeper as the crown could rot.
- Water in well to settle the mix and keep moist but never wet until the plant starts making new growth.
Tips to take care of Kangaroo Paw
- Feed Kangaroo Paw at the start of Spring and end of Summer with Scotts Osmocote Native Controlled Release Fertiliser
- Reduce watering over Winter – whether in the garden or in pots, Kangaroo Paws don't like wet feet!
- Keep plants neat by removing older or dead leaves and spent flower stems
- When plants are in full flower, trim off the top portion of the stem where flowers have died off to trigger dormant buds lower down to open
- At the end of Summer, cut the leaves back by about one third
- After a few years, clumps may become quite congested. In Spring, lift the clump out with a stout pronged garden form and separate it into sections, making sure that each has at least three robust shoots. Prune the foliage back by about a third and remove any flower spikes, then either pot up in native mix or plant back into the garden
Pests and Diseases
Keeping plants healthy by providing them with the best possible conditions will reduce the chances of them falling victim to pests and diseases. However, on occasion, plants may develop symptoms that need your attention.
Fungal diseases can be problematic in humid climates, although some newer hybrids have been bred to tolerate higher humidity. Make sure plants have plenty of space and airflow around them and a well-drained soil to minimise the risk.
Black Ink Spot
This fungal disease causes the blackening of the leaves and flowers, starting at the tips and spreading down toward the base of the plant.
- Remove as much affected foliage as possible
- Spray plants with a copper-based fungicide
Symptoms of this fungal complaint include orange/red/yellow pustules or pimples on the upper and undersides of leaves.
- Spray with a copper-based fungicide or Neem oil
- Avoid over-watering and improve airflow and sun exposure
Root and Crown Rot
Plants growing in soils that remain wet after rain or watering may develop rot at the junction of the foliage and roots – the crown area.
- Improve drainage
- Avoid over-watering
- Increase sun exposure
This sap-sucking insect can sometimes be troublesome in autumn and spring. Control it before it causes major damage.
- Pyrethrum spray and/or Neem oil will kill pests on contact
- A strong blast from the hose will dislodge populations
Snails and slugs
The strappy leaves and often dense clumps of Kangaroo Paws offer safe havens for these chewing pests that can cause major damage if not controlled
- Use snail baits enclosed in bait traps around plants
- Reduce watering after flowering – dry environments are less attractive to these pests.