What is a Kangaroo Paw Plant and How to Care for It? - Home Stratosphere

What is a Kangaroo Paw Plant and How to Care for It?

Beautiful focus image on bright orange kangaroo paw flowers

Genus Anigozanthos

If you’re thinking “anigozanthos is a rather strange word” you are not the only one! This is a rather uncommonly known genus of flowering plants that contains on 11 species and subspecies! These are native plants to Australia, and were even awarded as the floral emblem on the postage stamp!

If you’re thinking “why the heck is it called a kangaroo paw?” you’re still not the only one, but you’ll just have to keep reading to find out how this plant was granted this unique common name!

Throughout this article, we’ll go through the details of the kangaroo paw plant: where it likes to grow, where it comes from, how you can introduce one onto your own property, and some other uses you may not have expected!

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What do Kangaroo Paw Plants Look Like?

Amazing bright yellow kangaroo paw flowers growing in a garden

Flowers

The kangaroo paw flower is a very interesting thing to behold. Unlike any other flower you’ve ever seen, the kangaroo paw flower is tubular in shape that leads to an open apex surrounded by 6, claw like structures.

This strange, tubular flower with a claw like feature that is covered with dense and brightly colored hairs is the reason why this plant was earned the common name, kangaroo paw!

These unique flowers will usually grow in colors, of purple, red, orange, and yellow, and they will often start to bloom in the early spring or late spring and last all the way through until the end of fall. Kangaroo paw flowers also have a strong scented nectar that attracts many various bird species and insect species.

Leaves

The foliage of a kangaroo paw plant is another attractive aspect of the plant. These leaves are long and slender and have an arching shape. Each leaf is covered in the same velvety fuzz as the flowers are.

Kangaroo paw leaves grow on stalks in a fan shape in rows. Their growth habit is very similar to the of an amaryllis plant or a daylily plant!

The kangaroo leaf is also evergreen. This means that it will remain green and persist all year long regardless of the temperature or the time of year. This brings an added element of garden interest, with persisting foliage when other perennial plants are starting to fade before the winter.

Amazing bright orange kangaroo paw flowers in bright orange growing in the sunshine

Growth Habit

The kangaroo paw plant is a herbaceous perennial. It also is rhizomatous. This is a type of fleshy, tuberous underground root system that makes for a very hardy and resilient plant.

Rhizomes are roots that can host all of the starches, nutrients, and water that a plant needs to survive harsh conditions. They grow to be anywhere from 2 to 10 feet tall, and 1 to 2 feet wide.

The kangaroo plant is also a perennial. This means that it has flower blossoms that will continue to bloom year after year as long as the ideal growing conditions of the plant can be maintained.

Where are Kangaroo Paws Native Plants?

The kangaroo paw is a plant that is endemic to certain regions of Australia. It can be found growing wild most commonly in the southwestern states of Australia. It prefers to live on sites that have a moderate amount of moisture and tons of sunlight.

Kangaroo paw plants can only exist in USDA growing zones 10 and 11, and should be kept as an indoor houseplant during the winter outside of these growing regions. They can also be successfully grown in greenhouses.

In subtropical climates where they have been introduced as a cultivated species, they have become naturalized. This is common in Japan and certain subtropical regions of the United States as well.

What are the Growing Conditions of Kangaroo Paw Plants?

Now that we know a little bit about the kangaroo paw plant, it’s time to learn about the details of what it takes to make them happy! Luckily for us gardeners, these plants grow rather quickly and really don’t require all that much maintenance at the end of the day! Write down these tips if you’re keen on the kangaroo paw plant being the next member of your garden or green space.

Clusters of tall kangaroo paw plants growing in the garden

Soil Type

Though the kangaroo paw plant can handle nearly any soil type, there are some specific things you can to to make sure that it exists in the most perfect possible conditions.

Kangaroo paws seem to perform best when they are growing in soil that is sandy or loamy and very well draining. It is also ideal for sandy soil to be slightly more acidic on the pH scale.

They also like to live in rich soil, meaning that it is high in nutrient content. To achieve this, simply incorporate some organic compost into your soil before the growing season approaches.

Sun Exposure

Kangaroo paws are sun loving creatures. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight every single day!

They are able to tolerate partial shade, though this can sometimes result in a less successful blooming period for the plant. Additionally, insufficient sunlight exposure can sometimes result in taller varieties tipping over.

Water Level

The water level requirements are moderate for the kangaroo paw plant. They are able to tolerate short periods of drought (thanks to those underground rhizomes) but they definitely prefer to exist in moist soil.

Ensure that the soil for your kangaroo paw plant is never soggy or waterlogged. Soggy soil can sometimes cause root rot and severely damage the plant.

The best way to maintain proper moisture levels is by sticking your finger in the soil. If the top soil is dry but it’s still moist underneath, your plant is probably happy. Watering should occur once soil has dried out completely.

Macro image of single red kangaroo paw flower in the garden

Temperature

The growing condition to be very aware of for the kangaroo paw plant is temperature preference. These are by no means cold hardy plants, and they can only exist in USDA growing zones 10 and 11.

Kangaroo paws thrive in temperatures ranging around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be severely damaged if they are kept outside when temperatures go anywhere below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

These guys thrive in heat. In cooler climates, they should certainly be brought indoors for the winter months. Otherwise, they should be treated as annual plant and left to perish once the first threat of frost has passed.

Pruning

Kangaroo paw plants respond very well to heavy pruning. Cutting them back after they have flowered encourages very enthusiastic spring growth the following year.

After the flowering season, snip back the leaves and flower stalks of the plant until about 6 inches above the soil. This helps prevent the foliage of the plant becoming diseased and can sometimes result in a second, miniature blooming season!

Fertilizer

Fertilizing a kangaroo paw plant is not necessary at all. They respond best if you simply incorporate some organic compost to their soil mix at the beginning of the growing season to increase the nutrient content of the earth.

Intolerances

As you can see, the kangaroo paw plant is wonderfully low maintenance! There isn’t all much that it can’t handle other than being cold, so just pay attention to the first and last threat of frost of the seasons and you’ll have one happy kangaroo paw on your hands.

How do you Propagate a Kangaroo Paw Plant?

Lovely small kangraoo paw plant growing in the garden with bright red flowers

There are a few ways that you could propagate your very own kangaroo paw plant. You could purchase an established potted specimen from a nursery, you could start your own from seed and plant it in the garden bed, or you can also propagate by root division!

From Seed

Simply sprinkling some seeds in the ground isn’t the right way to go about planting a kangaroo paw plant. The seeds first need to be soaked in some hot water for 2 hours to help soften the hard seed coating.

Then, place the seeds in moist soil in a relatively warm location. Ensure to keep soil moist during this period, and seeds to germinate in about 6 weeks time.

Root Division

Not only is propagation through root division super easy, it’s also very beneficial to the entire plant. Diving the plant every 2-3 years encourages healthy new growth and allows the previous generation of plants more room to breathe.

Simply take a very sharp paring knife and cut apart a mature plant at the roots. These new plants can be planted either in a pot or directly into the soil in a different location. Again, keep soil moist while they are first getting established.

How are Kangaroo Paw Plants Used?

Beautiful kangaroo paw plant with light yellow flowers growing in the sunshine

Ornamental Plant

Kangaroo paw plants make for a super awesome garden plant. Whether your preference of cultivar is the dwarf varieties or taller varieties, there won’t be many other plants in the garden that are quite as unique as this one.

This Australian plant makes an awesome show stopping variety with red flowers and interesting foliage. It’s tall stem helps it tower above complimentary ground cover plants, and its sweet smelling nectar attracts birds and insects alike. This helps with pollen dispersal.

The fuzzy flower makes for an amazing cut flower specimen, and a tall kangaroo paw with a long flower stem is the best choice for a cut flower. They can last for a super long time in a vase.

Medicinal Plant

Something that not everyone knows about the kangaroo paw plant is its medicinal value as well. This Australian plant has been a long time member in traditional herbal medicine, and can be applied topically to minor cuts and burns. It has intense healing properties.

Additionally, Australian gardeners know about the secret cosmetic uses of the kangaroo paw. The plant has wonderfully hydrating properties that help reduce fine lines and wrinkles and reduces inflammation in the skin as well!

FAQs

Are kangaroo paws deer resistant?

Another great aspect of the kangaroo paw plant is that it is entirely resistant to deer! Though they won’t avoid it entirely, they are not their first choice of snack.

What are the damaging agents to kangaroo paw plants?

The main damaging agent to be aware of when it comes to the kangaroo paw plant is ink spot disease. Ink spot disease is a fungal disease that causes the leaves and stems of the plant to blacken. It starts in the soil (usually if it is waterlogged) and damages first the underground rhizome, which then spreads to the rest of the plant.

The absolutely best way to get rid of or prevent ink disease is by simply pruning back the plant after it has gone to flower.

Is the kangaroo paw plant evergreen?

Kangaroo plants have evergreen foliage. This means that leaves will remain green and persist all year long, regardless of the temperature or the season.

What is a black kangaroo paw plant?

The black kangaroo paw plant (macropidia fuliginosa) is also a herbaceous rhizomatous flowering plant that is endemic to Australia, though it is part of a different botanical family. They share similar floral characteristics and are a tall variety of kangaroo paw, hence the same common names.

Are kangaroo paws perennial or annual plants?

Kangaroo paws are perennial plants. This means that they have flowers that will continue to blossom year after year as long as their ideal growing conditions are maintained.

Are kangaroo paws drought tolerant?

Because they grow from an underground rhizome, kangaroo paws are relatively drought tolerant plants. Though they can’t withstand long periods of drought, they can tolerate temporary dry periods.

When should a kangaroo paw plant be divided?

Not only is propagation through root division super easy, it’s also very beneficial to the entire plant. Diving the plant every 2-3 years encourages healthy new growth and allows the previous generation of plants more room to breathe.

Simply take a very sharp paring knife and cut apart a mature plant at the roots. These new plants can be planted either in a pot or directly into the soil in a different location. Again, keep soil moist while they are first getting established.

When do kangaroo paw flowers bloom?

These unique flowers will usually grow in colors, of purple, red, orange, and yellow, and they will often start to bloom in the early spring or late spring and last all the way through until the end of fall. Kangaroo paw flowers also have a strong scented nectar that attracts many various bird species and insect species.

Can kangaroo paw be grown pots?

Kangaroo paws can be successfully grown in pots as long as they’re quite large. Containers are the most appropriate for these plants as they need quite a bit of room to grow.

Can kangaroo paws grow in the shade?

Kangaroo paws are sun loving creatures. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight every single day!

They are able to tolerate partial shade, though this can sometimes result in a less successful blooming period for the plant. Additionally, insufficient sunlight exposure can sometimes result in taller varieties tipping over.

Can kangaroo paws grow in clay soil?

Kangaroo paws shouldn’t be grown in clay soil as it is way too packed and waterlogged. They perform far better if they grow in soil that is very well draining.

How tall do kangaroo paws grow?

There are taller varieties and dwarf varieties of kangaroo paw plants. They can grow to be anywhere from 2 feet to 10 feet in height.

What USDA growing zone do kangaroo paw plants grow in?

The kangaroo paw is a plant that is endemic to certain regions of Australia. It can be found growing wild most commonly in the southwestern states of Australia. It prefers to live on sites that have a moderate amount of moisture and tons of sunlight.

Kangaroo paw plants can only exist in USDA growing zones 10 and 11, and should be kept as an indoor houseplant during the winter outside of these growing regions. They can also be successfully grown in greenhouses.

In subtropical climates where they have been introduced as a cultivated species, they have become naturalized. This is common in Japan and certain subtropical regions of the United States as well.

How often should a kangaroo paw plant be watered?

The water level requirements are moderate for the kangaroo paw plant. They are able to tolerate short periods of drought (thanks to those underground rhizomes) but they definitely prefer to exist in moist soil.

Ensure that the soil for your kangaroo paw plant is never soggy or waterlogged. Soggy soil can sometimes cause root rot and severely damage the plant.

The best way to maintain proper moisture levels is by sticking your finger in the soil. If the top soil is dry but it’s still moist underneath, your plant is probably happy. Watering should occur once soil has dried out completely.

Should you prune a kangaroo paw plant?

Kangaroo paw plants respond very well to heavy pruning. Cutting them back after they have flowered encourages very enthusiastic spring growth the following year.

After the flowering season, snip back the leaves and flower stalks of the plant until about 6 inches above the soil. This helps prevent the foliage of the plant becoming diseased and can sometimes result in a second, miniature blooming season!

Do kangaroo paw plants need to be fertilized?

Fertilizing a kangaroo paw plant is not necessary at all. They respond best if you simply incorporate some organic compost to their soil mix at the beginning of the growing season to increase the nutrient content of the earth.

What is the ideal soil type for a kangaroo paw plant?

Though the kangaroo paw plant can handle nearly any soil type, there are some specific things you can to to make sure that it exists in the most perfect possible conditions.

Kangaroo paws seem to perform best when they are growing in soil that is sandy or loamy and very well draining. It is also ideal for sandy soil to be slightly more acidic on the pH scale.

They also like to live in rich soil, meaning that it is high in nutrient content. To achieve this, simply incorporate some organic compost into your soil before the growing season approaches.

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