Kangaroo Paw Plant
A Guide to Growing the Kangaroo Paw Plant
The kangaroo paw plant is native to Western Australia and is, in fact, the official flower of that region. The four-inch flowers are green and furry with bright red stems. Somebody thought that the flower looked exactly like a kangaroo paw. The leaves on the plant can be between one and two feet long.
Western Australia is the only place in the world where this plant grows naturally. They are found near Lake Muir, along the Murchison River, at Brusselton and at King’s Park. They prefer warm desert regions and sandy areas. The kangaroo paw plant blooms from August to October in their natural habitat. They are grown commercially in the United States, Israel, and Japan. You can buy a kangaroo paw plant from a nursery and plant it in your yard if you live in a very warm western or southern part of the United States. This plant can never withstand temperatures that fall below 40 degrees. It grows best in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.
The flowers on the kangaroo paw plant are covered with little hairs. These are meant for the protection of the plant, but they are also what make it look so unusual and so fuzzy. The tiny hairs taste bad so no animals will eat the plant. On top of that, the hairs can hold onto water after rains so that it can soak in later. This is the type of accommodation that is made by many desert plants which have to survive in adverse desert conditions. These hairs are also what cause the plants to have a unique fuzzy look.
Birds love the kangaroo paw plant because its tall stem is thick and easy to perch upon. They eat the honey from the flowers as do butterflies. The plant produces wonderful cut flowers because the colors are so bright. You can have red, pink, white, purple, green, orange or yellow. The kangaroo plant is in the family Haemodoraceae and the genus Anigozanthos. There are several cultivars, most of which have Anigozanthos flavidus as one of the parents. The flavidus grows to around five feet and another cultivar, the manglesii, grows to be approximately three feet high. All together, there are perhaps a dozen cultivars available with new ones always being tested.
As for diseases, the kangaroo paw plant is susceptible to fungi, which can cause ink spot disease. Reducing watering and moving the plant to full sun can help the plant recover. Fungicides are not particularly effective against this disease.
You can sprout the kangaroo paw from seed indoors. You will need to have a spot where the humidity is very low and the plant will get plenty of natural light but not much direct sunlight. Get some seed starter and plant the seeds about a half-inch under the soil. The soil should remain moist but not wet. In approximately one month sprouts will appear. Then you should water the sprouts but not over-water. Once the sprouts are an inch high, you can move them to individual pots. Don’t touch the roots when putting them in a pot or when you transplant them outside when they are about three inches high. The roots are quite sensitive.
The problem that most gardeners have with the kangaroo paw plant is “how much to water it.” There is a very fine line between what is too little and too much. The plant will always do better being hand-watered and should never be under overhead sprinklers. The plant should be left completely alone for a dormant stage after it has finished flowering and before new growth begins.