How to Grow the Exotic and Much-sought-after Kangaroo Paw Plant

Tip to grow a Kangaroo paw plant
Although the plant 'kangaroo paw' is native to Australia, it is now grown extensively right across the globe. Buzzle provides information on how to grow this exotic plant.
Did You Know?
Most of Australia's flora and fauna have their origins in Gondwana, which broke up into South America, Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica, about 140 million years ago. Due to its geographic isolation, more than 80 per cent of the country's flowering plants, mammals, reptiles, and frogs are unique to Australia, along with most of its freshwater fish and almost half of its birds.
Many species that belong to the family 'Haemodoraceae' are commonly known as 'Kangaroo paw plants', because of their bizarre but colorful flowers that have 'six claw-like structures' at the apex. The flowers are tubular, but open at the apex. They have dense, velvety hair over the tubular structure and open paws. Their 'sword-like' or 'iris-like' structures are known for their 'upright spikes of fuzzy flowers' and 'striking warm colors'. Because of their unique flower structure, they are the most sought-after plants for gardeners all over the world.

Australia is the leading exporter of kangaroo paw flowers. The plants are grown commercially in the USA (growing zones 10 and 11), Israel, and Japan. As cut flowers too, they have a non-ceasing demand from florists. If proper care is taken, they last eight to 25 days in a vase.

Twelve species of kangaroo paw belong to the genus 'Anigozanthos', while the black kangaroo paw belongs to the genus 'Macropidia'. Some varieties are tall (can be two to ten feet tall), while some are dwarf. The golden yellow, red, white, pink, green, or orange-colored flowers can enhance the beauty of your garden. They need full sun and they bloom in spring and summer. The strappy leaves are about 30 to 50 centimeters long. Each stem can have several flowers. Some varieties live for 7 years or more.
Growing a Kangaroo Paw
Kangaroo paws are rhizomatous herbaceous perennials, and can be propagated with seeds, but these days since a number of hybrids and cultivars have been developed, they are propagated by division of clumps. Also, most hybrids are sterile and do not produce seed.
From Seeds
Kangaroo paw plant
Seeds of many species of Anigozanthos are available in the market. If you want to grow plants from seeds, add a seed-raising mix to the pot and sow the seeds in it during spring or summer. Keep the mixture moist and lightly cover the pot until germination occurs. The plants require well-drained soils (sandy soils or loams), and full sun or dappled shade. They will start blooming after a year. When the buds are forming, make sure that the plants are well-watered (they should get at least one inch of water every week). When they are not blooming, they don't need extra water.

A freely-draining mixture and well-composted organic matter can promote speedy growth of the plant. For germination of species like Anigozanthos, Blancoa, Conostylis, Haemodorum, seeds are first treated with smoke or smoked water. The growth and the bloom depend upon the soil, direct exposure to sun, atmospheric heat, and humidity. The result may vary from species to species.
By Dividing the Clumps
Kangaroo paw Australian plant
Autumn is the best season to divide the clumps. See to it that each section contains two or three large shoots. Take suitable containers and plant the sections in well-drained potting mix. See to it that the shoots are at the same level as they were before. Trim all the leaves, leaving about one third of each leaf. To avoid direct sun, place the containers in a sheltered position. You can plant them in your garden, when the new leaves start growing. The roots also would come out of the drainage holes. Add some organic matter to the soil. If you want, you may divide large clumps into 2-3 big sections, and plant them directly at new locations in your garden. See to it that they are well watered until they start growing. The size of the flower stems can be 1.5 - 2 meters.
By Tissue Culture
Kangaroo paw plant
These days, commercial tissue culture is popular for growing kangaroo paw plants. Horticulturists can develop large numbers of clones of the original plant with the help of tissue culture. Anigozanthos flavidus DC. (tall kangaroo paw) is one of the most robust species that is found in the south western corner of Western Australia. The horticulture industry uses this variety to develop hybrids that grow well in different situations. If you are planning of buying some species, determine the color first, and buy the species in flower. Various hybrid varieties are known for the typical stem size, hardiness, flower color and size, flowering time, etc. Profuse flowering is characteristic of all hybrids.
The short-lived plants produce less flowers as they age. Some species are annuals and die in winter, while some are dormant over winter. The plants should be pruned in winter, leaving at least 10 cm above the ground. Cutting the plants is the best way of getting rid of diseased and frost-damaged leaves. When old flower stems start to wither, or when the flowers look less appealing, cut the stems right from the base, along with the leaves. Otherwise, they will blacken and fall off. If the plants become untidy, cut them hard. As you prune the plant, new shoots will emerge at the base of the plant, and will grow quickly and vigorously.
Kangaroo Paw: Plant Care
The newer varieties are more disease-resistant. They are easy care plants, but you should remove dead leaves from time to time. As mentioned above, the plants grow well in full sun positions. If they don't get sufficient sunlight, they are likely to develop diseases. The plants can withstand very dry summers as well as moist, cool winters. They can tolerate temperatures over 40°C down to 0°C. But high humidity can lead to rotten roots or crowns. Plants growing in cool and moist climates are more susceptible to diseases.

The large black blotches or circular lesions on the green leaves indicate development of fungus. This can damage the leaves and can bring about death of the tissue, eventually leading to blackening of the whole area. Sometimes, the application of the fungicide 'copper oxychloride' helps control the disease. But usually, spraying does not help get rid of the fungus. Leaves that are affected by fungus should be removed and burned. The plants are also prone to snail and slug attack. You may have to remove them from time to time.

You should select new cultivars that are more resistant to ink-spot disease and other diseases. See to it that they get ample sunlight and the soil is well-drained. Intermittent supply of organic matter (they don't need any specific fertilizer) and timely pruning can help maintain their health. Removing clumps of short-lived species and planting new ones is recommended.
Advertisement