Kangaroo Paw Plant Care

This Australian native won't add any edible value to your container garden, but it will bring with it a host of colorful blossoms! Gaining its name from the unique shape of its flower, the kangaroo paw is quickly becoming popular in gardens all across the world. While it naturally grows wild in the sandy soils of drought prone Western Australia, these perennial plants can adapt to a variety of climates and growing conditions. This not only makes them great for no-hassle landscaping projects, but also perfect for planting in containers on your porch or patio! Bring some color and excitement to your gardens by learning the basics of Kangaroo Paw plant care.

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Kangaroo Paw Plants -

Although Kangaroo Paws are now commercially grown throughout the world, they are originally a family of flowering plants endemic to southwestern Australia. The family of Kangaroo Paw plants are characterized by their rhizomatous growth. By growing from an underground rhizome (modified root), the plants are able to conserve water and use it to keep the foliage hydrated during times of drought.

Red Kangaroo Paw Flowers. Grown in a flower pot 2013.
Red Kangaroo Paw Flowers. Grown in a flower pot 2013.

As far as foliage height and flower color are concerned, these traits will vary among the different species, but tend to always look very similar. The foliage grows in clumps with a dense amount of long and slender leaves. The flowers are known to be brightly colored and fuzzy with small hairs. The tubular shape of the flowers attracts hummingbirds, honeyeaters, and many other birds who eat from flowers.

  • Origin - Southwestern Australia
  • Genus - Anigozanthos
  • Family - Haemodoraceae
  • Common Names - Kangaroo or Cat's Paw

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Basics for Growing Kangaroo Paws -

The Kangaroo Paw is naturally a very hardy plant, but it will require some basic necessities for proper growth and flowering. Ensuring that these basic requirements are met will keep your plants healthy throughout the season.

Growing Kangaroo Paws in Containers.
Growing Kangaroo Paws in Containers.

Container Friendly Kangaroo Paw Varieties -

Variety
Description
Dwarf Yellow Kangaroo Paw
Much smaller version of the yellow kangaroo paw. Under 20 inches in height.
Dwarf Pink Kangaroo Paw
Reaches two feet tall with pink flowers.
Dwarf Red Kangaroo Paw
Can reach three feet tall. Brilliant red flowers.
Red & Green Kangaroo Paw
Can reach four feet or more. Unique red & green flowers.
  • Full Sun - For brilliant and long lasting blooms, place your Kangaroo Paw plant in an area the will receive a lot of direct sunlight. In order for your plants to grow and flower properly, at least six hours of direct sunlight will be needed on a daily basis. Keep in mind that Kangaroo Paw plants will tolerate even the hottest and most intense of sunlight.
  • Average Sandy Soil - In the wild, the kangaroo paw plant grows in nutrient poor and sandy soils. For container grown plants, find an average organic potting soil and amend with a few cups of regular play sand. This will simulate the plant's natural setting, and also provide sufficient nutrition for the entire season.
  • Container Friendly Variety - The common name "kangaroo paw" actually refers to a number of species that all exhibit similar features. Naturally, some of these species are larger than others and therefore are not suitable for containers. Luckily, there are many different species and hybrids that are well suited for growth in flower pots. Search for dwarf kangaroo paw seeds online, or ask your local nursery if the kangaroo paws they have available are container friendly!
  • Agricultural Zones 10 & 11 - Kangaroo paws will grow outdoors as perennials in US Agricultural Zones 10 & 11. Any zone lower than this will need to bring the plants indoors before the first frost of autumn. If you live in a zone lower than 10 and don't want to bring your plants indoors, be sure to save your seeds throughout the season! They can be replanted in spring for continued cultivation.

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Kangaroo Paw Plant Care -

As far as plant care is concerned, the Kangaroo Paw proves to be one of the easiest! Requiring minimal water and attention from the gardener, these plants basically can be planted and left to their own. If they do need that occasional drink of water, they'll let you know by drooping their foliage. This makes the Kangaroo Paw a perfect candidate for gardeners who've had a hard time growing flowers before!

Kangaroo Paw flowers from the 2013 season.
Kangaroo Paw flowers from the 2013 season.

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  • Watering - Originating from a hot and arid climate, the kangaroo paw requires less water than most other garden plants. Water the kangaroo paw thoroughly once the top couple inches of soil becomes dry. For the most part, watering deeply once a week will suffice. The exception to this is during the spring and early part of summer. During these periods the plants will need slightly more water as they grow and set their flowers.
  • Pruning - After each successful bloom, heavily prune the whole plant back. The old flower stalks and foliage should be trimmed back to a couple inches above the soil line. By doing this, you'll reduce the risk of older foliage becoming disease ridden, and also promote newer denser foliage to grow back.
  • Yearly Conditioning - Container kangaroo paw plants do not need to be re-potted each season. To keep the plants healthy during their 2-3 year lifespan, add a cup or two of compost to the container. This is done once during the spring season before flower stalks appear.

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Tips for Growing Kangaroo Paw -

  • Use in Xeriscaping - The practice of xeriscaping entails planting species that reduce or eliminate the need of supplemental irrigation water. While Kangaroo Paw plants still need an occasional drink of water, they'll make for great flowering additions to this type of landscaping.

Did You Know?

Kangaroo Paw flowers contain diluted nectar that won't attract bees. On top of this, bees won't even come near red Kangaroo Paw flowers, as they can't see the color red. These traits are especially beneficial if you're allergic to these flying insects but wish to frequently work in and around your flower garden!

  • Use as a Sunblock - Due to the fact that Kangaroo Paw plants can withstand intense heat and sunlight, larger varieties can be planted in a way that would provide shade for less tolerant crops. The Kangaroo Paw plants will thrive in the full sunlight while more tender crops will be provided with filtered sunlight and cooler temperatures.

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Kangaroo paw plant growing back after heavy pruning.
Kangaroo paw plant growing back after heavy pruning.

Kangaroo Paw Review -

To be honest, I didn't quite know what to expect from this unique flowering plant the first season I grew it. As it turned out, the kangaroo paw did great in the hot and arid Colorado summer. The plant held its spring blooms for a great deal of the season, and even had a smaller bloom closer to autumn. Wanting a larger plant during the 2014 season, I brought mine indoors and have it growing in a south facing windowsill. The plant has grown substantially, and should be very promising as it blooms in spring! I'll be adding some photos of this plant as it flowers.

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Dwarf Kangaroo Paw from Spring 2013.
Dwarf Kangaroo Paw from Spring 2013.

Whether you chose to grow this exceptional perennial in the ground or in containers, the Kangaroo Paw is bound to become one of your favorites! The brightly colored and fuzzy blossoms may not only attract nosy neighbors, but also passing by hummingbirds. With so much buzz surrounding this flowering plant, there's no reason why it shouldn't be a welcomed addition to your flower garden this season! Thanks for reading this guide on Kangaroo Paw Plant Care. Please leave any comments or questions you may have.

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8 comments

Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 2 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

Great hub; lots of information. I like the look of this plant and the fact that it doesn't require much water.


LaThing profile image

LaThing 2 years ago from From a World Within, USA

Very interesting. I have never come across these plants but would love to have them. :)

Your hub is very detailed and fun read. Thanks for sharing......


Jenn-Anne profile image

Jenn-Anne 2 years ago

I'm not familiar with this plant so I learned a lot from your hub. I'm always looking for new and interesting additions to my garden and will definitely consider adding Kangaroo Paw.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Like it! I hope I can locate a Kangaroo Paw Plant! It is quite unusual looking. I like the fact that it requires little water!


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 2 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

I like them, but I think it gets too cold here for them to survive in the winter.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

They surely are a pretty plant. Thanks for the interesting read on this plant.


SusannaDuffy profile image

SusannaDuffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

I have a few kangaroo paws in my front garden, facing west. They give me lots of extra shade in Summer. Handy plants, I'm very fond of them


Tara 2 years ago

Living on Australia, these are a lot easier to find here. Thank you for the tips!

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