Growing kangaroo paws

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Kangaroo paws are some of the most iconic Australian native plants, much loved for their clusters of clawlike flowers that open from the furry, tactile buds. Bird-attracting flowers sit on top of upright stems that emerge out of the grass-like leaf clumps. Bloom colour varies from red through to orange, yellow and pink, although the relatively new ‘Bush Diamond’ has near-white flowers. One of the most striking kangaroo paws is the slightly tricky-to-grow Macropidia fulginosa, the black kangaroo paw.

Kangaroo paws are native to Western Australia where they are used to long dry summers and cooler wet winters. In areas with humid summers it’s best to grow them in open sunny spots in the garden or, better still, in containers where there’s good air movement around the plant. Some native plant enthusiasts have found that kangaroo paws do particularly well in Yates self-watering Tuscan Edge or Artesian pots. The stored water in the base of these pots recreates the conditions the plants have adapted to in their natural habitats, where their roots reach down to deep moisture in the soil.

Kangaroo paws are now found in gardens in most temperate parts of the world and can even be used for indoor colour in cold places. In moderately frosty areas they can be grown in pots and moved under shelter through the coldest part of winter.

The toughest kangaroo paws are the large growers that can reach up to two metres tall. As a general rule, these are the best to choose for humid conditions but they do take up quite a lot of space in the garden. Smaller growers, which are more garden and pot friendly, may make better choices, even if they have to be replaced more frequently.

Much breeding work has been carried out in the last few decades to develop hardier and stronger varieties of kangaroo paws with attractive leaves and flowers. Varieties such as pink ‘Bush Pearl’ and bright red ‘Bush Sunset’ are good examples.

If you want to try growing kangaroo paws from seed, Yates has a Kangaroo Paw Mix in its packet seed range. This contains a lucky dip blend of yellow and red and green paws. Sow seed into trays or pots of Yates Seed Raising Mix. Keep moist but not too wet. Transplant seedlings carefully into individual pots after germination (which can be slow and variable).
New plants can also be produced by dividing established clumps. Do this in spring or early autumn. Lift the plants out of the ground, split into sections, wash off the old soil and pot into fresh mix. Leave in pots for a few months to re-establish.

Feed kangaroo paws with a native plant fertiliser such as Garden Gold or Acticote for Natives. Watering at the base of the plant helps prevent disease from developing on the leaves. Cut back after flower flushes. The big growers can be cut right to ground level in early spring.

Yates Rose Shield Insect & Disease Spray or Nature’s Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray will help protect plants from pest and diseases. Watch out for snails, too. They love the tender new shoots. Sprinkle some Blitzem or Baysol in the clumps.


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