Zach's writing ranges from matters of gardening, cooking, aquariums, and fish to more niche topics like coin collecting.
Kangaroo Paw Plants: Colorful and Adaptable
This Australian native won't add any edible value to your garden, but it will bring a host of colorful blossoms! Named for the unique shape of its flower, the kangaroo paw is quickly growing in popularity in gardens all around the world.
Although these plants are now commercially grown, they are originally endemic to drought-prone southwestern Australia and 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.
These perennial plants can adapt to a variety of climates and conditions. This not only makes them great for no-hassle landscaping projects but they're also perfect for planting in containers on your porch or patio! Bring some color and excitement to your gardens by learning the basics of caring for kangaroo paws.
What Do Kangaroo Paws Look Like?
Traits such as foliage height and flower color vary among different species, but these plants tend to look very similar. The foliage grows in clumps with a dense number 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
How to Grow Kangaroo Paws
Kangaroo paws are naturally hardy plants, but they require some basic necessities for proper growth and flowering. Ensuring they are met will keep your plants healthy throughout the season.
- Full Sun: For brilliant and long-lasting blooms, place your plant in an area with a lot of direct sunlight. In order for your plants to grow and flower properly, they need at least six hours of direct sun each day. Remember, they can tolerate even the hottest and most intense 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 it 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 Varieties: 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 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. If you're in a zone lower than this, you 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, save your seeds throughout the season! They can be replanted in the spring for continued cultivation.
Dwarf Yellow Kangaroo Paw
Much smaller version of the yellow kangaroo paw. Under 20" in height.
Dwarf Pink Kangaroo Paw
Reaches 2' tall with pink flowers.
Dwarf Red Kangaroo Paw
Can reach 3' tall. Brilliant red flowers.
Red & Green Kangaroo Paw
Can reach 4' or more. Unique red & green flowers.
Kangaroo Paw Plant Care
As far as plant care is concerned, the kangaroo paw is low-maintenance. Requiring minimal water and attention, these plants basically can be planted and left on their own. If they do need that occasional drink of water, they'll let you know by drooping their foliage. This makes kangaroo paws the perfect candidate for gardeners who've had a hard time growing flowers before.
- Watering: Originally from a hot and arid climate, the kangaroo paw requires less water than most other garden plants. Water it thoroughly once the top couple inches of soil become 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 of inches above the soil line. By doing this, you'll reduce the risk of older foliage becoming disease-ridden and also promote the regrowth of denser foliage.
- 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.
- Use in Xeriscaping: The practice of xeriscaping entails planting species that reduce or eliminate the need for 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?
- They don't attract bees: 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 because 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!
- They can act as a sunblock for other plants: Because these plants can withstand intense heat and sunlight, larger varieties can be planted in a way to provide shade for less tolerant crops. Kangaroo paws will thrive in the full sunlight while more tender crops can benefit from the filtered sunlight and cooler temperatures.
My Experience Growing Kangaroo Paws
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. It 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 on a south-facing windowsill. The plant has grown substantially, and should be very promising as it blooms in spring!
Whether you chose to grow this exceptional perennial in the ground or in containers, kangaroo paws are bound to become one of your favorites! The brightly colored and fuzzy blossoms may not only attract nosy neighbors but also passing 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 kangaroo paw guide! Please leave any comments or questions you may have below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Sylvia Williams on July 24, 2020:
Thank you , I live in the UK ( southeast London), I bought 3 different colours & this variety can strand temperatures up to minus -5C. Now I know what sort of compost to use, I will let you know how I get on.
Jay Johannesburg South Africa on April 20, 2020:
I discovered a single yellow dwarf at my local nursery. Planted it in a pot in a sunny spot late summer. It was in full flower and the flowers lasted 3 weeks. It is now early autumn here and the flowers have faded. The whole plant seems to be drying out. Is this just the seasonal reaction? We have had quite a lot of late summer rain and night temperatures now drop to around 11°Celsius with day temps around 22° Celsius. When I noticed the dry looking plant a week ago, I started giving it additional water every second day, but it has not shown any signs of improvement. Should I cut it back and hope for a recovery, or leave it alone and cut it towards late winter?
Faustina on January 07, 2020:
I purchased this twice and they died. I live inGlendale Ariziona and no luck but maybe I gave them to much water. I will try again
gordon cameron on January 07, 2020:
beautiful plants drought proof here in Australia attracts many birds thanks for info
Pamela Bodger on September 03, 2019:
I bought 2 Kangaroo Paw plants from an impromptu plant stand in the arrivals hall at Heathrow (!) I find it hard to refuse an unusual-looking plant so I took the chance, even though I had never heard of it before. This article is brilliant and I printed it for guidance in growing my two KPs indoors in the south of England (outdoors in summer, of course).
Thank you for your enthusiasm and expert information!
Stephanie on July 21, 2019:
Does the blooming paw start out pink with young shoots or get darker with full sun? I just put mine into a pot and a few look gray. Also, my apt complex has automatic sprinklers happening daily so I had to move my plants away from those.
Lou on May 25, 2019:
Bought and planted one in my front flower bed that gets intense sunshine. Hope she'll thrive
Janet Lyke on May 14, 2019:
From Uk. Seen kangaroo paw growing wild north of Perth WA. So know native conditions which were very dry. Followed spring flowers south from Broome to Perth. Wonderful.
So good to have some instructions to look after my new plant. Our garden centre has just started to stock them.
Camille on July 04, 2018:
Loving this plant but the red flower is turning brown - is that over watering? Under watering or is the season over? It’s July in San Diego.
Sasha on July 03, 2018:
This is untrue as my red and yellow indoor kangaroo paw requires watering EVERY second day. If I don't the flowers begin to drop after the 3rd day and the leave go after that, evidence of not enough watering can be seen about a week later when the tips of leaves start to brown and die.
They are a very very water hungry plant and one that requires a lot of sunlight to keep its brilliant red and yellow colors.
Please do not fool people into thinking this is an easy or beginners houseplant.
Susie on June 22, 2018:
Just found this plant at a nursery. I live in very, very hot Tucson, AZ, so this is a perfect plant for me! I’ve got it in a container and it seems to be doing well. Thanks for the information. Much appreciated
email@example.com on June 02, 2018:
Best information ever on Kangaroo Paw Plants. Thank you
Don Peltier, Phoenix, AZ. on May 27, 2018:
Love everything about it, here in Phoenix the sun and dry climate should not be a problem for it . just planted it today, thanks for the info.
Laura Huntington Beach, CA, on May 03, 2018:
A friend of mine gave me her potted kangaroo paws. I had yellow leaves and pale pink flowers. She was unable to keep it in the sun, due to construction.I have moved it to a sunny location. Is there anything else I need to do to ensure its recovery??
Shirley Urso-Farmer from Michigan on July 01, 2016:
Beautiful plant, I'd love to grow one (or two..) Thanks for the info
Tara on September 14, 2014:
Living on Australia, these are a lot easier to find here. Thank you for the tips!
Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on August 26, 2014:
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
Dianna Mendez on May 04, 2014:
They surely are a pretty plant. Thanks for the interesting read on this plant.
Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 16, 2014:
I like them, but I think it gets too cold here for them to survive in the winter.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 16, 2014:
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!
Jenn-Anne on April 16, 2014:
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.
LaThing from From a World Within, USA on April 16, 2014:
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......
Silva Hayes from Spicewood, Texas on April 15, 2014:
Great hub; lots of information. I like the look of this plant and the fact that it doesn't require much water.