Lance-like green leaves make an attractive backdrop to the fuzzy, paw-shaped flowers of the kangaroo plant, or kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos spp.). Native to Australia, they naturally prosper in hot summer and mild winter climates and form clumps that endure for about three to five years. You can enjoy the spring and summer flowers in the garden landscape or cut them to place in a vase. They grow best outdoors in USDA zones 10 and warmer.
Kangaroo plants need as much light as possible. Full sun exposures in the outdoor landscape provide at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Very bright indirect light also works, but if light intensity is too low, flowering is diminished or absent.
Perhaps the biggest problem in the care of kangaroo plants is not providing a fast-draining soil. Do not plant them in overly rich, heavy garden topsoils. The perfect site is sandy or sandy-loam with lots of well-decomposed organic matter. These porous soils ensure roots do not reside in overly wet conditions, especially in winter.
In the warmth of spring and summer, water kangaroo plants freely, about 1 inch weekly and perhaps a bit more if temperatures become uncomfortably hot or in summer droughts. Apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer according to product label directions to them once a month in spring and summer. In autumn, reduce watering to once every two weeks; and in winter keep them almost dry.
Pruning is the key to keeping kangaroo plants healthy and vigorous according to Australia plant breeder Angus Stewart. After flowering wanes by midsummer, cut back foliage to about 1 inch above the ground so that new, fresh rejuvenating growth emerges from the underground rhizome roots. This renewal diminishes any foliage imperfections from snail or slug damage, fungal spots or from previous frost damage earlier that spring. To help keep soils slightly drier in winter, consider layering the garden bed in a thick layer of course bark chips or straw, removing it in spring and increasing watering for the growing season.
It's best to divide and replant the big clumps of rhizomes from midsummer to early autumn. Simply dig up the plants and separate them into smaller pieces before replanting.