Kangaroo paw plants (Anigozanthos spp.) are a group of perennials native to southwest Australia. There are 11 species in the genus, according to the Pacific Bulb Society, and all are nicknamed "kangaroo paw" for the shape of the flower buds, which are covered with fuzzy hairs and resemble a closed paw. The plants grow on rhizomes and vary in flower color, depending on the species and cultivar.
Kangaroo plants grow to a maximum height of 4 feet and a maximum width of 2 feet, according to the University of Vermont. They have long, slender leaves which range in color from light to dark green. The leaves are usually evergreen unless the plant is exposed to cold temperatures. The flowers, which are covered with small hairs and appear fuzzy, form on the end of straight or branching stems on panicles. The flowers range in color from light green to bright orange, yellow or red.
Anigozanthos plants grow best in full sun or light shade. They need well-drained soil, as too much water in the soil may cause the rhizomes to rot. Kangaroo paw plants prefer soil that is on the acidic side, according to the University of Vermont. Cut off wilted flower stems to allow new ones to grow. Note that these warmth-loving plants are hardy only to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zone 9 and should not be planted outdoors in areas where freezing weather occurs.
Kangaroo paw plants can suffer from insect pests and diseases. Snails and slugs love to munch on these plants. Surround your flowers with snail and slug bait to prevent them from gaining access to your plants. Ink diseases, which is caused by a water-borne fungal disease, can cause dark splotches to appear on the leaves. To prevent this and other fungal diseases, make sure your plants are watered at the ground level and have plenty of air circulating around them.
Species and Cultivars
A. manglesii is a species that is often seen outside of Australia, according to the Pacific Bulb society. The leaves of this plant are grayish-green, but its true attraction is the bi-colored flowers, with have bright green, fuzzy tips fading to red at the base of the bud. A. flavidus is considered to be the easiest to grow of all the Kangaroo paw species. It is also hardier than many of the other species and has flowers that are brown, yellow, red or green. Dwarf Delight is a hybrid cultivar from A. flavidus and A. onycis that is best known for being long-lived (about eight years). The flowers of this plant are apricot in color.
Kangaroo paw plants are versatile flowers. They can be planted along borders or in accent groups. They can also be grown in containers, which is especially useful in cold climates where they can be brought indoors before cold temperatures arrive. The flowers of the Anigozanthos family are also excellent, long-lasting cut flowers, according to the Australian National Botanic Gardens. The flowers can also be dried for use in crafts or dried flower bouquets.