Growing Kangaroo Paws - Anigozanthos

Kangaroo paws

The curious common name of this plant, Zampa di kangaroo, clearly reveals its origin: the 11 naturally occurring anigozanthos species are all native to Australia.
They are perennial herbaceous, with a rhizomatous root system, often fleshy and well formed; in spring they produce long tufts of thin, broad leaves, and up to 100-120 cm high, sometimes the foliage is covered with a thin down.
During the spring months and up to the autumn, between the leaves of the kangaroo paws, thin dark stems rise, leading to the ends of long tubular flower buds, gathered in loose racemes; the bud is completely covered by a thin, brightly colored down, which gives the flower a velvety appearance and also gives color to the flower itself, which otherwise would simply be light green or yellowish. Depending on the species it can happen that the Anigozanthos they go into vegetative rest in particularly hot and dry periods, completely stopping to bloom; when cool arrives at the end of summer they will start to bloom again until the end of autumn. In winter they almost completely lose the aerial part, and the rhizome will start to sprout again the following spring.
Generally the Anigozanthos they are not long-lived plants, they continue to vegetate well only for a few years, and then they tend to dry up, especially if grown in pots; A great way to invigorate old plants is to periodically divide the tufts of rhizomes. Proceed in the autumn, when the aerial part has already almost completely dried up; the tufts are removed from the ground and divided into some portions, maintaining a little root system for each portion practiced. The portions thus obtained should be immediately placed as new plants; practicing the division every 2-3 years extends the life of healthy and luxuriant anigozanthos specimens to infinity.

Kangaroo paws in the garden

Despite its decidedly exotic origins, the anigozanthos can easily be grown in the garden, in the open ground or in pots, even in Italy.
They need to be planted in a good fertile soil, fairly soft and well-worked, but above all very well drained, so that the root system is well aerated and that the water watering flows out without creating stagnation of any kind.
Surely the kangaroo paws are plants to be placed in the sun, as if they were Mediterranean plants; We therefore choose a very bright and sunny area: the shadow causes poor flowering and favors a high humidity that can cause harmful rots.
Plants bear drought very well, even if severe and prolonged; only that to counteract the lack of water the plant enters in semi-vegetative rest, and stops flowering, losing most of its charm.
So in spring we water regularly, always waiting for the growing substrate to be dry before supplying water again. If the well-watered plant at the arrival of the heat stops flowering, let's reduce the watering, or even suspend it, resuming it when the cool of late August arrives.
In fact most of the botanical species are summer and winter vegetative resting plants; however in the nursery we will hardly find specimens belonging to some botanical species, it is much more probable to find some particular hybrid; often the hybrids continue to bloom until they find a favorable climate, with minimum temperatures above 15-20 ° C, and a good humidity rate; therefore they need regular watering even in summer.
At the arrival of the cold in autumn they tend to completely dry the aerial part, therefore we suspend the waterings, or we will favor the rots of the rhizomes, very harmful, which can lead to the death of the whole plant.
These plants can withstand the cold quite well, thanks to the fact that during the winter they are in complete vegetative rest; if we fear that the frost in the area in which we live is excessive, we mulch the soil under which the rhizomes rest, or we grow a potted anigozanthos, and put it back in a cold greenhouse during the winter.
If the foliage is not dead during the winter, towards spring we prune the whole plant at about 8-10 cm from the ground, to favor the development of new shoots when the warm climate arrives.

Growing kangaroo paws - Anigozanthos: The anigozanthos flowerbed

These plants are well suited to be cultivated as Mediterranean plants, in a sunny and airy flowerbed.
Although a single rhizome produces a beautiful bush, the best effect is obtained by planting 4-6 rhizomes at about 20-25 cm from each other, so as to obtain a curtain of flowers in spring and autumn.
They are plants that grow quite high, so let's place them on the bottom or in the center of a flowerbed, not on the edge, or they will completely obscure the view on the plants placed nearby; in fact there are some hybrid varieties, with limited development, which do not exceed 25-35 cm in height.
Anigozanthos flowers are very suitable as cut flowers; if cut, they tend to dry out over a few days, keeping their bright colors even for months, so they are definitely very suitable as dried flowers, a bit bizarre and particular.