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Description

Kangaroo paws are herbaceous perennials with strap-like leaves, a clumping growth habit and varying in size from 6-24 in. tall. Unique flowers are tubular in shape, fuzzy and can occur on branched or unbranched stems that grow several feet above foliage. Flower colors range from red, pink, green, yellow and orange, and make striking displays from mid spring to early summer. Flowers produce nectar for birds.

Few plants equal the unique flowering character of kangaroo paws. Flowers often last 1-2 months, making them a popular choice for borders, perennial gardens and in containers. For best performance, kangaroo paws need light and fast draining soils along with regular moisture during spring to sustain a robust flowering cycle. Low moisture is best during summer. Foliage character can begin to decline by late fall and most varieties go into a period of dormancy during winter when old foliage loses value; new growth begins by early spring. They generally perform best over 2-3 years after planting and then may require replacing.

Horticultural interest in kangaroo paws has led to the introduction of many cultivars for use in California landscapes and gardens. Availability varies from nursery to nursery; popular cultivars include: A. 'Big Red' is a tall cultivar with deep red flowers, A. 'Harmony' is a tall cultivar with yellow flowers and red stems, A. 'Bush Pearl', is a low growing form to 15 in. tall and produces bright pink flowers.

Water Needs

Kangaroo paws grow well in Inland Empire gardens in areas of full sun and when sustained with periodic summer water. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water and you should make irrigation adjustments based on field observations of growth and character. Spring flowering will be more robust and last longer when irrigation is scheduled for the higher end of the range from March through May.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 2

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
 
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"-14"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

 
0"-2"
0"-2"
0"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
0"-2"
0"-2"
  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, click here.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Perennial
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Clumping
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 8 in. - 3 ft.
Width: 1 ft. - 3 ft.
Water Needs: Low 2
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Red, Pink, Yellow, Orange, Green
Flower Season: Summer, Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Hummingbird plant, Flowering accent plant, Container plant, Borders, Small spaces

Maintenance

Extend blooming period by cutting out spent flower stalks as low as possible. Pruning them right when flowers begin to decline rather then waiting for them to fully dry out will keep plants blooming longer. A careful examination will show that leaves grow in groups in "fans." Since each fan only flowers once, a good maintenance option is to remove the entire fan of leaves associated with each flower stem when the stem is being cut off. Feel free to cut or pull any dead dried leaves while you are at it. Taller varieties may benefit from staking flower stalks if you want them to remain upright (S).

After the bloom season, cut back plants relative significantly by doing the following: remove any leaves showing brown (even just tips) all the way to the base of the plant, being careful not to damage any emerging new leaf fans. Also cut back any fans that have flowered, but it is best to leave about 1/3 of the mature leaves in addition to the newly emerging ones (12). Remove any dead foliage in the winter (D).

Many varieties of Kangaroo Paws are often relatively short lived in the garden, often lasting only 3-5 years without careful attention and dividing (13). However, many of the larger named cultivars available in our area tend to be longer lived if grown well. Dwarf varieties especially tend to be short lived, with larger varieties tending to be longer lived in cultivation in our area (S).

Dividing clumps and replanting every few years will help maintain vigor and yield new plants. Sometimes black spots or black areas appear on leaves, usually concentrated near leaf tips. These areas look black, as opposed to the brown of dying leaves. This is Black Ink Spot disease, a fungal disease which is common on Kangaroo Paw, especially on certain varieties. If you see this on a nursery plant, do not buy it. Beyond that, if you have it, maintain good air circulation around plants by keeping up with pruning. It is also best to avoid directly wetting foliage if possible (drip irrigation is a good option here). Heavily infested plants may need to be removed. When cutting out diseased leaves, be sure to do a careful job removing all infected leaf material down and around the base of the plant (14).

References

Associations

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