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Kangaroo Paw an unusual container plant
Itching to visit Australia but don't have the time or money? Why not bring a bit of Australia to your patio by planting Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos flavidus?
It grows naturally only in western Australia, but many hybrids have been developed and offered for sale worldwide. Its unusual blooms are a cluster of bent, fuzzy petals that remind Aussies of a kangaroo's paw. Its flowers shout happiness in vibrant shades of red, yellow or orange, and its tall, lacy stems add architectural interest against a wall or in a flower bed. Many gardeners plant Kangaroo Paw with euphorbias or varieties of grasses to emphasize the contrast of textures.
You can find Kangaroo Paw growing as a perennial in San Diego where temperatures are cool and the air is moist. It grows best where temperatures range from 40 to 80 degrees. Although it is designated as growing in USDA zones 9-10, with our hot summers, it won't grow as a perennial but can be grown in a container and moved inside when temperatures climb above 80 degrees. It can also be grown outdoors as an annual from fall to spring.
There are 12 varieties; and depending upon the variety, they can grow 2-10 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide. They form clumps similar to grasses, with the most common varieties growing 5 feet tall. They prefer a well-draining soil and don't grow well if given excessive amounts of water. On the other hand, they can't tolerate long periods of dryness; making regular watering key. Fertilize monthly with a low phosphorus fertilizer.
Kangaroo Paw is pollinated by birds that are attracted to its bright color, sweet nectar and fuzzy flowers that are easily perched upon. Pollen sticks to the birds' feathers and is transferred from one flower to another as they feed. My favorite varieties are Big Red, Yellow Gem and Tequila Sunrise. Their bright colors add real drama to any garden area.
The only disease that Kangaroo Paw is susceptible to is a fungus called Black Spot. This disease occurs if the plant has poor air circulation or debris gathers around its base, which creates a good environment for fungus to grow.
Thanks to nature's ingenuity, Kangaroo Paw has adapted to desert conditions by having tiny, foul-tasting hairs along its leaves and stems, which discourage animals from eating it. When rains come, these hairs help collect extra water that drips down and is absorbed by the roots.
Next fall, put a little hop in your garden by planting Kangaroo Paw.
G'day and happy gardening!
Karen Bowen is a master gardener and member of MGM Garden Club. This column is sponsored by the Federated Garden Clubs of Yuma.