All types of kangaroo paw are worth growing; the trick is choosing the right one for the application.
All types of kangaroo paw are worth growing; the trick is choosing the right one for the application.

You've got to pick the right (kangaroo) paw

Lots of us love kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus spp.). They are a quintessentially Australian plant, but they can be heartbreaking to grow.

Leading Australian plant breeder Angus Stewart sheds some light on this dilemma in an article about kangaroo paw on his website, www.gardeningwithangus.com.au. Angus explains that there are essentially three types of paw - the tall cultivars, the shorter cultivars, and the species. All are worth growing; the trick is choosing the right one for the application.

Most of the cultivars have Anigozanthus flavidus as one of the parents. This species is a tall grower and develops a large rhizome. It is very long-lived and resistant to fungal conditions and crown rot.

The taller cultivars are crosses between A. flavidus and either A. pulcherrima or A. rufus. There are also straight A. flavidus varieties that have been specially selected and bred for their good colours and growing habits. All of these tall forms will last for years and be very resilient in the garden.

The shorter cultivars are crosses between A. flavidus and a range of other, much shorter-lived ones. These tend to be more prolific flowerers, producing masses of blooms, sometimes year-round. But, although the A. flavidus parentage improves the longevity and vigour of these plants, they are mostly going to flower heavily for a couple of years and then need to be replaced.

The third group comprises the 12 species, all of which are interesting and some spectacular, but mostly shorter-lived.

Essentially, for long-lived garden plants, it's best stick to the taller varieties. If you're after heavy flowering and are happy to replace the plants in a few years, the shorter ones are a good choice; they are also brilliant for pots.