This is not a plant you're likely to see every day. In fact, by all accounts they're relatively new to the United States, perhaps because they are so limited in their natural range. The anigozanthos genus, often called the kangaroo paw group, contains only 11 species, and all of them are limited to a tiny sliver of southwest Australia for their native habitat. In recent years, however, breeders have begun to work with the plant to produce new and interesting varieties. The chief reason these plants have inspired any interest is because of their interesting foliage and flowers. The leaves arise from rhizomes in lance-shaped clusters. When the plant flowers, it sends out tall inflorescences covered with hairy and interesting little flowers that somewhat resemble fuzzy kangaroo paws (hence the name). They are fairly large for houseplants, growing up to 4 to 5 feet indoors (including the flower height). In terms of culture, they are not the typical Australian desert plants—these are native to wet forests, where they get plenty of water throughout the growing season. If you're into unusual plants and you see one of these, give it a try.
- Light: Kangaroo paw like bright light but not sunlight. In their native habitat, gardeners are often advised to grow them in full sunlight for best performance, but indoors they appreciate more modulated light.
- Water: Water heavily throughout the growing season, but provide excellent drainage. They are sensitive to water pH, so it's best to use a nonalkaline water. In the winter, after flowering is over, cut back the water considerably. Many species will die back to the rhizome over the winter. Don't be alarmed. Just keep it barely moist and it should sprout again.
- Fertilizer: Apply a weak fertilizer every other week through the growing season. Reduce feeding in winter.
- Soil: They are known as hardy plants that can withstand a wide range of soil conditions. A well-drained potting soil is strongly recommended.
Kangaroo paw propagate easily from both seed or division of rhizome. It's best to propagate the plants during the spring time, when the growing season is just beginning. During propagation, make sure to take large and healthy pieces of rhizome for new divisions.
Repot annually in the spring, between growing seasons. If your kangaroo paw dies all the way back, move the rhizome to a fresh container with new potting media in the spring time, then resume watering to encourage the best performance. These are clumping plants that will eventually form large bunches, but it's probably best for indoor gardeners to divide the rhizomes before it gets too big.
Of the 11 species, only a few are regularly grown indoors, including A. flavidus and A. manglesii. The A. flavidus features rather plain yellow flowers, but is the most vigorous of the group. As a result, breeders have done extensively hybridizing work and introduced a number of new flower colors, especially a striking red A. flavidus that's worth seeking out. A. flavidus flowers are also available in coral color and various shades of yellow-green.
The real trick to growing these plants indoors is to find them! Once located, they are hardy growers that can adapt to a fairly wide range of conditions, including variable light levels and soil quality. The main note on them is their limited tolerance for very cold weather—frost will likely kill them down to the ground. However, for most indoor growers this shouldn't be a problem. For best results, remember to water regularly, provide lots of bright light, feed regularly and move it outside in the summer. Kangaroo paw is vulnerable to mealybugs and aphids.