Kangaroo Paw

By Deryn Thorpe – This story appeared in Habitat in The West Australian on June 28

Kangaroo PawAt Kings Park recently I was given a guided tour of the greenhouse and gardens where staff are breeding new plants that will one day be the stars of gardens throughout southern Australia.

While I was bowled over by the beauty of many prospective Grevilleas it was the lengths that the staff take to ensure disease resistance that I found both fascinating and reassuring.

One of the most troublesome diseases of kangaroo paws is ink spot, which is an unsightly black fungus common in many species. To make sure that the new hybrid plants are disease resistant the trial plants are sprayed with an emulsion containing spores of the fungus and only those that come through without disease continue though the breeding program, ensuring that new releases are both beautiful and disease free.

A lot of breeding has been done with kangaroo paws to create better varieties.
Basically there are three different types available in nurseries which all need free draining soil and at least six hours of sun, mostly flowering in colours of yellow, orange and red. While species plants are available from native plant specialists most garden centres sell improved forms with the Bush Gems label.

The toughest are the ones developed for low maintenance landscaping which flower for about half the year from spring to autumn, growing from 1m to 2m tall. Good varieties are Big Red, Kings Park Federation Flame and Bush Gold.

Dwarf kangaroo paws, sometimes known as joey paws or minis are mostly about 40cm tall and have cat’s paws in their breeding. They flower year round but are not long lived in the garden but may survive for a couple of years in a pot.

The medium sized varieties grow from 50cm to 80cm tall and come in the widest range of colours including Bush Pearl which is bright pink, Bush Diamond which is white and Bush Dance which is the most compact form of the iconic red and green kangaroo paw.