Now is the time to clean up and divide your kangaroo paws. Angus Stewart, author and native plant expert explains.
Kangaroo paws are one of Australia’s iconic wildflowers, and in recent decades plant breeders have turned them into spectacular garden plants with an ever-increasing array of new colours and sizes, often with much longer flowering periods than the wild species. To keep clumps looking spectacular and flowering for years to come, it’s important to annually clean and tidy the plants. Autumn and winter, after their main flowering period but before they start to produce flower buds in spring is an ideal time.
Kangaroo paws grow from an underground stem called a rhizome from which the shoots arise. Each shoot produces a single flower stem that dies back after it finishes. It is a great idea to remove these spent flower stems along with the leaves that are associated with them as they gradually die back and turn black and make the clump look very tired. The trick is that you can also divide up your kangaroo paws at the same time as you remove spent flowers and foliage.
Lift the whole clump out of the ground with a spade or garden fork. Work your way around the whole clump before gently lifting it out of the soil, preserving as many roots as possible.
Using a spade or an old saw, cut through the rhizome to create smaller clumps, ensuring each clump has several new shoots. Again, preserve as much of the associated root system as possible. Use secateurs to remove all spent flower stems and old leaves. Also, remove the top half of the foliage from the new shoots to reduce the amount of water they need while the new divisions are establishing.
Plant new divisions back into the garden or into pots. To plant in the garden, prepare the soil by loosening it up with a spade and digging in a native plant fertiliser such as Neutrog's Bush Tucker. Water in well to firm the soil. If it is in an exposed spot, erect some temporary protection around it until it is showing signs of new leaf growth. For pots, use a general-purpose potting mix, water in well, and place pots in a sheltered spot in the garden. Water plants roughly once a week and once you see roots coming out of the drainage holes, they are ready to go back into the garden. When planting potted divisions in the garden, dig a generous amount of fertiliser into the planting hole – this will help them flower to their full potential once the warmer season arrives. As spring approaches, keep an eye out for the newly emerging flower stems as your paws will need a steady supply of moisture through the flower development period