Kangaroo paws versus evergreen daylily?

9 days ago


I have a spot in my garden where I need to replace the current plants (they are uneven and not growing properly). Just in terms of the design choice, I need a plant with foliage or bloom color ranging from burgandy/maroon, purple to violet. This will be a row surrounding a sandstone paved area and two lemon trees stand as a backdrop (that dictates my color choice, in that I'd like to create a contrast with the lemons hanging on the trees in the background). This whole area gets full sun. Also, these plants will sit next to a row of Dusty Millers that are already grown and thriving well.

I am currently trying to decide if I should go with Kangaroo Paws or Daylily. I have identified varieties/colors in both (although, with daylilies it's been a tad harder for whatever reasons) -- and it appears that I can find varieties that are evergreen, and have blooms that would offer a nice contrast with the rest of the garden.

My concern with Kangaroo paws has been that I am not sure if the habit of individual plants is grassy. I am seeking a fuller look than what I saw in the pots in the nursery. The nursery look was decidedly flat, somewhat like an orchid (i.e. leaves seem to grow out in more fan-like, flat fashion than in a fuller, circular fashion). The nursery person told me that they cannot be expected to grow much bigger and fuller than that, and that might not be sufficient for a row planting.

In contrast, the daylily is certainly more round and fuller in shape, but finding a variety that falls in the color group mentioned above, and an evergreen, is a tad bit difficult. Althought there are a gazillion daylily varieties, only a few are bred by the growers at a time, and I may be waiting for few months waiting for the right color to pop up.

I am interested to hear from the community how their experience with both these has been. Comparisons will be helpful. Also, if you know of any specific varieties that have worked for you, I'd love to hear.

P.S. My zone is 9/Sunset 15-16. I am in Norcal, Bay Area peninsula.

Thanks in advance!!

Comments (20)

  • apple_pie_order

    Kangaroo paws look a lot like orchids in the ground. They make excellent accent plants. I'd go with the daylily if you want fullness.

    homey_bird thanked apple_pie_order
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Fullness versus flowers? IME, the anigozanthus have a much longer bloom cycle and produce flowers much more heavily than do daylilies. And there is some discussion about just how evergreen evergreen daylilies really be truly evergreen and with little to no foliar damage during winter, you need to be growing them in a pretty much frost free climate.

    I'm in a very similar climate zone and they are not fully evergreen here and look pretty darn messy by winter's end!

    homey_bird thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • rustynail

    Hi homey_bird, we have several kangaroo paws in our front yard. They are very nice and when blooming very beautiful!
    At the end of the bloom, we cut the stalks off to keep the plants looking nice. This is the second year we’ve had them. I live in Benicia, the climate is good for them with minimal watering.

    homey_bird thanked rustynail
  • homey_bird

    Oh wow. So far it seems people unanimously favor Kangaroo Paws over Daylilies!!

    Can you please post own pictures? Esepcially pictures of the bottoms of the plants -- coz I am seeing plenty of bloom photos on Google!!

    FWIW, I will be planting them in straight rows, and I desire a continuous look. To clarify, full like daylilies: may be not essential but a filled-in appearance would be great. Especially because they stand next to Dusty Millers, that are thriving in this spot, and have been planted closely to each other.

    Thank you all for posting!!

  • rustynail

    I will post a couple pictures when I get home.

  • Christopher C Nc

    Why confine yourself to those two options when dozens of other plants might suit your color and evergreen requirement better? Daylily foliage, evergreen or not, is pretty boring and homely all season long and they only bloom for a month.

    Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha is just one plant in the purple zone that comes to mind that would work well with the sandstone paving, dusty miller, lemon combo.

    homey_bird thanked Christopher C Nc
  • homey_bird

    Hi Christopher C: Thank you for that comment. Yes, I am aware of Sages and in fact, what I have in this spot is a row of sages (albeit a different variety). What was lovely was seeing the butterflies and birds enjoying themselves as soon as they went in.

    But I have a few constraints that I did not mention earlier: I want the plant height to be no more than ~18-24 inches due to my design requirements. Mexican Bush Sages have grown pretty tall in this area, at least 3-5 feet sometimes. (Though, in terms of color, yes, this is a perfect shade of blue-purple to go with lemons and dusty millers!).

    Secondly, my other issue with sages is that they do not keep a shapely and predictable habit. While in some cases this does not matter, in my case, it does matter.

    My other peeve with the current sages is that they have grown unevenly, to a very unpredictable height. I planted them out of a 6-pack when they were tiny. Now, some of them are pushing 5 inches whereas some others have grown to 12 inches or taller. Some have grown a bushy habit whereas some have remained kind of think and lanky. This is just making the whole bed look really uneven. I understand that this was not so much a fault of the variety, and I was taking a chance, by picking the small sizes. But now I am willing to make a long term commitment and I need a plant that will grow predictably.

    I should also add that this happens to be a focal point of my garden, and it's visible from my large living room window as well as from all the seating areas within the backyard. I would like to choose something that continues to look attractive for the long term with minimal maintenance.

  • Christopher C Nc

    Lavender. There is something other than daylilies with far more year round appeal that will fit your requirements. California gardeners speak up.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I already voted for the Kangaroo paws. A much more interesting and long blooming plant compared to any daylily!! Just plant several in close proximity for a "full" look.

  • homey_bird

    Thank you for all the suggestions. I planted two rows of pink Kangaroo Paws this weekend. Now I am contemplating combining it with two perpendicular rows of lavender. (Thanks Christopher!!) Now, I only have one issue with Lavender, which is that I hear that in a couple of years it gets woody and leggy. I see many lavenders in my neighborhood that suggest this must be true.

    Is there any variety of lavenders that is immune to getting woody at the bottom? Does pruning lavenders during winter prevent this? I would definitely like to know this before finalizing my selection.

    I'll post photos when I am done planting. Thank you again!!

  • Christopher C Nc

    I don't know lavender varieties, but as a general rule I would think of them as long lived annuals. As in, yes, about every three years they will need to be pulled and replaced to stay fresh. That goes along with an annual post bloom trimming. That's pretty good for an annual.

    Now for shame on all of us. How could Agapanthus not have come to mind. It comes in different sizes and colors, white to deep purple, and has much more attractive long lasting foliage than daylilies.

    We could still use some California gardeners input, but what about the Aeoniums since you have the grassy foliage now with the kangaroo paws.

    Just to toss something else at you for other parts of the garden. Look at Louisiana Iris. Lots of colors with big iris flowers. Better lasting foliage than the Bearded iris. Will grow and bloom in your zone. I grew it beautifully in zone 11 Hawaii.

  • PRO
    Derviss Design

    Anigozanthos would be my preference.

  • homey_bird

    Hi @Derviss Design, those pictures are mind blowing!! Thanks for sharing :)

    Christopher: actually, I like your perspective of treating Lavender as long lived annual, but frankly, no, in this particular spot I’m looking for committed confirmed evergreens. And, those evergreens that keep looking good through winter (albeit California winter). I can handle pruning but don’t have any desire to keep uprooting and replanting - though, this might be an opportunity to play with the design. (This afternoon, I spent time in the garden planting those Kangaroo Paws after a long time, and boy!! It felt so great).

    Anyhow - regarding agapanthus: I know it too well. It definitely fits the bill but in the interest of debate, my only issue is that the bulbs divide and eventually crowd out the spot.

    Regarding Aeoniums and Louisiana Iris, I’ll look them up. Did not know of these plants. Always good idea to keep learning.


  • homey_bird

    Btw. @Derviss Design: can you name the plants in your photos? Specifically the orange grass and the chartreuse layer at the bottom (sedum?)

  • homey_bird

    Hello all, specifically for the discussion related to Lavender, I've started a new thread: here

  • PRO
    Derviss Design

    The orange grass is Carex testacea. In the past I have also used Stipa arundinacea for an orange look, it is more graceful but it is short lived.

    In front of the carex is a unusual oregano that I found at Emerisa nursery in Santa Rosa. They had it for a couple of years and stopped growing it. I think that Sedum angelina would create the same look but it too does not have long staying power like this wonderful chartreuse oregano.

    The anigozanthos came from a wholesale nursery in central CA. called San Marco's. Their website is very good for plant id . Many of the retail nurseries purchase from them so if you see something on their website you most likely can have your local retail nursery purchase it for you.

    I belive , if memory serves me correct, that this was Amber Velvet Anigozanthos.

    As a side note, If you experience a wet cold winter most Anigozanthos will succumb to the black ink fungus. But don't fear, it clears up as soon as the weather becomes warm and you can simply snip those blackened leaves off. Some hybrid strains are more resistant to it than others. In my experience the Velvet series is not impacted by it.

  • homey_bird

    @Derviss Design : I cannot thank you enough for your tips for Anigozanthos. I am new to this plant and for some reason, I looked up now and found that their life expectancy is 3-5 years. Sad :-( but like I said, I am learning. Having a nice garden over the long term is ongoing work. Also, in this spot, previously, I used to only have turfgrass and I used to grow edibles -- therefore this whole design of long-lasting shrubs is novel to me!!

    Another factor in decision making is that other family members don't seem to be keen on constant gardening and upkeep and say that they would like to sit back and enjoy the garden for at least a few seasons before taking it all out :-)

    Just out of curiosity, since you have planted Anigozanthos in your designs: do you go back and replace them after they have died, or have you found them to be longer living than that?

    Anyway -- thank you so much for sharing the information. I think it's an excellent idea to mix edibles/herbs with ornamentals. Something to think about in future gardening projects :-)

  • PRO
    Derviss Design

    I have found that Anigozanthos is quite long lived especially in neglected areas or areas that did not and do not receive wonderfully rich organic compost applications.

    That first photo is a commercial shopping center bed that was planted about a decade ago ( Hopmonk Brewery in Novato ) . It receives some commercial level maintenance attention but it is not lovingly cared for by a home gardener ( no disrespect to commercially cared for landscape companies) . The second image is of a residential project in Belvedere that was also planted about 10 years ago. It has not received 'attention to detail' maintenance over the years yet the Anigozanthos is doing well . The Leucadendron Jesters have not been adequately pruned and are out of scale now and looking rangey.

    I have some 'neglectful' areas in my own experimental home garden. Some of the kangaroo paws are going on 15 years old and still bloom despite the poor soil and infringing shade from the overhead oak trees .

    I believe that true to their native habitat that the Anigozanthos prefers lean soil fertility conditions and good drainage for it to be successful in the long run.

    Good gardening to you.

  • homey_bird

    I still have not fully planted my garden yet, but I know that I had to post the photos of the part that I was able to finalize on. This is the view from one end of my yard, with Kangaroo Paws alongside Dusty Millers. Next to the dusties and behind the boxwoods is Bacopa groundcover which is not fully visible in the photo.

    The same pattern repeats on the far side of the fountain (which is the giant pot).

    Thank you everyone for the help!!

    Now over to the other two sides :-) (I know that I could perhaps get away by repeating the same pattern, but I think a bit of a break in the continuum will add interest). I'm thinking that if at all I decide to go for Kangaroo Paws on the other two sides, then I will at least try to find a newer color just to add interest. (This, in lieu of the perfect plant that I am still looking for!!)

  • rustynail

    Looks beautiful!

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