A Country Garden Journal may earn commission for purchases made after clicking links on this page. Learn More. This comes at no extra cost to you.
CANNAS FOR SUMMERTIME COLOR
QUICK Table of Contents
One of the more flamboyant plants that adorn the summer garden is the tropical looking Canna. These statuesque beauties are related to the banana plant, therefore this would explain the big leaves. Colorful Cannas add greatly to summertime color.
Cannas are perennial flowers and come in yellow, red, scarlet, pink, orange, and salmon, occasionally speckled with red. The huge leaves are green, bronze, burgundy, blue-green, or even a yellow and green tiger-striped.
Technically, cannas are grown from rhizomes. Not so technically, you will often see them called tubers or bulbs. Color is the only thing that matters to me. As a result, hummingbirds are drawn to color, and will often stop by for a sip.
Many of you live in an area of the country with a short growing season. As a result, many people start their canna rhizomes in pots indoors to give them a jump start on the season.
- Plant cannas outdoors in full sun in early summer. This will be right around the time your tomato plants are ready to go into the ground.
- Don’t rush things: Be sure to plant ONLY after all danger of frost is past. These plants are very hard to cover when the temperatures drop suddenly.
- Mix plenty of compost and fertilizer into the soil and make a planting hole that is at least a foot deep.
- Space the tubers 1 to 4 feet apart depending on the variety. For that reason, dwarf cannas can be planted closer together.
- Cannas must have well-drained soil.
- Plant them 2 to 3 inches deep with the eyes facing up.
- Cover with soil and firm it around the rhizomes. Water well.
Cannas are “heavy drinkers.” Keep them well watered, especially during dry spells. We are having the worst drought in many years right now, so I must keep the water hose handy. Consequently, a layer of mulch helps to retain moisture.
- Dwarf cannas are usually under 3 feet tall.
- Standard sized cannas grow from 4 to 6 feet tall.
- Few get taller than 8 feet, although the 15 foot tall Canna “Omega” is an exception to the rule.
- Because of their size you must stake the tall varieties.
Cannas were very popular a hundred years ago. Consequently, they were often planted in enormous beds in parks. Nowadays, they are sometimes planted in a mixed flower border. The shorter varieties are ideal to grow in containers, therefore they make wonderful cut flowers for bouquets.
I have seen cannas planted to “surround” a vegetable garden, possibly because the owner thought veggie gardens weren’t very attractive. Probably this was done to “hide” their harvest and to keep people from running off with it.
And one adventurous soul planted dwarf cannas in a window box. They rose high and reached the top of her windows, but she didn’t seem to mind.
CARE OF CANNAS
- Be sure to weed by hand. The rhizomes are planted very shallow, and a hoe or shovel can easily slice through them, ruining the plant.
- As the flowers fade, deadhead the spent blooms. As a result, this will promote repeat flowering. They continue to bloom from late Spring or early Summer all the way to first frost, usually for 10 to 12 weeks.
- Cut each individual flower stem to the ground when they stop blooming. Some folks just cut off the flower stalk and keep the leaves. They are so colorful you may not want to part with them.
- When late season frost turns the foliage dark, cut the whole plant back to the ground.
In colder climates, you need to dig the Canna rhizomes for winter storage. Depending on the condition of your basement, it may be difficult to downright impossible to store them. If it is too damp, too cold, or if you can’t keep mice from munching them, you may have to resign yourself to buying new plants each year.
- Carefully dig the rhizomes and shake the dirt off.
- Cut off the tops of the stems.
- Dry them for a few days before storage.
- Store them in peat moss or leaf mold in a location where they do not freeze.
- Space them in a box so they do not touch each other and keep them barely moist.
- Store them in a dry place at 45 to 50 degrees. Never let them dry out.
Some enthusiasts grow cannas from seed, but this is certainly not easy to do. It is less frustration to just buy the rhizomes each year or dig up and propagate your own. Divide the roots in the spring before planting outside. Make sure each piece has at least one “eye” or node. This is where new leaves will grow out.
Cannas are hardy to Zones 8 through 10. Because of this, in warm winter locations, cannas can stay right in the ground. As the clumps of plants become thickly matted, usually every 3 to 4 years, dig the clumps and separate the roots to make more plants. Do this in the wintertime after they are finished blooming for the year. Mulch them during the winter in the southern states.
The “Bengal Tiger” Canna, a.k.a. “Pretoria,” is a huge favorite of mine. The orange blossoms are just gorgeous with the sunlight shining through them. And the yellow and green striped leaves would be beautiful even if it never bloomed. They grow 4 to 6 feet tall.
“Red King Humbert” Canna is a deep red with leaves that turn from green to a dark bronze. They grow 4 to 6 feet tall.
“Yellow King Humbert” Canna is yellow with red-orange speckles. Occasionally it might show one solid orange or red petal, which is really lovely. The leaves are apple green. They grow 4 to 5 feet tall.
“City of Portland” Canna is pink with green leaves. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall.
“Red Futurity” Canna is a dwarf 3 foot tall plant. It is deep red with dark bronze leaves.
“Pink Futurity” Canna is pink with deep burgundy leaves. This dwarf grows 2 to 3 feet tall.
“Picasso” Canna is a dwarf 2 to 3 foot tall plant. The flowers are yellow peppered with red. The leaves are bright green.
“Cleopatra” Canna is a very old “chimera.” Consequently, the rhizomes are very hard to find. Growing between 3 and 4 feet tall, the leaves are green with a broad purple stripe. Likewise, the blooms are fascinating. Some petals are solid yellow, some are deep orange, some are yellow striped and speckled with orange.
HAPPY PLANTING! Susan