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from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Cannas in the Garden

There’s nothing boring about canna lilies!

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you may be aware of my fondness for canna lilies. This winter I am overwintering eight large trash bags filled with canna roots. Friends are starting to place their requests for planting-size chunks this spring!

I wasn’t always a canna fan and I still don’t like the full-size flowers very much. My friend and fellow blogger David Grist got me started with two of the smaller-flowered varieties. Intrigue has delicate, bright orange flowers that create a bold contrast with the dusky, purple-burgundy-blue-green foliage. In the slideshow at the end of the post, you can see it in the picture of my cutting garden, planted with amaranth. I also grow Panache, which has long slender buds that open into spidery, pale-peach flowers with hints of yellow and pink. Its foliage is plain green, but the leaves are slightly frosty with a blueish tint. Hummingbirds love both of them.


Panache

There are lots of ways to use cannas in the garden. I especially like growing them in large pots. You need to be prepared to water heavily almost every day and fertilize generously, but they’ll reward you handsomely with big, tropical foliage and soaring flower spikes. Make sure you pick a very large, heavy-duty pot (the size of a half whiskey barrel leaves room for some companion plants). From personal experience, I recommend using a pot that doesn’t taper inward at the top. By the end of the growing season the entire pot will be completely filled with canna roots and if the pot is narrower at the top than the bottom, it will be virtually impossible to remove the root ball.


Intrigue

Another effective way to use cannas is to create a hedge. I was at Cistus Nursery in Oregon last fall and they’d screened their parking lot with a 60-foot hedge of cannas. Wow! That’s a fence any neighbor would like. At my house I created a hedge at one end of my cutting garden by interplanting cannas with a dark-red amaranth. The plants seemed to complement each other well, and looked great right into late October. Another hedge-like combination that’s been successful in my garden is planting dahlias between the cannas.

Until now I’ve been able to limit my cannas-growing adventures to the two varieties mentioned above. But last summer I decided it’s time to try a canna with variegated foliage such as Bengal Tiger or Tropicana.

If you’d like to try growing cannas this year, check out the spring lineup of cannas at Dutch Gardens.

-Kathy LaLiberte
Director of Gardening, Gardener’s Supply

Related post: Where My Tender Plants Spend the Winter

14 Comments

  1. February 16, 2009    

    I’ve never grown them. I have too many other things ahead of them on my dream list. I always enjoy seeing them in other peoples gardens though. They’re very exotic.

  2. RR
    February 24, 2009    

    I am very interested in Cannas since I grew the Canna australis and it multiplied over a two year period and I am now dividing and planting it around my patie area. Can you suggest any other tall purple leafed cannas?

  3. February 24, 2009    

    For purple leaves, try Australia. It gets about 5 feet tall. You can see it at Dutch Gardens:
    http://www.dutchgardens.com/Australia%20Canna/80006,31388S,default,cp.html

  4. Anonymous
    March 3, 2009    

    I have had to stop growing cannas. They seem to be a white fly magnet. THey don’t mind heat, low water doesn’t seem to bother them much, they will stay in the ground forever sprouting when they want to.
    Perfect except for white flies.

  5. March 3, 2009    

    It sounds like you live someplace that’s fairly warm in the winter. Lucky you! If whiteflies are a problem, you might want to check out Controlling Whiteflies, an article on our site.

  6. March 3, 2009    

    Too bad about those whiteflies. Though cannas will tolerate dry soil, they prefer plenty of moisture, having originating in a tropical environment with moderate to high humidity.
    Whitefly problems can indicate that a plant is stressed — often by dry air (the bougainvilleas in my dining room are currently covered with whiteflies because they’ve HAD IT with wood heat and want to go outdoors!).
    Maybe try growing your cannas where they’ll get more moisture and some shade from the afternoon sun?

  7. lvm
    March 4, 2009    

    I live in Southern Maryland adjacent to about 5 miles of forest. Deer are a serious issue. How “deer resistant” are the cannas?

  8. March 4, 2009    

    Cannas are on the short list of “deer-resistant plants”. That’s the good news.
    But if you live in a place with a very large and hungry deer population, you already know that “deer resistant” means only that cannas won’t be the first food of choice. When deer are very hungry they will eat almost anything and everything.
    If deer are a big problem, you might have success making them even more distasteful by spraying them with a scent/taste deterrent such as Liquid Fence, which is available on our website. – Kathy

  9. Anonymous
    March 6, 2009    

    These plants are very easy to grow and can be divided and spread about your landscape over the years. I bought one corm ten years ago that I have over many linear feet of my landscape. They’re really a no brainer. I have seen them in Georgia used along the interstate in very impressive mass plantings.

  10. March 27, 2009    

    Here in Massachusetts Cannas are definitely annuals, but worth the price every year I admit. I put them in container gardens with other tropicals like Croton, Hibiscus, Allamanda, Bougainvillea, and Plumbago. I make sure to plant them in large pots that hold water well, not terracotta. I add nasturtiums, petunias and verbena to attract even more hummingbirds. There is a dwarf yellow Canna that is really excellent. I wish I could remember the name right now . . .

  11. May 3, 2009    

    For a very gorgeous canna, try Cleopatra. Red stripe on leaves with red and yellow flowers. Very striking.In my NoCal garden they are in the ground yr round. Mine get to be about 4′ but in SoCal my mother’s were about 6′.

    49er Gardener

  12. May 24, 2009    

    I find Cannas to be very pricey, but worth it- ive been growing them for a long time now.

  13. July 2, 2009    

    When the bloom goes brown and has finished blooming, do I cut it off? I see them all over town with the brown ex-bloom. Does that stalk ever bloom again?

  14. July 2, 2009    

    Hi. Cannas usually continue sending up flower spikes right through the season, and will be more inclined to do so if you cut off the spent flowers. So yes, do cut off the part of the stem that has finished blooming. Not only will the plant look better without those withered brown flowers, but by preventing the plant from producing seeds, you will keep it focused on making more foliage and flowers.

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