Count on cannas (Canna spp.) to bring tropical flamboyance to your garden. Several varieties have bold green foliage that might remind you of the banana, but the most intriguing cannas have foliage with accents of gold, burgundy, cream, bronze, and red. A few cultivars have burgundy leaves that look nearly black. Flowers range from vibrant yellow to salmon, deep red, orange, and pink. Some blooms are spotted or bi-colored. These tall beauties are striking in both raised beds and gardens. There are also dwarf choices that work well in pots.
Common name: Canna, Indian shot
Botanical name: Canna spp.
Plant type: Rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial
Height: 2 to 10 feet, depending on cultivar
Zones: 8 to 11 when treated as a perennial; annual in colder zones
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Well-drained, rich soil
- Moisture: Ample amounts
- Mulch: During the growing season, apply a thin layer of organic mulch to deter weeds.
- Fertilizer: Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer once a month during the growing season.
- Pruning: Deadhead spent blooms to keep flowers coming until frost.
- ‘Tropicanna' (pictured) has foliage with streaks of green, red, and gold. Flowers are salmon. Grows 5 feet tall.
- ‘Black Knight' has black/green leaves and dark red flowers. Grows 3 to 6 feet tall.
- ‘Brandywine' has green leaves and red flowers. Grows 18 to 36 inches tall.
- ‘Cleopatra' has red, white, or yellow flowers. The foliage is green, sometimes with a brown stripe. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall.
- ‘Intrigue' has dark burgundy and green foliage with light salmon blooms. Grows 6 to 9 feet tall.
- ‘Pretoria' has variegated green, cream, and yellow foliage and orange flowers. Grows 4 to 6 feet tall.
- ‘Tropical Rose' has green leaves and pink flowers. Grows 20 to 24 inches tall.
- ‘Tropical Sunrise' has apricot flowers with cream-colored edges and green leaves. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall.
- ‘Wyoming' has orange flowers and deep burgundy leaves. Grows 4 to 6 feet tall.
- ‘Yellow King Humbert' has green foliage and yellow flowers with red spots. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall.
- Buy firm, blemish-free rhizomes.
- Plant rhizomes 1 to 2 inches deep and 12 to 24 inches apart.
- Choose a location carefully. Cannas have large leaves and grow so tall that they can dominate a garden setting.
- Where treated as an annual, plant cannas in spring when soil is warm and danger of frost is gone. In fall, dig rhizomes after frost kills the foliage, but before the ground freezes. Dry rhizomes for a week, then remove foliage. Cover the rhizomes with perlite, vermiculite, or sand. Store at 40ºF to 50ºF degrees in a cool, dark, humid spot with good ventilation. Check rhizomes occasionally and toss shriveled, diseased, or insect-infested bulbs.
- Where treated as a perennial, protect with a heavy layer of organic mulch in winter.
- Rust, leaf spot, and bacterial blight appear frequently.
- Slugs and snails sometimes attack the leaves.
- In spring, divide rhizomes into sections, making sure each division has an "eye."
- Cannas are the only genus of the Cannaceae family.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Anthony Tesselaar.