- How to Plant Canna Bulbs
- The Canna Plant
- How To Plant Canna Bulbs & Canna Plant Care
- Canna Lily Facts… Did You Know?
- Canna Lily Care: How To
- Growing Dwarf Cannas A Personal Journey
- Canna Questions and Answers:
- The Boldness of Cannas In The Landscape
- Growing Canna Lilies
- Canna Lilies are not Lilies!
- Canna Lilies have many uses
- Pests and Diseases
- Canna Lily Care: How To Grow Canna Lilies
- Growing Cannas
- How to Plant Canna Lilies
- Canna Lily Care
How to Plant Canna Bulbs
Canna lilies are prized by many gardeners. The regal blooms add a striking display to any garden. If you are searching for something slightly different and unusually large to add to your flower garden, consider planting a canna lily. Plant the canna bulbs in the spring for summer blooming in a sunny garden.
Choose a sunny growing location in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Add approximately 2 inches of compost to the top of the soil and work the compost in to mix it completely with the existing soil. Strive to work the soil down to a depth of at least 1 foot.
Dig holes for the bulbs that are between 4 and 6 inches deep. Space very tall canna lily plants 2 feet apart and smaller canna lily plants 1 foot apart. Make sure you position the holes so that the canna lilies will grow behind most other plants if they are the very tall variety.
Place the bulbs in the prepared holes with the eyes facing up. Fill the soil in over the bulbs and pat it down firmly. Water the bulbs so that the soil is saturated.
Add at least 2 inches of mulch around the plants to keep the soil moist and prevent weed growth. Make sure the plants receive at least 1 inch of water each week. Cut the flowers off after they finish blooming.
Cut down the stalks and foliage to a height of 6 inches after the first killing frost. Dig up each bulb and dry it for two days. Place the bulbs in a box filled with enough peat moss to cover the bulbs. Make sure the bulbs are not touching each other in the box. Cover the boxes and store on shelves in a cool, dry area (between 45 and 55 F).
Plant the bulbs again in the spring following steps two through four.
Here’s the deal… Canna Lily Care is easy!
The canna lily plant is a flamboyant summer flowering plant with a bold look. The plant grows from thick, fleshy bulbs. Canna is a genus in the banana family called Cannaceae.
These beautiful garden plants are low maintenance, easy to grow herbaceous perennials.
Canna flowers during summer time in various vibrant flowers in color of red, yellow or orange. They go in and out of gardening style.
Cannas are native to North and South America, ranging from Argentina to South Carolina and parts of the Caribbean islands. However, they grow in most parts of USA.
Canna flaccida – A small yellow flowered wild canna species native to South Carolina and Florida. It was a principal parent of today’s modern Cannas, through hybridizers can see little resemblance now.
Apart from being ornamental plants in the garden, but they have “other” uses as well. Canna lily seeds are hard and sturdy, brown/ black, when dry and pea-sized. The hard bullet-like seeds of Canna indica earned it the name “Indian Shot.”
Tip: When growing cannas from seed, soak Canna seed in warm water, or notched with a file, to speed up germination.
The Canna Indica is used as a source of food as the bulbs or rhizomes contain starch, called achira. In Vietnam they use the starch to make high quality “cellophane” noodles. In Thailand the canna lily is a traditional gift on Father’s Day.
The Canna Plant
Introduced to Europe in the early 1500’s, canna species became popular tropical plants in the mid to late 1800’s.
Canna bulbs are perennial in nature. Individual stems have a thick rootstock or central stock which has on an average 10-12 leaves spirally growing around it. The plant leaf is generally emerald green but hybrids of dark bronze and maroon foliage colors, along with striping exist.
In the south, cannas are plant-em and forget-em. In cooler regions, they are grown as annuals. These plants can take plenty of heat and thrive in full sun. They require little care and continue to color your garden for years.
How To Plant Canna Bulbs & Canna Plant Care
Location – when you plant canna lily bulbs, find a location with a well-drained soil and gets plenty of sun. Soggy soil is not generally favorable for these plants.
If the soil does not drain after 5-6 hours, choose another site, or layer a compost in the soil with improve draining properties.
Lighting – For greatest number of blooms and dark green bright leaves, plant them in a location where they get lots of sun.
Spacing – There are tall and dwarf canna varieties. When planting canna lily bulbs, plant taller varieties 2′ feet apart. Plant dwarf varieties 1′ foot apart and 4″ inches deep in the soil for enough space to grow. Sow the rhizomes with their eyes, or growing points facing up.
Post planting – water plants well and enjoy heat for getting a good start. Roots sprout after a few weeks. If the temperatures are cooler in your area, they will take longer.
Water – When you water canna lily, the soil should remain damp but does not become soggy.
Pruning – In general, cannas do not require pruning. However, if you want to keep things clean, prune away.
Containers and Pots – When growing plants in pots or containers, fill them with a high quality well-drained soil. Any container or potting method works fine if drain holes are present.
Planting is just the same as discussed for open air planting. Container plants may need to be water twice per day during hot summers. Don’t allow plants to become root bound.
Tip: Grow Canna rhizomes planted in the spring after the weather warms. They are especially useful when planted one clump to an 18″- inch redwood tub.
Container Gardens – Canna can be mixed with any other of plants to make a striking container garden. This works well as long as all the plants have the same temperature and water requirements.
The video below uses Canna Tropicanna canna lily to make an attractive container garden.
Easy Tips for Growing Plants in Containers
Canna Lily Facts… Did You Know?
- Some countries use the canna rhizome as a rich edible starch
- The foliage and stems are used as cattle fodder
- Young canna shoots are be used in salads or eaten as a vegetable. The inner core is mildly sweet and crispy
- The seeds are sometimes ground up to make tortillas
- The seeds are used as beads in jewelry and rattles
- The seeds have been used to make a purple dye
- Canna indica small, black, hard seeds sink in water, and used as bullets, earning the common name ‘Indian shot’
- Canna plants have been used to make light brown paper
- In remote parts of India, cannas are fermented to make alcohol
- In Vietnam, they use the starch to make high quality “cellophane” noodles
- In Thailand, the canna lily is a traditional gift on Father’s Day
Canna Lily Care: How To
Canna Lily Care – Canna’s require minimum care and are quite easy to maintain for years.
Canna lily plants like moisture. Water them well but make sure to plant the roots in a well-drained soil. Soggy soil can rot roots quickly. Apply mulch to retain moisture in dry areas.
The are heavy feeding and love compost and organic material like manure. Slow-release canna lily fertilizer with high phosphate contents on a monthly basis to help keep continuous bloom. A liquid canna fertilizer during summer also works for keeping plants healthy.
How to deadhead canna lilies?
Deadheading the plants is not necessary for continuous blooming. However, pruning keeps things tidy in the garden which helps with overall garden pest control.
Dig rhizomes in Zone 7b and north cold climates during the fall. Storing canna lily bulbs and rhizomes should be a part of fall care.
Only remove leaves once they turn yellow.
Plants rest in fall and winter and get ready for the spring season.
Canna Pest and Diseases
Japanese beetles and caterpillars will feed on the foliage. Read our article on controlling caterpillars for details on dealing with them.
Bacterial infections start early when leaves are rolled up. This can lead to infected foliage and flowers rot.
To avoid bacterial infections, select healthy plants spray dormant rhizomes with a Streptomycin solution.
In mild winter areas, plants can be left outside with a shelter. However, it is better to apply mulch for no losses in winter.
Store cannas from year to year after the last frost… they are prolific enough to have lots to give away.
Over at A Way To Garden (awaytogarden.com), Margaret Roach has put together a nice slideshow and info on getting those cannas ready to fill the landscape. Check out the slideshow via A Way to Garden
For severe winter conditions, simply move specimens to a warmer environment. Remove the extra foliage, stems, make the soil dry and remove surplus soil and store the plants in a frost free place.
The plants can be planted in a warmer condition and watered as required. This is called winterization and is the best winter care for canna lilies.
In winter, do not keep plants dry or saturated with water. Both conditions cause them to wither in autumn. Just enough water, fertilizer, sunlight are best to keep plants healthy.
Growing Dwarf Cannas A Personal Journey
Below Betty Brinhart shares her personal experience growing dwarf canna rhizomes in a Popular Gardening Magazine article back in 1961.
The hybrids – they’ve improved, but you’ll find some nice little growing tips from a time when people took special care of there gardens. This was long before cable, iPads, and the internet! Enjoy
Years ago, many houses were large with spacious lawns. Tall cannas were a popular item and widely used in garden landscaping. As houses and lawns diminished in size, giant canna plants, with their large foliage and massive flower clusters, gradually disappeared from the scene.
Hybridizers have brought cannas back to our gardens by developing smaller, dwarf cannas that fit into the landscape of the modern home.
New canna flower colors are brighter and more beautiful than those of the old taller canna lily varieties. And there are many pastel tints that blend well with any background. The dark green or bronze foliage, with each plant producing several unbranched, stately stalks shooting up from a single rootstock.
These lovely new dwarf hybrids grow from 2 1/2′ to 3′ feet tall. Compact in size they freely produce large, gladiolus-like florets on medium-sized spikes.
Uses For Dwarf Cannas
Plant several red canna lily beside a white garden gate to add a splash of color all summer.
On either side of the borders, plant them to frame the plantings as well as within the borders themselves, to provide accents.
Plant a few along a white garden fence as a background for low-growing annuals such as petunias, and set others out in front of evergreen plantings to add color.
I’ve also seen four cannas of the same cultivars planted in the center of a circular bed, surrounded with low-growing annuals of a lighter shade. This combination creates a striking effect on a smooth, velvety green lawn.
The popularity of dwarf cannas, fuels the development of new and interesting varieties.
Most find all of the dwarf cannas easy to grow. If you have a greenhouse or a large sunny window, buy divisions around the first of March and start them in 4″ to 6″ – inch fiber pots for early bloom. Fill each pot two-thirds full of sandy soil. Lay the division down flat with the eyes pointing upward, then cover it with 1″ inch of soil. Keep the soil moderately moist at all times.
Fill each pot two-thirds full of sandy soil. Lay the bulbs or rhizomes down flat with the eyes pointing upward, then cover it with 1″ inch of soil. Keep the soil moderately moist at all times.
If you prefer, or if space is limited, plant all of your divisions in one large flat, placing 3″ inches of sandy soil below them, and 1″ inch above. Make certain the divisions do not touch, or rot may set in.
Cannas are tropical and subtropical plants and must have a constant warmth to produce growth. Keep temperatures around 70° degrees Fahrenheit night and day until sprouts develop.
When the sprouts are 3″ inches high, transplant the plants into a larger container or into a sheltered coldframe outdoors until all danger of frost is past.
If you want to increase your supply of plants cut back the foliage to the ground. Take up the divisions and cut each into as many sections as there are shoots. Leave as much of the fleshy division with each shoot as possible and take care not to harm the small roots already formed.
Replant canna rhizomes individually into fiber pots, and placed on a sunny window sill until all danger of frost has passed. Or transplant into a coldframe until outdoor planting time. If you do not want to divide the plants, leave them in the flat in a south window until they can be moved outdoors.
Leave as much of the fleshy rhizome with each shoot as possible and take care not to harm the small roots already formed.
Starting canna early indoors does provide an advantage, but is not required. Plant unsprouted divisions in their permanent location outdoors as soon as the soil has warmed up. These will bloom by midsummer or earlier, depending upon variety.
Preparing Outdoor Beds
Prepare the outdoor beds well in advance of planting time. This allows the organic matter, lime, or commercial fertilizers time to broke down from the soil bacteria, and converted into food for the plants.
Since dwarf cannas are heavy feeders with massive root systems, deep cultivation and plenty of organic matter are the secrets of success. Spade beds to a depth of 18″ inches, then turn in a reasonable amount of aged cow manure, peatmoss, compost, or leafmold, depending upon the needs of our soil. Rake the beds smooth and water them down well to settle the soil for planting.
If you do not have any organic matter on hand, you can use dehydrated cow manure with a 5-10-10 commercial fertilizer. Use this mixture only in the holes where the divisions, or plants, are placed.
After all plants sprout, top-dress the entire bed with this same mixture to help produce robust plants with plenty of bloom.
If you have established shoots growing in the house or in containers outdoors in the cold-frame, harden them off by gradually placing them in the open by day and bringing them in again on cool nights.
A Canna Lily Grower Tip
In most areas, the first week in June is a good time for transplanting canna shoots into their permanent locations.
Place two handfuls of fertilizer in each hole and mix it well with the soil. If using fiber pots, place pot and all into the hole. When transplanting the divisions from the coldframe, take a ball of earth with each one and water well after planting.
Set unsprouted divisions 2″ inches deep, 12″ to 24″ inches apart, depending upon the effect you wish to achieve.
Cannas are fast growers and need a great deal of water. Dry soil will retard growth, and deform the flower spikes. Water well at least twice a week during hot, dry weather. To help conserve moisture and to keep the soil in good tilth, mulch cannas with at least 6″ inches of green grass clippings after the shoots have reached a foot in height.
To help conserve moisture and to keep the soil in good tilth, mulch cannas with at least 6″ inches of green grass clippings after the shoots have reached a foot in height.
During the last week in July, just as the plants are setting their buds, mix up a liquid plant fertilizer made by stirring one-half cup of dehydrated cow manure into a gallon of warm water, using a quart per plant. If you prefer, you can give another top-dressing with a 5-10-10 commercial fertilizer instead of the liquid fertilizer. When using a dry fertilizer, water it in immediately with a fine hose spray.
Watch out for Japanese beetles bothering your cannas. Pick them off by hand. If any other insects should infest your plants, use an insecticide according to manufacturer’s directions. It is important to spray regularly as recommended until they all disappear.
Another pest to watch out for is the canna leaf roller. The first measure to control the larvae that feeds inside the rolled leaves is to consider Bacillus thuringiensis. Learn more about BT here and more about the canna leaf roller here.
Bacillus Thuringiensis Bt is a safe, effective, all-natural pesticide for controlling Caterpillar problems.
When frost finally blackens the canna foliage, cut off the stalks, take up the rootstocks and, after drying them off, store in a dry, cool place until spring.
- How To Care For A Bananna Tree
- Heliconia Plant Care and Maintenance
Canna Questions and Answers:
How Long Does A Canna Root Have To Rest?
Question: How long does a canna root have to rest? I would like to start them in pots in the house before setting them out later.
Answer: Start canna roots in March indoors and by May 1 you will have nice heavy plants ready to set outdoors. There is no advantage in starting cantles earlier than the middle of March for the plants would become too. large to handle in pots.
To start the new plants, cut each eye from the clumps. Each fat tip, a couple of inches long, will soon root and produce a new plant.
Cannas Have Lovely Foliage But Few Flowers
Question: I have some very old canna bulbs. Why do my cannas have lovely foliage but only is spike of a flower? Kansas
Answer: Old fashioned cannas were grown chiefly for their foliage. The newer hybrids are noted for their gorgeous flowers. It would be well to discard the cannas you are growing and buy some new hybrids in colors of your choice. No amount of pampering will make old strains of cannas bloom like the new hybrids.
Can You Start Cannas Indoors?
Question: Is it necessary to start cannas flowers indoors?
Answer: If your growing season is short and cannas bloom just before killing frosts when planted directly outdoors, it is advisable to start the tubers in March in flats or large pots in a warm cellar or attic.
The Boldness of Cannas In The Landscape
Where a bit of striking color is desirable, cannas plants are the answer for color all summer. Their foliage and blossoms are spectacularly bright. The thick leaves, which may be dark green, yellow pink and green, with red striped leaves or bronze, give a tropical feeling. Flowers are large and showy, most often in vibrant yellow and scarlet colors bring a boldness to the landscape and that never goes out of style.
Growing Canna Lilies
Canna Lilies are not Lilies!
These fabulous wildly exotic plants are kissing cousins to Bananas and Ginger plants.
Order: Zingiberales, Family: Cannaceae, Genus: Canna
Although Canna Lilies originally came from the tropics, most of the cultivars have been developed in temperate areas. They will survive a wide range of conditions but I don’t know of any that will live through the winter.
Canna Lilies have many uses
Canna Lilies are multi-talented plants. They have been grown for their spectacular foliage which can be various shades of green, variegated or a fabulous bronze colour. If you plant them in a shady area you will be unlikely to get many flowers but the fabulous foliage fills many otherwise empty space.
Most Canna Lilies have lovely flowers and produce seeds. In my garden growing canna lilies provide me with exuberant exotic foliage with the addition of bright red flower spikes. The flowers actually come in a wide range of colours and textures. The leaves can be green or bronze, variegated white and green, and I’ve even seen one plant with pinkish leaves.
Do you need a short term privacy hedge? Canna lilies can grow to 6 or more feet in a season and provide lots of temporary privacy while your real hedge is growing. Not only do they grow quickly but they can be planted in quite shallow soil, as long as you feed them and water them enough.
Cannas are not only grown for their appearance, but also for their large starchy rhizomes.
These are used for human and animal food. The foliage is useful as fodder and the young shoots are eaten when they are tender. The inner core is crispy and mildly sweet and can be added to salads (I’ve tasted them and give them thumbs up.)
The hard seeds have been used as beads and inside rattles. They are also ground into tortillas but I’ve not tasted these.
Canna plants have also been used to produce paper.
I planted quite a lot of cannas this year at my new house and the flowers were attracting lots of hummingbirds.
Canna Lilies are a favourite of gardeners everywhere because of their good nature and reliable show. They are also safe around pets and children since they are not poisonous at all.
Given proper drainage they will thrive in most soils although I’ve had more success in lighter mixes. They don’t like wet feet. They can tolerate dry conditions better.
Cannas are fast growing plants and can reach 6 feet in good conditions.
Cannas are usually grown from tubers or root division. In the fall I dig up enough roots to plant in the spring and put them away carefully. Here is a link to my page on overwintering canna lilies.
It’s now mid April and it’s time to start the cannas. I’ve found some of my storage roots and and cleaned up a good large clump. I then cut it in convenient sizes cutting out any rotten piece. You want a couple of eyes on each piece if you can. That clump gave me enough chunks to plant 5 small pots. It’s good to let the cut dry in the sun for a short while, it helps prevent mold. I had a bit of rot this year because my tubers did not get a good chance to dry out before being put away. Fall was a hectic time and putting the canna roots away was low on the list.
I plant cannas in small pots 8-12 inches for the plants I just want to get started early before putting them in the ground, and plant in larger pots for cannas that I want to grow in pots. They make a nice potted plant but need a lot of water.
The smaller varieties are less likely to outgrow their pots as the larger ones. They can break their pot if they get too root bound. This pot cracked under the pressure.
One advantage of growing in large pots is that come fall, you can let the plant dry out a bit cut the tops off and store them, pot and all. In the spring you will have to re pot the divided roots but if you’re in a hurry or the weather has been really too bad to dig up and dry the roots properly, you can store the pot with all the roots.
If you put the plants in a warm spot, I’m lucky, my pool enclosure is a plastic greenhouse, the plants will start coming up in a couple of weeks, depending on temperature of course. At this stage they don’t need light so you could put them in a warm basement or shed until the shoots come up. They will then need to be kept in good light and not be allowed to freeze. You can see some shoots coming up in the larger pots.
When there is no more frost I’ll plant them out.
You can wait till the chance of frost is past and plant your rhizomes directly in the ground. It will take a bit longer to get flowers though.
Canna lilies quickly grow into an attractive central plant. Here they anchor a new flowerbed before the more permanent plants have grown to size.
Garden store will often sell the young plants in the spring, looking innocent in smallish pots. As soon as you give them a bit more space they take off and grow at a surprising rate in good conditions. The Variegated types are slower. There are also “dwarf” varieties.
Canna lilies do very well in pots. I’ve grown them for years in my little Toronto back garden using 12-14 pots.
Plastic pots are better, Cannas can shatter a clay pot if the rhizome grow too big. I also have them in large garbage cans and they love this.
Canna Lilies like several hours of sun if they can get it. They will survive surprising amount of shade but flowers will not be as numerous. Plants on the left survive in mostly bright shade and camouflage the composter. Cats are often sleeping around the plant keeping an eye open for mice.
In the fall I dig up the rhizomes, let them dry a bit, then pack them up in rubbermaid containers filled with peat moss. I put them in the cool basement for the winter. They survive just fine.
Growing Canna Lilies from Seeds
Canna lilies can easily be grown from seed. Collect mature seeds in the fall and let them dry. They don’t need to be kept cold (stratification). In the spring you can start them inside and put them out when there is no more frost. Canna seeds are tough little blighters and will do much better if you sand off a bit of the hard coating. Sand on a plain area, till you can see the inside, but don’t damage it. Soak your seed overnight and plant. They like a little bottom heat and if you have a germinating mat you will get a better and quicker rate of germination. Keep watered but not soaking wet. The seedlings will come up in a couple of weeks (sometimes more, don’t give up). Baby canna lilies look very sweet and small but quickly grow into big strapping plants so don’t let them fool you into putting them in areas where they will crowd out their neighbours.
Here is my page on what seeds need to grow Some seeds can be quite tricky if you don’t know their requirements. Here is a link to Growing Canna Lilies from Seed.
Every year I find a few seedlings popping up in unexpected areas. Since the seeds are quite tough they can survive for a few years in the ground if it’s quite dry.
Pests and Diseases
Canna Lilies are hardy plants and are wonderfully free from problems.
Canna Lilies are delicious to Canna Leaf Rollers. These are little butterflies called skipper butterflies that produce a caterpillar that will shred a Canna Lily. They roll up the leaf and eat them. If you see the leaves getting gummed up with silk, you can open it up and remove the caterpillar. The leaf then gets a cleaning.
Last year I found a few very fuzzy caterpillars on my Cannas. They looked like the either Saltmarsh or Woolybear caterpillars. Probably Woolly bear, there are lots around here. This was the first time I saw them. They seemed to only eat the underside of the leaf.
There are insecticides that can control these bugs. I try to avoid them and between picking out the big bad guys by hand and letting the good bugs deal with the little bad guys, I don’t seem to have much trouble.
One day I had the visit from a few Japanese Beetles
I know gardeners everywhere despise them but they are very lovely insects with their bright copper bodies and iridescent head. They have little furry skirts of white hair tufts. I left them alone on their Canna and they ate a leaf to lace. One afternoon there was wild Japanese beetle romance and sex, then they disappeared. They are large insects and can be picked off by hand. This is what I do if there are more than just a couple.
A large infestation can strip a plant in a few hours so keep an eye out. After you’ve picked off the beetles, wash the leaves with a hose. Japanese beetles leave a pheromone that attracts their friends.
When you go to pick off the beetles put one hand under the beetle then try and catch them with the other hand. They often jump off the leaf when they are pursued. Hopefully they land in your hand. Squish them or put them in a jar of soapy water to drown them.
There are also some viruses which attack Canna lilies. I’ve never seen any. Here is the Wikipedia article on Canna Virus.
At the end of the season before big frosts occur, you can dig up the roots dry them a bit and store them in a cool frost free area for planting next spring. Before planting you can split the larger roots and get several plants going. Look for growing buds for each of the new pieces. Let the cut or snapped pieces dry a bit before planting.
Some cannas don’t really make rhizomes but rather have thick roots. In that case carefully dig up the plant, remove some of the soil and trim any long root and keep in moist peat over the winter. If the plant was in a small enough pot, just stop watering a few days before, cut off the tops and bring into a cool dark space for the winter. Don’t bring in sopping wet plants though, they will rot.
I try to be accurate and check my information, but mistakes happen.
email me if you find mistakes, I’ll fix them and we’ll all benefit: Christine
Canna Lily Care: How To Grow Canna Lilies
The canna lily plant is a rhizomatous perennial with tropical-like foliage and large flowers that resemble that of iris. Canna lilies are low maintenance and easy to grow, and both their flowers and foliage offer long-lasting color in the garden. Flower color may be red, orange or yellow. Depending on the variety, foliage color varies from green to maroon, bronze, and variegated types. Let’s look at how to plant canna lilies and tips for growing cannas.
While typically grown as annuals in cooler regions, given the proper conditions, canna lilies can color the garden year after year. They like plenty of heat, so place them in full sun. They can also tolerate partial shade.
Cannas like moist conditions
too, but will tolerate nearly any well-draining soil that is either neutral or slightly acidic. They appreciate bog-like conditions as well. The soil should also be rich in organic matter.
When growing cannas in the garden, placing them in mixed borders or group plantings will offer the most dramatic effect.
How to Plant Canna Lilies
Cannas can be planted outdoors in warm climates or containers in other areas. During spring, when planting of canna lily plant, wait until the threat of frost has passed. Groups of cannas should be planted about a foot or two apart.
While technically they don’t have a top or bottom, most canna rhizomes can be planted horizontally with the eyes facing up. Cover the rhizomes with 3 to 6 inches of soil. Water well and apply a layer of mulch to retain moisture.
Canna Lily Care
Once established, cannas need to be kept moist. They also require monthly fertilizer that is relatively higher in phosphate for continual bloom. It’s usually necessary to dig up and store canna rhizomes in the fall.
They can also be overwintered in pots and allowed to grow throughout the winter season. In spring they can be replanted or moved back outdoors. You can also divide the plant during this time if necessary.
Evocative is the word that comes to mind when I see canna lilies. I have visions of jungles, plants with giant unfurling leaves, sunshine and bright red, yellow, pink or fiery orange flowers. Hailing from South Africa, New Zealand and tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, cannas are just one of the exotic flowers from the bottom half of the globe that thrive here.
Cannas require only four hours of full sun to produce nonstop color throughout the summer and often long into fall. Plant them in full sun or partial shade. A bonus for Napa Valley gardeners living in the hills and dales of our county: most deer will leave most canna alone.
Canna comes from the Greek word, kanna, which means reed or grass. The plants are not actually related to lilies at all. Canna is also referred to as Indian shot because of their hard, black, round seed, which is used as a bullet in handmade weapons.
The hosho, a gourd-like Zimbabwean musical instrument, has canna seeds enclosed, another traditional use for this plant. I can attest to the seeds’ pellet-like appearance. They are very round and very hard. I bought seeds and then read the seed packet to discover it would be at least three years until the plants bloomed. Life and my attention span are short. I ordered tubers. They will arrive in February and be verdant and blooming by May.
In many areas of the country, canna lilies need to be dug up in fall and stored through winter before replanting in the spring. We are lucky here. With our comparatively mild winters, and with careful consideration of the planting site, cannas can stay in the ground all year and are considered perennial in Napa Valley. Planting cannas on the south side of a wall, fence or building shields them from cold, harsh winds and provides plenty of sunlight for good tuber formation.
Cannas spread by fattened extensions of the stalk known as rhizomes, which are storehouses of carbohydrates and proteins. The leaves capture those four hours of needed sunlight and, through photosynthesis, convert the light into proteins and carbohydrates that feed and enlarge the rhizomes. The size and health of the rhizomes determine the size and health of the glorious blooms you will reap the following year.
Cannas begin blooming in early summer and are still blooming now in Napa County. One gorgeous display is the eye-catching bed of scarlet cannas in front of Sutter Home Winery as you enter St. Helena from the south. They are stately, magnificent and gloriously red.
Although it is not time to plant cannas now, it is the right time to order for the best selection. Nurseries are filling canna orders now for planting in February and March.
If you already have canna lilies in your garden, let the leaves die back naturally, then cut them at ground level. A little extra mulch will protect your canna rhizomes through the coldest months.
Plan where your canna bed will be in the spring. Cannas are not particularly fussy and can tolerate a wide variety of soil. For the happiest and ultimately showiest plants, provide loose, friable soil amended with manure, compost and high-nitrogen fertilizers.
When it is time to plant, space your rhizomes about 18 inches apart or follow the directions for spacing from the supplier. Plant them about 2 inches deep, placing the rhizomes horizontally with eyes facing up. If the eyes are not obvious to you, they will still find their way to the sun.
When the soils warm up and cannas begin to sprout, give their root areas a good soak once a week. If the weather is especially hot, water every other day.
Cannas have spectacular blooms, but some varieties have even more attention-getting foliage. Their broad leaves remind me of banana plants and come in colors ranging from bright lime- green to blood-red and purple. Leaves can be striped or variegated.
Dwarf cannas produce clumps reaching just a foot or two in height, while giant cannas range from six to eight feet. Other varieties can reach eight to ten feet in height, making a vibrant and dramatic screen. Single plants can be bold focus points.
Local nurseries will have canna rhizomes in the spring, but for the best selection and the opportunity to learn more about cannas, check online sites and order now. Bring a little bit of the tropics to your Mediterranean garden.
Workshops: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will conduct 2 January workshops in 2019:
“Rose Pruning” on Saturday, January 5 from 10-12 noon at the UCCE Meeting room, 1710 Soscol Ave, Napa. Get all your Rose pruning questions answered at this interactive workshop. Topics include rose types, how and when to prune, what tools to use along with tool care, safety, and sanitation. For registration Online Registration (credit card only) or Mail-in/Walk-in registration (check only or drop off cash payment).
“How to Plan and Plant a Home Vineyard” on Saturday, January 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in Yountville. Join our Integrated Grape Team members to learn techniques for planning and planting a home vineyard. The workshop will be held at a new home vineyard planted last year. Learn the necessary planning steps, become familiar with the checklist of activities, methods of determining the proper rootstock, selection of wine grape varietals for specific locations and estimated yield calculations. Review our calendar timeline for planning, site preparation, initial planting and timing of the first harvest for a new home vineyard. Online registration (credit card only); Mail-in/Walk-in registration (check only or drop off cash payment).
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http:/napamg.ucanr.edu/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.