- Why Won’t My Cannas Bloom – What To Do When Your Canna Will Not Flower
- Why Won’t My Cannas Bloom?
- What to Do When Your Canna Will Not Flower
- Getting Started with Cannas
- Cannas add tropical garden color, tolerate Texas summers
- The basics of cannas
- Caring for cannas
- Pests and problems you may see
- Cannas in your garden
- Varieties to look for
- Calla and canna lilies
- Quick facts
- Calla lilies
- Canna lilies
- Canna Lily Bulbs – The President Pre-Sale Now; Ships Spring 2020
- President Bulb
- Tropicanna Black Canna Lily
- Canna Tropicanna series
- Landscaper tips
Why Won’t My Cannas Bloom – What To Do When Your Canna Will Not Flower
Canna lilies are plants with beautiful bright blooms and unique foliage that can add a tropical look to gardens in almost any region. In hardiness zones 9-12, canna lilies will grow as perennials. However, in cooler locations, canna lilies are grown like annuals, their bulbs dug up every autumn and stored indoors through cold winters. Whether grown permanently in the ground or dug up and replanted each season, age and other factors can reduce the vigor of canna blooms. If you are experiencing no flowers on a canna plant, this article is for you.
Why Won’t My Cannas Bloom?
Canna lilies produce beautiful tropical blooms in bright shades of red, orange, yellow and white. Different varieties of canna may also have very colorful or unique foliage. For example, Tropicanna has stripes of green, red, orange, pink, purple and yellow on their foliage. While many varieties of canna can be enjoyed strictly for their colorful foliage, we usually plant these hoping for an abundance of blooms in addition to the nifty tropical-like leaves.
Ideally, canna lilies that are planted each spring as annuals should have adequate time to produce plenty of blooms in a growing season. When grown like this, as annuals, a canna lily not blooming could be a sign that the rhizome was planted too deep. Canna lily rhizomes should be planted no deeper than 2-3 inches (5-7 cm.) deep. Planting canna lily rhizomes too deep can cause the plants to be stunted or have delayed bloom time, or no blooms at all.
What to Do When Your Canna Will Not Flower
Other reasons for a canna lily not blooming are too much shade, drought, overcrowding and nutrient deficiencies. Canna will not flower if it is not getting adequate sunlight. Canna lilies need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Canna lilies also require consistently moist soil. The soil must be well draining to prevent rots, but it should still retain moisture. When stressed by drought or inadequate watering, canna lilies will reserve their moisture by sacrificing blooms. This is also the case if canna lilies are not getting enough nutrients.
For best blooms, plant cannas in full sun, water regularly and fertilize plants 2-3 times throughout the growing season with a general 10-10-10 fertilizer.
The most common reason for no flowers on a canna plant is overcrowding. When grown as perennials, canna lilies will grow and spread very quickly. In time, they can choke themselves out. Canna plants that have to compete for water, nutrients, or sunlight will not bloom. To keep canna plants happy, healthy and full of blooms, divide them every 2-3 years.
Getting Started with Cannas
Yes, you can – grow Cannas!
Cannas are tuberous plants with colorful tropical looking foliage and brilliant, lily-like flowers. The leaves may be green, yellow, purple or multi-colored with stripes, marginal markings or blotches. The flowers come in colors of white to ivory to shades of yellow, orange, pale to deep pink, apricot, coral, salmon and a variety of reds.
Their common name is Indian-Shot. This refers to the plant’s black, very hard seed, which resembles the shot or pellets in shotgun cartridges. Cannas come from tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas and Asia. They are easy to grow, both in the ground or in containers. They can be grown from seed or by saving the tubers from year to year. The leaves may be used in flower arrangements. The flowers only last a day to two, so, do not make good cut flowers.
There are three main types of cannas: lower growing and dwarf varieties include the French or Crozy cannas which grow 3-4 feet tall, with large flower trusses; the Pfitzer Dwarf cannas from Germany, which grow 2½ to 3 feet tall; and the Seven Dwarfs series which only reach about 18 inches. The Italian, or orchid-flowered cannas, are tall 4-5½, and the flower segments are more open and spreading than the French cannas. The third group includes all the other cannas, most of which are the tall, 5-6 feet, old-fashioned varieties with smaller flowers and large leaves.
Because of their tropical look and lush foliage, cannas look great when planted against a plain background and in groups of a single color. They make striking poolside plantings and look great around or in containers on terraces, patios or decks. They are great mixed with hot colors in a perennial border. They go well with tall grasses. Cannas bloom continuously and look good all summer, even through the dog days of August.
Cannas were used extensively in the Victorian era as they lend themselves well to bedding out schemes and formal gardens. For a taste of this type of planting go to Skylands in Ringwood in August or September and look at their annual garden. It is very Victorian. More recently bedding out schemes had lost favor as had bold colors and tropical foliage. The style of 30 to 10 years ago was cool colors, pastels and perennial borders. The pendulum has swung back the other way now, and bold colors, foliage and the tropical look are back in. These combinations are being used in a more informal manor and usually thickly planted for a lush look.
Although cannas may be grown from seed, usually the seed will be mixed colors and sizes, so what you get may not be what you want. Seeds may be started in early spring. Nick the seeds with a file or knife or soak in warm water overnight to hasten germination. Plants need to receive good light and may be planted outside in late May.
If you buy rootstock, you will be assured of getting what you want both in size and color. Rootstock may be started indoors in early April for a late May planting. Start in flats or pots with bottom heat and keep them warm until they sprout. Afterwards supply them with good light for strong growth. Or plant them outside in the spring. Cannas are hardy to Zone 7, so they can take some cold. Here at the Arboretum, we often plant them outdoors in early May. They usually take a few weeks to really come up but the root system is establishing itself during that time. Plant them 4-6 inches deep, 10-24 inches apart (depending on cultivar).
Cannas love rich lose soil with all the fertilizer you can give them and as much heat and sun as possible. Keep them well watered at all times. Pick off faded flowers to prevent seed production and when the stalk has finished blooming, cut it down completely to the ground.
If you live in Zone 7 (shore) or plant you canna right by the foundation of the house, it will be hardy outdoors. If you have a lot of rootstock available, you might try leaving some in the ground over winter and mulching heavily. Some cultivars are reported to be more hardy than others. Otherwise, you must dig them up in fall, after a frost has hit. Lift them out of the ground with a fork and shake off the soil. Leave them outdoors for a day to two if possible to dry off. Store the rootstock in brown paper bags, open cardboard boxes or burlap in a cool, but not freezing place. An unheated attached garage or cool basement works well. At the Arboretum, we store ours in a cool hoop house still in their containers and watered occasionally. Others are stored out of a pot in a cool cellar. Check the roots occasionally to make sure they are not drying out too much. Spray a little water on them from time to time if needed. The next spring bring out the rootstock, and divide as needed. Leave at least three eyes to a division and more if you like. Container grown ones should only be a small division, especially if you plan to plant something else in the container.
Cannas do well as a single item in a container or may be combined with other tender annuals. Be sure to pick items of approximately the same size as cannas grow quickly and can easily overwhelm other plants in the containers. Perhaps you will choose to use tall, fast growing coleus as a foil in the containers.
Cannas have few pests or disease problems. Occasionally European Corn Borer may attack the stalks in last summer or early spring. The larva is pink, ¾ inch long; the egg-laying moth is yellow-brown and nocturnal, thus hard to spot. If you find this borer, kill it, and try to get the larva out of the stalks. But Japanese Beetles will often be attracted to Cannas in July. The adults the congregate on the leaves, mating and feeding. Every evening go outside and had pick them off. Remove badly damaged foliage. Most sprays do not work well on Japanese beetles.
When planting in containers, use Pro-Mix, mixed with compost, Osmocote and one of the water absorbing products on the market. Cannas are very thirsty and quickly dry out. By using this substance, you will be able to water every other day. The Osmocote provides time-released fertilization all season long.
Good luck with your Cannas!
Cannas add tropical garden color, tolerate Texas summers
Gardening in North Texas means we deal with the challenges of hot weather and limited water resources. But we still love to have a bit of the tropics in our gardens, and that’s where canna lily plants come in. These heat-hardy beauties will add a splash of color to any landscape.
‘Yellow King Humbert’ canna from Horn Canna Farm (Horn Canna Farm)
The basics of cannas
Cannas grow from a thick rhizome that stays very close to the surface of the soil. The stalks rise to between 3 and 8 feet tall, depending on the variety. Each thick stalk has six to eight lance-shaped leaves about 2 feet long. Most leaves are emerald green, but they can also vary in hue from deep green through reddish green, making a bold statement in any garden.
The flowers of the canna appear in summer on short spikes of four to six florets, each with 3- to 4-inch-long petals. They are largely scentless and come in a wide range of colors — red, orange, pink, yellow, cream, and any combination of these. You won’t find any that are blue, purple or true white.
Cannas are native to the tropics of North and South America where they generally grow in shady locations. However, here in Texas, they do quite well with morning sun. Cannas can provide a colorful tropical backdrop to your garden all summer and well into fall.
Most experts recommend growing cannas in heavily amended rich soil to imitate their native habitat. But my cannas have been growing in heavy clay in an east-facing garden bed for perhaps a decade and come back strong year after year. A yearly mulching of my canna bed is really all it needs. If you find your cannas are not blooming, add one or two applications of fertilizer to your yearly care.
Tropicanna canna plant bred by Tesselaar (Dennis Wisken)
Caring for cannas
Cannas will grow best with regular watering but they are also tolerant of dry conditions. I confess to being somewhat of an erratic waterer. Fortunately, cannas grow thickly enough to shade their roots and tolerate dry periods even throughout the heat of summer.
Although canna stalks are quite thick (about 2 inches in diameter), they can be easily cut with hand pruners. During the summer, cannas will produce flowers several times if you clip the spent flower stalks. Clip them down to 2 or 3 feet tall to encourage new growth.
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Early morning photo of canna King City Gold. #nofilter #cannas #gardening #yellowcanna #oklahoma #yellowblooms #flowers #yellowflowers www.cannas.net
Cannas can be grown in containers but the pots need to be large, at least 2 feet in diameter and at least as deep. Anything smaller just wouldn’t have enough soil mass to support the roots and tubers for such a tall flowering plant. Pot-grown cannas should be lifted and repotted with new soil every year to keep them healthy.
The one negative about growing cannas is their response to freezing temperatures. Any above-ground foliage and stems blacken and die when a freeze hits. The underground rhizomes, however, are just fine and will overwinter nicely in Texas. When a freeze hits, cut all the frost-damaged stalks down to the ground with a sharp knife. With the soil uncovered, this is a good time to spread a layer of mulch in preparation for the coming spring.
‘Cleopatra’ canna from Horn Canna Farm (Horn Canna Farm)
Pests and problems you may see
Smaller sucking insects such as spider mites and aphids are rarely seen on cannas. You are more likely to have damage from slugs and snails that love the dark moist areas around the base of cannas and climb at night to snack on the leaves. If you notice a series of 1-inch holes in a leaf, it’s probably the work of a slug or snail. Snail bait spread around the base of the cannas should take care of this.
Should your canna leaves fail to unfurl, take a closer look and you will probably discover fine webbing holding the leaves together. This is the activity of canna leaf roller caterpillars, immature forms of the brown skipper butterfly living in the furled leaf. Because this pest can produce several generations in a growing year, it’s best to clip off the sections with the rolled leaves and discard.
A canna plant in a Dallas garden(Ben Torres)
Cannas in your garden
The tall-growing canna plants should be placed in the back of your flower beds, where they can reach their height and be ready to bloom during the summer. Their dramatic tropical foliage will serve as a backdrop for other plants.
Canna rhizomes grow horizontally and will slowly spread to neighboring garden areas. To keep them in check and revitalize the bed, dig up the rhizomes every two to three years during late winter. With a sharp knife, remove any dead or spent sections of the rhizomes. Divide each section so they have at least three reddish growth buds on the top. Replant a few inches below the soil and about 2 feet apart, giving them room to spread.
Cannova Bronze Scarlet canna from Ball Horticultural Company. (Ball Horticultural Company)
Varieties to look for
There are dozens of canna varieties, each with a unique combination of leaf and flower colors. Here are just a few of the cannas you can find:
Cannova ‘Bronze Scarlet’ sports showy scarlet flowers on top of deep-bronze foliage. It grows to about 4 feet tall.
‘The President’ offers deep red blooms, and the stems grow about 4 feet tall with dark green leaves.
‘Yellow King Humbert’ has been a garden favorite for over a century. The buttery yellow flowers are splashed with orange. Stalks grow 4 to 5 feet tall.
‘Tropicanna’ is topped with bright orange flowers and has burgundy leaves that develop fine stripes of red, pink, yellow and green as they mature. It grows to 6 feet tall after the second year.
‘Cleopatra’ is a spectacular beauty. Flowers on the same plant vary from all-scarlet to yellow with scarlet stripes to dappled scarlet on yellow. Leaves are variegated bronze on 4-foot-tall stalks. This variety can be hard to find some years but worth the effort.
Ann McCormick is a Fort Worth freelance writer.
Calla and canna lilies
Canna and calla lilies grow well in hot sites throughout Minnesota. Though the names are similar, the plants are not that similar, and neither is an actual lily!
Cannas and calla lilies are not hardy in Minnesota, but can be grown as annuals, houseplants or their rhizomes may be overwintered inside.
Cannas and calla lilies come in many different flower colors and leaf types, and make a dramatic statement in the garden.
Calla lilies or callas (Zantedeschia species) are not true lilies. They are related to jack-in-the-pulpit and caladium. Unlike jack-in-the-pulpit, they are not hardy in Minnesota. The tuber-like rhizomes must be dug up and stored inside over the winter.
Callas have a broad, trumpet-shaped flower called a spathe that wraps around the finger-like spadix. The spathe is actually a modified leaf and may be white, yellow, peach, orange, red, pink, purple or bicolored. The spadix holds the tiny, true flowers. Its leaves are arrowhead-shaped and solid green or green with silver or white flecks.
Zantedeschia aethiopica, the white calla, is native to Africa where it is considered a weed. The flowers can be quite large, with a spathe up to 10 inches long and a yellow spadix. It has also become naturalized in warm parts of the U.S., such as in California, where it is an invasive species. Because it is not hardy in Minnesota, invasiveness is generally not a concern here.
Callas may be grown as houseplants, in a sunny location, but for the best results, plant callas outside and enjoy them indoors as cut flowers. They should bloom mid to late summer for about a month.
White calla lilies with variegated leaves. Pink calla lilies White calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)
Callas thrive in a deep, moist, rich soil in full sun. They will grow in part shade, but will not bloom as well. White callas will grow in boggy or alkaline soils.
Set rhizomes four to six inches deep and one to two feet apart. Fertilize in spring after planting them, using a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 fertilizer.
A red canna lily
Canna lilies or cannas (Canna x generalis) are native to tropical and subtropical areas. They are not hardy in Minnesota. Like callas, their rhizomes must be dug up in the fall after frost has blackened the foliage.
Cannas grow 1 1/2 to 5 feet or more, depending on variety. Their large, glossy leaves are 6 to 12 inches wide. The exotic leaves come in bronze, purple, burgundy, bright green, dark green or even multicolored, so cannas are ornamental even without their flowers.
Their blossoms are clustered at the top of flower spikes which can be up to one foot long. Blossom size varies with the species planted. Cannas are available in red, rose/pink, yellow, orange, salmon and red with yellow.
They make a very attractive planting for a large container, in raised beds or as background plants. The flowers of some varieties are even attractive to pollinators such as bumblebees and hummingbirds.
A canna lily with multi-colored leaves A canna with red-flecked yellow flowers A bumblebee visits a canna lily A container of canna lilies that were started indoors ready to be planted outside.
Cannas may be started indoors by planting them three to four inches deep in pots, then transplanting them outside. They will also bloom well if planted directly into the garden as soon as the soil has warmed and danger of frost has passed.
Plant the rhizomes 3 to 4 inches deep and 1 1/2 to 3 feet apart. Cannas grow best in full sun and hot weather, providing they have adequate moisture and a soil high in organic matter. They will bloom in a warm site that gets part day sun, such as along a house wall. They bloom mid-summer to frost.
In the fall, dig up the rhizomes, cut the stems back to 2 to 3 inches, and let them dry. Leave them in a box in a cool part of the house where they will not freeze, such as a basement where the temperatures range between 40 to 50 degrees.
Every few years, the rhizomes may be divided. When dividing, each piece must have an eye, or growing point, on it. Let the cut-up rhizomes dry for a few days before planting them.
Beth R. Jarvis, Kristine Moncada
Reviewed in 2018
Canna Lily Bulbs – The President Pre-Sale Now; Ships Spring 2020
Although not a true lily, the Canna lily comes in a rainbow of colors and can add dramatic emphasis to your garden. With a huge selection of flower and leaf colors, there is sure to be a canna that will add pizzazz to your garden. While the flowers of some varieties of cannas are the show, in others it’s the huge, tropical-looking foliage, and in many modern varieties, it‘s both. Canna leaves are usually large and broad, with a heavy rib down the center. They can be various shades of green, burgundy and red, often with splashes of white or yellow or stripes of color following the leaf veins. Depending on variety, cannas grow from 16 inches to 10 feet in height.
1- When to Plant your Canna Bulbs:
In the North, start rhizomes indoors about six weeks before your last frost in pots of good, rich potting soil. The pots should be in a warm, sunny area and kept well-watered. The bulbs (rhizomes) may also be planted directly in the ground after the last frost when the ground is warm, but they may be slow to start growth and late to bloom. In frost-free areas, the bulbs can be planted at any time. While a frost may kill all the foliage in some areas above zone 8, the bulbs will survive underground if protected with mulch.
2- Where to Plant your Canna Bulbs:
Cannas will grow almost anywhere, as a perennial in the South and a summer flowering plant whose rhizomes can be easily lifted and stored in the North. Choose a spot in your garden that receives full sunlight. Although considered tropical plants, cannas actually do well in more temperate climates that receive at least six hours of sunlight per day in the summertime. The bulbs should be planted in a location where the soil drains well. Unlike most bulbs, cannas can thrive in moist soils but will not tolerate standing in water puddles.
3- How to Plant your Canna Bulbs:
For outdoor planting, dig holes that are 4 to 6 inches deep, and 2 feet apart for tall varieties and 1 foot for the others. Then dig in a little peat moss and perlite. For planting in pots, fill a large pot to within 6 inches of the top with a well-draining potting mix into which you have added a little peat moss and perlite. Place one bulb into each hole. If your pot is large, you can plant two or three canna bulbs in each pot. Backfill your pot or hole with additional soil until the bulb and roots are well covered. Gently pat down the dirt around the base. Water your new plant well and expect it to begin sending out new leaves and, when the weather is warm, flowers.
4- How to care for your Canna Bulbs:
In climates that are warm year round, Cannas can remain in the ground and given a dose of fertilizer in the spring to start the growing process over again. Frost will kill them during the cooler months, but if you mulch with straw, old leaves or other organic matter in the fall, your cannas should come back with vibrant new foliage and flowers the following spring. In climates where the ground freezes hard in the winter, you may dig up your plants in the fall, after the first frost, let them air dry for a few days and try storing your bulbs in a cool dry place (in a paper bag or a box filled with peat moss). With a little luck, you may manage to preserve the bulbs for next spring planting.
Cannas may be planted in the spring after danger from frost. Best results are achieved when planted in a loose, fertile and well-draining soil that has warmed to at least 60 degrees. Here in zone 7 we recommend planting from late March to late April. Adjust this guideline to your zone. Before spring planting, soil can be amended with compost, manure and a high nitrogen fertilizer. Cannas will tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. Cannas love sun and require a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight.
Plant rhizomes 12 to 18 inches apart. Lay the long part of the rhizome horizontal to the earth’s surface with eye up, if visible. This is not critical, as cannas will grow no matter which direction they are planted. Cannas are best planted in shallow, warm ground covered with just about two inches of soil.
In colder regions, (6-8 weeks before spring), bulbs can be planted in pots and placed in greenhouse conditions. When danger of frost is past, remove from pot and plant outside. Cultivate often to keep soil loose and free of weeds.
Watering & Fertilization
Cannas should be watered thoroughly once a week by slowly soaking the area around roots. Cannas are heavy feeders. For optimum performance apply a high nitrogen, foliar fertilizer twice a month. Organic matter turned into the soil, such as composted manure, will provide a great benefit as well. Although cannas will continue to bloom if not dead-headed, cutting old spent flowers and seed pods will make them prettier and neater in the garden.
Insects rarely bother cannas. Leaf-feeding insects and leaf-rolling caterpillars can be stopped by regular applications of systemic insecticide products such as Ortho Systemic Insect Killer.
Cannas will multiply by producing 3 to 5 new rhizomes for each one planted. Dig clumps of bulbs in the late fall or after the first frost for re-planting the following spring.
The most common mistake is allowing the canna rhizomes to dry out too much while in storage.
Two methods of storage are:
- 1. Remove old stalks, leave bulbs in clump with soil intact. Pile clumps and cover with plastic and store in basement, cellar, cool corner of a garage, crawl space, etc. Never store in mesh bags that will allow rhizomes to become too dry.
- 2. Rhizomes can be washed, divided, and layered with peat moss in cardboard boxes with lids or in plastic bags. A few air holes around the sides with help give a small amount of needed air flow. Store in basement or another cool place such as a cool corner of a garage, under the house, cellar, etc.
Rhizomes must not be allowed to freeze during storage. The ideal storage temperature is 50 degrees.
IN SOUTHERN STATES (zone 7-10) where the ground doesn’t freeze below four to six inches, cannas can be left in the ground all winter. Cut foliage down to the ground and if needed, cover flowerbed with six to twelve inches of grass clippings, leaves, compost, hay straw, etc. Cannas can be thinned in the spring every two to three years by digging out thick areas of bulbs to allow spacing between the plants.
Tropicanna Black Canna Lily
Growing Cannas, large and small. Canna lilies are wonderful in the garden. Growing fast, the full size selections quickly form a handsome large-leaved screen or an island of tropical-looking foliage from about 3 to 4 feet tall. Then the show begins, and goes on for weeks and weeks. Huge, iris-like flowers begin to open, and before you know it, your canna lily plants have become the undisputed center of attention in your entire yard. They’re really this spectacular, and a snap to grow. They’re wetland plants, and can grow in moist ground. Constant wetness isn’t necessary, but water them often. Cannas are used as municipal plantings in many places like Miami. They are so good at taking care of themselves, they add great stripes of color in median strips, parks, and other places. So pick out a sunny spot in your garden or yard, and add cannas for the big show this summer.
Our good friend, Jack Scheper, the plant expert who runs Floridata.com, tells us that cannas are native to Central and South America, and many of the current hybrids also have a North American species as a parent. Jack grows cannas, and is a big enthusiast. As he says, the foliage “looks like a small banana tree without the trunk.”
Tropicanna® Black Canna Lily
Canna Tropicanna® Black
Bag of 1
Up to 10″ flowers
Large, deep bronze to chocolate-colored leaves.
Mid summer until frost
48-72″ tall (4-6 feet)
1 bulb/rhizome per sq. ft.
Bulbs/Rhizomes should be planted 2″ below the soil line.
Loamy Soil, Moist/Wet Soil
Average, Moist / Wet, Well Draining
Easy To Grow, Attract Hummingbirds, Deer Resistant, Good For Containers
Perennial in zones 7-10. Annual in zones 3-6.
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Bulb, Rhizome, Tuber
Spring / Summer
Canna Tropicanna series
- Perfect for use in narrow spaces where vertical cover is needed
- Where boggy conditions may prove difficult to get anything established, let alone looking fabulous, Canna Tropicanna® will claim the space and thrive
- These cannas are perfect for making a very showy statement in strategically positioned mega containers
- With broad foliage and the option of stripes, Tropicanna cannas are a great addition to planting schemes around minimalist architecture
Mild winters (USDA zones 7 through 11): As soon as the leaves begin to die back, cut off foliage to soil level, and leave in-ground or in pots over the winter. In Spring, growth will start up as warmer temperatures arrive.
Areas with severe winters (USDA zones 3 through 6): As soon as the leaves begin to die back, cut off foliage to about 4 inches, dig up the rhizomes, let them dry for a few days in a protected area. Store the rhizomes in a cool dry place for the winter surrounded with wood chips if possible. Divide the rhizome shoots and replant in spring after last frost. Start indoors to get an early jump on the season, but do not put outside until all danger of frost is past. They require a soil temperature minimum of 60 deg to begin to grow in early spring, but grow best once temperatures reach 75+ F.