I just published an article about cannas and thought some of you might
be interested in it....
The canna family, Cannaceae, is comprised of one genus Canna and more
than fifty species. Most gardeners choose canna plants for their
colorful leaves and blooms to enhance their garden's ornamental or
, native to Central and South America, is the one species
important to agriculture. The roots are rich in starch. It is
commercially cultivated in Australia for a product called “Queensland
Arrowroot” and in the Caribean for a thickening agent called
The rhizomes of Canna edulis are similar in taste to white potatoes if
cooked, but because of their high content of fiber they are not as
palatable. The green leaves and stalks are used as food for cattle.
Another highly appreciated species is *Canna indica*
, called Ali'ipoe
and Li'ipoe on the Hawaiian Islands. The ripe seeds are used for making
Hindu and Buddhist rosaries in India and throughout Southeast Asia to
count mantras,chants, or prayers. The leaves are used for food wrappings
in tropical regions of Africa.
Other species include *Canna glauca*
and *Canna gigantea*
native to Brazil. Canna glauca is used as a cooked vegetable, and Canna
gigantea is used as a diuretic. *Canna speciosa*
is cultivated in the
Sierra Leone and is used as a seasoning similar to turmeric.
Cannas flourish in most parts of the United States with plenty of heat,
temperatures ranging from upper 70s to low 90s, and regularly watering.
They are dependable and easy to grow providing tropical foliage and
flowers from early summer until fall frost.
Cannas are available as dwarfs, one to two feet tall, medium height,
three to four feet tall, and tall size plants, six feet or more.
Excellent dwarf varieties include Bangkok Yellow, Chinese Coral, Jester
Pink, Japanese Rose, Orange Punch, Pink Angel and Porcelaine Rose.
Medium to tall size varieties include Aida, Cleopatra, North Star,
Picasso, President, Red Futurity and Richard Wallace.
The foliage ranges in color from different shades of green to
beautifully variegated leaves.
Cultivars with variegated foliage include Bangkok Yellow, Pretoria,
Stuttgart and Tropicana.
Canna rhizomes should be started in spring indoors before planting them
outdoors after all danger of frost has passed generally sometime in the
month of May in most of North America.
Before planting outdoors, either in pots or in the ground, add some
compost, manure or high Nitrogen slow release fertilizer to the soil in
order to increase lush growth. Blood meal is an excellent choice when it
comes to a slow release high Nitrogen fertizer.
Best results are achieved when cannas are planted in loose, fertile and
well drained soil which has warmed to 60 degrees or more.
In the ground cana rhizomes should be planted approximately twelve
inches apart. When grown in pots planting two rhizomes into one twelve
inch pot results in a nice display of foliage and flowers. This is best
achieved by placing two rhizomes with space in between them and the
growing tips showing in opposite direction.
When planting outdoors in the ground, or in pots, the rhizomes are laid
horizontally and completely covered with an inch or more of soil with
the growing eye, if possible, facing upwards. However, this is not
critical as cannas will always grow towards the surface, growing towards
the light. During one growing season cannas produce three to five
rhizomes for each rhizome planted.
Canna plants need regular watering and fertilizing with any fertilizer
high in Nitrogen. Regular dead-heading of spent flowers results in an
attractive floral garden display.
Cannas are rarely bothered by insects. If insects appear, several
applications with insecticidal soap usually take care of the problem
After the first frost the tops of the plants should be removed, cut off,
and the rhizomes dug up for planting next spring. The rhizomes should be
rinsed, the soil washed off, divided and dried.
One storage option is to layer the rhizomes with peat in cardboard boxes
with lids or to place them in plastic bags with a few holes for a little
ventilation. This way canna rhizomes can be stored in the basement,
garage, or any place which is cool and stays above freezing. The ideal
storage temperature for canna rhizomes is between fifty and sixty
Another storage method is to dig up the whole clump of rhizomes, without
being cleaned off, cover them with plastic and store them in the same
manner mentioned above. The rhizomes should never be stored in mesh bags
as this results in the rhizomes drying out.
Cannas are wonderful plants to grow, either in the ground or in pots,
and provide the gardener with great aesthetic appeal and appearence in
the garden from early summer until fall frost.