Cannas Are Back In Full Bloom


During my recent trips to Europe as well as visits to various gardens throughout North America, I have watched with interest the resurgence of the use of Cannas in the contemporary landscape. Originally, this old fashioned Victorian bedding plant was used primarily in geometrically designed gardens. It then fell out of favour. In recent years however, this plant has made a tremendous comeback primarily because of the introduction of many hybrids that are compact in growth, floriferous, and easy to grow.

Cannas at the Whirlpool Golf Course.
Cannas create a bold dramatic statement at the Whirlpool Golf Course.

Flowers and Foliage

The flowers and foliage of these bulbous plants are incredibly showy and possess a kaleidoscope of colours. Flowers are borne in large showy, gladioli like trusses of red, pink, orange and yellow colours. Some flowers are often decorated with dark spots. Frequently the foliage is more spectacular than the flowers. Because of its large tropical-like leaves, Cannas tend to be exotic in appearance. The striking combination of flower and foliage makes a dramatically bold landscape statement in any garden.

Cannas used at Windsor Castle Moat Gardens.
Cannas used at Windsor Castle Moat Gardens.

Planning Considerations

Prior to purchasing any started plants or tubers from a nursery, make sure that a planting plan is prepared to fully capitalize on the combination of flower and foliage variations as well as a wide range of heights that vary from 2½ to 8 feet. Remember that, "Simplicity is the Essence of Design". Refer back to previous article in the Hort-Pro Archives Basic Principles and Elements of Landscape Design for further information on this topic.

Cultivars Available

Some of the good cultivars available include:

Regular Cannas Varieties
Species Height Flowers Leaves
The President 3'-4' Red Green
Orange Bedder 4'-5' Orange Green
City of Portland   Salmon Pink Green
Yellow King Humbert 4'-6' Yellow with Red Spots Green
Red King Humbert 4'-6' Red Reddish Bronze
R. Wallace   Canary Yellow Green
Quietly   Orange-Yellow Green
Harvest Yellow   Large Deep Yellow Green
Pink President   Pink Green
Rosamond Cole   Red with yellow backs and edges Dark Green
King Humbert   Orange-Scarlet Purplish Bronze
Stadt Fellbach   Deep Orange Green
Variegated Wyoming 6' Orange Cream, Yellow and Bronze
Mrs. A Conrad   Salmon Pink Purplish-Bronze
America   Dark Red Bronze
Tyrol   Pink Bronze
Stuttgert 4' Orange Green with white markings
Pfitzer Series Dwarf Cannas
Species Height Flowers Leaves
Pfitzer's Crimson Beauty 1½'-2' Bright Crimson Red Green
Pfitzer's Chinese Coral 30" Rich Coral Flowers Green
Pfitzer's Primrose Yellow 24" Canary Yellow Green
Pfiltzer's Salmon Pink 24" Salmon Green
New Improved Dwarf Cannas
Species Height Flowers Leaves
Angel Pink 24"-30" Apricot and Peach with a slight yellow throat, totally self cleaning Green
Louis Cotton 24" Large Pink Flowers Dark Green with Bronze veins
Lucifer 24" Large Golden Yellow Green
North Star Landscape Red 30"-36" Dark Red; ever blooming, self cleaning Green
Peach Blush 36" Peach with a Salmon Blush Green
Picasso 30" Bright Yellow with deep leopard like spots Green
Yellow Futurity 30" Free Blooming Yellow; self Cleaning Green
Cannas in the Windsor Castle Moat Garden.
Cannas create a strong contrast in landscape - Windsor Castle Moat Garden.

Over Wintering

Cannas are hardy in zones 7 to 11. Elsewhere it is necessary to remove tubers after frost has blackened the foliage. It's important to keep the soil around the tubers during storage. To facilitate this, moisten the soil around the base of the plants prior to digging. This helps to prevent the tubers from drying out during winter storage. Once the plants are dug out, stocks should be cut back to 3" and tubers should be carefully labelled at this time. Any surface leaves or debris should be removed from the clumps of soil. Place the tubers in plastic crates lined with newspapers with about 1" of peat moss on the bottom of the container. Some gardeners like to use clean dry perlite, vermiculite, sharp sand, or even clean powder-dry soil. Dust with powdered sulphur and cover the clumps of tubers with peat moss. Store at 40 to 50 Degrees F in an area that has low humidity and good air circulation. Periodically check the tubers to make sure that they have not dried out. Water lightly if necessary.

During the middle of February, clumps should be removed from the peat moss and separated into individual plants. Remove soil from the clumps and physically separate the tubers from each other. Leave several buds or eyes (2 or 3) on each tuber for best results. Place individual plants back in the plastic crates in a BM6 soil mixture. Fill the crates half full with BM6 and place the tubers on this material. Sprinkle with sulphur once again and cover with BM6. Firm the sides and place in 65 Degrees F temperature. Give tubers a good initial soaking and allow BM6 mixture to dry out. Water sparingly thereafter, as Cannas don't enjoy being over watered. In three to four weeks, tubers should be ready for potting into 6" pots.

Cannas are placed out-of-doors in mid May in Southern Ontario. These plants enjoy deep fertile soil and a sunny location with plenty of moisture. Cannas will literally bloom their heads off throughout the summer and fall given proper care and locational considerations.

Effective use of "The President" Cannas in Landscape.
Effective use of "The President" Cannas in Landscape.

Now is the time to plan for this coming season's endless combinations of Cannas. There are many different design possibilities and any good gardener should always look for new and exciting colour combinations. It you haven't tried Cannas in your landscape in the past, try some this summer. You won't be disappointed with the results.

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