Cannas are just dormant rhizomes now.

It is difficult to document the lineages of the countless modern garden varieties that have been hybridized from ten species of Canna. Straight species that are popularly grown within their native ranges are rare here. Some species are grown for their thick edible rhizomes. Many are grown for edible foliage. Some are employed to absorb toxins from contaminated riparian environments.

Garden varieties that are popular here are grown merely for their aesthetic appeal. The lushly big leaves are typically rich green, but might be bronzed, dark purplish bronze, or striped with yellow, bronze, creamy white or peachy pink. Large varieties get taller than eight feet. Compact types stay less than three feet tall. All foliage dies to the ground after frost, and grows back fast in spring.

The flashiest parts of canna flowers are actually very specialized stamens known as staminodes, which mostly obscure the very subdued petals and sepals. Red, orange, yellow, pink, salmon or very pale yellowish white bloom may be spotted or blotched. Flowers might be thin and wispy, or rather floppy and lush. Canna are popularly known as canna lilies, but are not at all related to lilies.

8 thoughts on “Canna

    1. That tropical foliage is not for everyone. I find that it looks odd here among the redwoods. Like palm trees or cacti. I did happen to grow ‘Australia’ in a planter box downtown, specifically for the dark foliage to contrast with yellowish green aeoniums.


  1. I have mixed feelings about Cannas. I love the flowers, especially those in red and orange. But it feels like you have to wait such a long time for the blooms, and then they don’t last very long. I’ve heard people say they grow it just as a foliage plant and actually remove the flower buds, but I am skeptical about that.

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    1. The only cannas that I ever purchased are of the cultivar ‘Australia’. I grow it for the dark bronze foliage that contrasts nicely with some rather pale yellowish green aeoniums. The reddish orange bloom is merely an added bonus. The foliage alone is lush and tropical. Flowers are colorful, but no good for cutting. Actually, they are not very pretty up close. I totally understand why those who appreciate less shabby flowers would not be impressed by cannas. If I were ever to purchase cannas again (which I probably won’t with so many available in the neighborhood), I would likely get the species that is grown as a root vegetable. The common Canna indica (which has small spidery flowers) that I grow has narrow rhizomes that are not so easy to peel once cooked.

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  2. My dear old aunt used to plant them every year. The bulbs need to be taken up in the fall for our winters. There was this routine of digging them up, wrapping the bulbs in paper and storing them in wooden crates in the cellar till spring, then start all over again. They were pretty, but a lot of work here.

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    1. Weirdly, they seem to be appreciated less where they can grow wild. Also weirdly, I saw them growing without getting dug in Oklahoma! I even asked about one of the colonies, and was told that they regenerate to bloom annually, but that the landscape is not maintained. That is one that I can not explain!

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      1. Yes, I thought that was very weird, especially for the fancier types. I would have been surprised to see them even as annuals, just because there are easier things to grow there.

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