Container planted or in the ground, Canna Plants are a Focal Point with a Tropical Vibe

Plant some Canna Lily rhizomes, add a Tropical Vibe to your Garden

Plant some Canna Lily rhizomes, add a Tropical Look to your Garden

One of the easiest to grow and definitely a show stopper in the garden is the Canna Plant. The canna is also called the Canna Lily, although it is not a true lily, but is a relative of both the ginger plant and the banana tree.

With its large leaves, and exotic looking flowers it adds a tropical vibe to my upstate New York (USA zone 4-5 garden).

Canna foliage comes in a variety of colors; you will see plants with bright green, gold (chartreuse) and burgundy toned leaves. Bi-colored foliage options are also available, where you will find combinations of green and gold, green, gold and burgundy or burgundy and green. Canna flowers are primarily red, orange or yellow, or any combination of those colors.

Cannas can be purchased at nationally known hardware stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s, discount stores like Wal-Mart or K-mart and supermarkets, as well as at garden centers, Spring plant sales and through mail order catalogs. Mail order will offer more exotic options.

Cannas can add height to a garden; they come in dwarf, medium and tall varieties. Standard varieties grow 4 to 6 feet tall, but big boys like Canna Musifolia aka Canna Grande can reach 8 to 10 feet tall.

Cannas quickly multiple, so when you make your first purchase of the rhizomes, or pre-started plants, don’t go overboard and buy too many of the same variety. Three happy and well sited cannas can produce a large basket of rhizomes to plant the following year.

Planting Canna Rhizomes .. In my upstate New York garden, I plant canna rhizomes on or just after May 1 along with other tender tubers and corms like elephant ear mammoth, dahlias and gladiolus. After May 1, even if there is a frost, they are protected under the ground which will not completely freeze solid, so they will be just fine. Cannas are slow to start emerging from the ground, waiting until it evenly heats up. Cannas planted on May 1, might not even show signs of any growth until the first or even second week in June, though after appearing they grow quickly.

Cannas like a rich-well drained soil. Amend the dirt with a shovel or two of dehydrated cow manure, turning it into the soil so it is worked 8 to 12 inches down.

Cannas like, and do their best in full sun, which is 6 plus hours of direct sunlight daily.

After amending the soil, plant the rhizomes 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the height of the variety of canna. Cover them with 1 to 2 inches of soil. Plant them with the rhizome’s flat side down and its eyes (pointed parts) facing upwards. The illustration for this post shows a canna rhizome with its eyes facing up.

If you are thinking about planting canna rhizomes in fancy pots (containers), plant them up first in a plain plastic pot with drainage holes, then insert the plain pot inside the fancy one (also with drainage holes). That way, as the canna rhizome grows and gets bigger, you won’t have a problem getting it out of your fancy container, which could be damaged, during fall plant ejection.

Size does matter when planting cannas in containers. You want to use a plastic pot that a bush would come in from the garden center. Look for one about 12 to 14 inches wide and 12 inches tall (deep). Also remember, the pot with dirt in it is your weighted base, preventing the plant from being blown over during strong winds.

Container planted or in the ground fertilize cannas with a water-soluble plant food like Miracle Gro (following package instructions) every two weeks during the growing season. Fertilizing containerized plants on a regular cycle is imperative. Every time you water a potted plant, nutrients in the soil are washed out through the drainage holes. Plants planted directly in the soil seem to retain the nutrients around them longer.

If you are planting cannas in a store-bought potting soil that says it has added fertilizer in it which will feed plants for 3 months, still do the every two week feeding. You will see quite a difference between a plant that is regularly fed and one that is not.

Cannas are sturdy plants, in most circumstances they need no staking for support.

Preparing the Canna for Winter storage ..If you live in a location where Winters go below 32 degrees fahrenheit and the ground freezes solid, you will need to lift the canna rhizomes for Winter storage.

Cannas, dahlias, elephant ear plants, etc should be left outside until they are knocked back by a sharp killing frost. The frost will blacken the plant’s leaves, making them wilt which stops all photosynthesis (light collecting), which prepares the plant for Winter storage. After the canna is frost-bitten, let it stay in place for about a week before digging it up. The plant’s rhizome will have hardened off enough to make it through Winter storage. Carefully start digging at least a foot out from the plant’s blackened stems, you don’t want to cut through any of the rhizome. Dig up the plant, then cut or break the dead frost bit top away from the fleshy root system. Wash off any dirt around the rhizome with the hose and leave outside on the lawn to dry for one day. Rhizomes can be broken into 6 to 8 inch pieces if desired. If you have smaller pieces, keep them, as they will/should grow also.

Finally, store canna rhizomes in a dark cellar or dark room that is constantly 40 to 50 degrees farenheit. Put cannas in newspaper lined bushel baskets or brown paper shopping bags, only stacking 2 or 3 layers of rhizomes in each container. Leave the tops open (exposing rhizomes) so there is good air movement around the rhizomes and no moisture is allowed to be trapped.

So there you have it, Canna Planting 101. The cannas are something you should try, especially if you live in a northern climate where big leaved exotic looking plants are not a native of the area.

Companion Posts
Plant some Gladiolus in your Garden, they make Great Summer Flower Arrangements 3-26-2012,
DAHLIAS, Dahlias, dahlias..Planting and Winter Storage 9-16-2011,
Plant some Castor Bean Plants, add a Tropical vibe to your Garden 5-11-2012,
Container planted or in the ground Elephant Ear Plants are a Focal Point 4-21-2012,
My Peonies Don’t Won’t Bloom 5-16-2011,
Daylilies..Planting Dividing and Maintenance 8-9-2011,
Daffodils..Planting, Fertilizing and Maintenance 4-8-2011,
Tulips..Planting, Fertilizing and Maintenance 4-19-2011,
Neatening up a Rhododendron after it Blooms 6-3-2011,
Plant Tomatoes DEEP in Full Sun! 5-23-2011,
Designing / Laying our Flower Beds 5-4-2013,
When designing a perennial garden, it’s all about the shapes of leaves 1-15-2011,
Colored Foliage adds that WOW Factor to a garden 2-22-2011


About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
This entry was posted in The Autumn(Fall) Garden, The Spring Garden, The Summer Garden. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Container planted or in the ground, Canna Plants are a Focal Point with a Tropical Vibe

  1. pbmgarden says:

    Nice article and I love your drawing. My canna easily survive winter but they do need division.

    • Hi there pbmgarden, I always feel, if people don’t read all the articles I write, they can at least look at my drawings and a few of the photos I’ve taken. I look at my site, in a way, as a portfolio of quick drawings I’ve made. As I look at all the images that are in my Photos, I’m surprised at how many I’ve made, and I look back and think, how long ago some of those posts were written, and how much I thought about making them at that moment. Thanks for you comment ;-}

  2. Joanne Razzano says:

    Hi Fred…I had some beautiful cannas and actually got more than one bloom by deadheading. Have you had that experience?

    • Hi there Joanne, I’ve grown mine more for the burgundy foliage and height of the plant which provided exotic leaf shape and color in my garden. The flowers, nice as they were, were not important to me. I will be more careful this year, and promptly dead head, to see what happens. It is always nice when an extra bit of information/advice can be added by a reader. We ALL learn something new that way;-}

  3. Diana says:

    I love your site! I have my very first elephant ear this year, but have done cannas for many years here in Iowa. Do you have much experience with calla lilys?

    • Hi there Diana, thanks for loving my site. Never planted Calla Lilies, but maybe one day I will. We have pictures of my Aunt Anna carrying a bouquet of calla lilies on her wedding day, probably some time in the late 1930’s or early 40’s, so that flower has a kind of sentimental and romantic meaning for me.

  4. Rashda says:

    my canna lilly did not survive this winter. I bought new one this year. should I put it in a big pot or ground, I am in zone 8 NC

    • Hi there Rashda, I would plant them in the ground and dig them up after they are blackened by the frost, if you have that in a zone 8 area. I think it all depends on the size/growth height of the kind of canna that you have. The tall ones have larger root systems that are more meaty, the smaller varieties might be more prone to dry out during the winter months, as they are smaller, and those roots might not be able to be replanted again, or survive a second growing season. I grow the larger varieties, my neighbor grows the smaller kind, and last fall when we both dug up or plants, I wondered if hers would be strong enough to survive the winter without drying out. Also Rashda, this past winter was brutal and some of the new perennials that I planted in the garden did not survive the Winter, even though they were supposed to be hardy enough to survive the zone 4-5 temperatures that we experience here.

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