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CannasIf you are looking for big bold foliage to add interest to the summer garden, take a good look at some of the new outstanding varieties of Cannas. Their bold leaves, showy flowers and attractive leaf colors and color combinations make them a must for almost any garden.

The new varieties come in dwarf and medium growing varieties, so they can effectively be used in many parts of the garden. The lower growing forms average about 18 to 36 inches in height, making them ideal to use in mid-bed plantings. While the taller varieties average about 4 to 6 feet in height, which makes them attractive plants to use as background perennials.

The March cover photo of 'Garden Showcase' featured one of my favorite varieties 'Tropicanna'. The big bold foliage of this delightful variety is striped with shadings of pink, coral, red, salmon, yellow, orange and cream. Then the attractive summer flowers are a showy orange. The plants average about 5 to 6 feet in height. 'Tropicanna' was unquestionably the highlight plant in our front landscape this past summer.

Another interesting variety is 'Pretoria', with its bright yellow and green bold leaves. Set amongst evergreens or in with summer annuals and perennials the unusual foliage color and bold texture makes quite a pleasing contrast. The attractive flower clusters are orange and average 6 to 7 feet in height.

There are many other varieties some with green leaves, others reddish or shades in-between. The leaves of many Cannas are up to 12 inches wide and often several feet long, making quite a bold statement in the landscape. Often they are 'sold' by color rather than by named varieties, so you may want to be a little selective before purchasing them.


Cannas grow and flower best when planted in full sun. However, they will do quite well in part sun and shade, providing the spot is warm and has good air circulation.


These plants are very attractive when planted in large containers and mix well with either evergreens or summer flowers. Although they are generally used individually in the garden, in large plantings a grouping of three to five plants create a bold contrast with most other landscape plants.


Select a spot where the soil is well drained. A sandy well-drained soil is the ideal soil for planting Cannas. Mix generous amounts of organic humus with your existing soil. (Compost, processed manure or peat moss are excellent sources of organic humus.) At planting time add a small handful of a non-burning organic fertilizer into the bottom of the planting hole, to help encourage the development of new roots. Plant Cannas about 5 inches deep and space the plants approximately 18 to 24 inches apart for best display.


Since Cannas are fast growing prolific flowering perennials they will benefit from monthly feedings of an all-purpose liquid type fertilizer. The liquid fertilizer can be sprayed onto the leaves or applied on the soil. Read and follow application directions on the label of the brand of fertilizer you use.


New plants can either be started from seed or by root divisions in spring, at planting time. Seeds have hard shell, so it is important to file a notch into each one before trying to germinate them. Use a seed starting mix as the media for seeding.


Simply cut off all spent flowers, being careful not to remove new ones. As it is not unusual for additional flowers to develop on the same stock as that the old flowers were on. At the end of the season, in September when the plants cease flowering, begin to withhold water so the plants begin to harden for winter. Then in late September of early October the plants are cut back to 2 to 3 feet.


In the autumn before the first frost, bring the plants into a dry-frost-free place. A semi-heated garage, basement, utility room, or sun porch would be ideal places to hold the plants over-winter. Once the remaining leaves die-back, cut them off about 6 inches above the roots. Store the roots in vermiculite or pumas and keep them dry. Then in late March or early April the roots can be potted into a container using an all-purpose potting mix. Begin a regular watering and monthly feeding program. Then when the plants are ready to be planted outdoors in late May or early June they will have a head-start and should bloom earlier in the summer.

So if you want to add a tropical look and bold, colorful leaves to your garden this summer the showy Cannas may be just the plant for you. Late spring and early summer are the times to select and plant them.


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