Canna Lilies, Cannaceae Canna, are lavish, flamboyant, exotic tropical-looking flowering plants. Coming in a vast diversity of color with immense paddle-shaped leaves, they are among the most colorful summer bulbs, with the flower being favored by hummingbirds. Cannas are low maintenance and easy to grow, and both their flowers and foliage offer long-lasting color that make a dramatic statement in the garden.

Cannas are lavishly bold perennial plants that bloom over a long summer period. They can be characterized by their height: Pixie grow from 1 ½ to 2 feet, Dwarf reach heights from 2 to 3 feet, Medium 3 to 5 feet and Tall grow up to 7 feet tall. The immense paddle-shaped leaves can be solid green, and others a dark purple. Variegated leaves can be found in combinations of green and white stripes, yellow and green stripes, while others bear a purple and green pattern. Then there are the show stoppers with kaleidoscopic colors of burgundy, gold, yellow, pink and green. The flowers may be solid, striped, streaked, spotted or splotched with contrasting colors and are favored by the hummingbirds. Canna identification depends greatly on flower color and shape.

Canna rhizomes can be planted in almost any good, well-worked garden soil, preferably conditioned with a heavy dressing of manure or compost. For good color they need lots of sunshine but will tolerate partial shade, and will tolerate any well-draining soil that is either neutral or slightly acidic. They will fit nicely into the current concept of water-wise gardening.

Plant canna rhizomes in the spring after all danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, and then mix in a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost. Dig a hole 4 to 6 inches deep and space the rhizome 1 to 4 ft. apart depending on the variety. When growing cannas in the garden, placing them in mixed borders or group plantings will offer the most dramatic effect.

To keep plants looking their best remove the old flowers, taking care not to damage the un-opened buds. Canna are heavy feeders so provide plenty of compost or organic fertilizer to keep plants looking their best. You can cut ragged plants to the ground even in midsummer, add fertilizer, water, and they will quickly recover.

If you’re growing your canna in containers, keep in mind that canna are large plants and therefore need a large container and will require more frequent watering during the heat of the summer. Provide a slow-release granular or water soluble fertilizer following instructions on the label.

Canna can easily be propagated by division.

The primary pest is the canna leaf roller, which will turn into the small golden-brown Brazilian Skipper butterfly, may be controlled on the leaves by applying a solution of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), insecticidal soap, or other chemical control once a week. Clean up the dead foliage.

If canna rust appears, the affected foliage should be removed and discarded. Botrytis blight is controlled by removing the diseased flowers. Rhizome root rot is controlled by thinning the plants periodically, and throwing away any diseased roots.

Other than the annual dead foliage cut back and the occasional need to thin the growing area to prevent overcrowding, canna require very little care except for food and water. How else can you put so small investment into adding drama and flamboyance to your garden!

With their huge leaves and summer long vibrant blossoms on tall stalks you will be hard pressed to find a more cold hardy tropical-looking foliage specimen. There is no easier way to give your pool area a lush, exotic tropical look than to include several varieties of these beauties in your beds or pots. Paired with elephant ears and a Mexican windmill palm, you’ll be relaxing in your hammock, sipping a piña colada forgetting you’re in North Texas!