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In The Garden: Canna lilies are versatile with range of foliage, bloom color and size

By Staff | Sep 3, 2019


An herbaceous perennial with showy flowers and foliage, the canna lily (Canna x gerneralis) is a perennial rhizomatous plant that, ultimately, makes for a wonderful addition to any garden.

Cannas are relatively easy to care for. They like it hot and sunny and they like to stay moist, so typical watering for any flowerbed is ideal for its needs. Cannas need to be given a little room to grow when planted because the rhizome will send new shoots up that make them spread and form larger clumps.

Its showy flowers come in an array of colors, from red to orange to yellow and just about anything in-between. For example, the cultivar Roze Pink has a lush green leaf with large pink flowers. Kreta is an amazing red cultivar. Or Starship which has yellow flowers with orange specs. These are great green leaf cultivars. However, if that is not enough show for you, try some of the foliage cultivars like Bengal Tiger. Bengal Tiger has a yellow flower with orange specs, much like Starship, but has lime to yellow stripes on the leaves that make it just stunning. Canna Intrigue has a darker foliage that is copper in color with orange flowers.

I find Cleopatra, a personal favorite, to be the most unique cultivar. With its flowers being red and yellow on the same plant and foliage that is variegated to form a mix of green and purple unique to each specimen. Furthermore, the variegation is different on every leaf and always changing: some being all purple, some all green, and mixes of green and purple on others. As such, this elegant cultivar is highly prized by the home gardener.

The different cultivars not only have flower and foliage show, but they also very in height ranges. Cannas are typically around 3 1/2 feet tall; however, cultivars are out there that are as short as 9 inches and as tall as 15 feet. In addition to the hybrid cannas there are around 30 species of canna in the world. Golden canna (Canna Flaccida), a Florida native, averages around 4 feet in height. Grander in scale, canna Musifolia can reach an impressive 15 feet in height. On the opposite side of the spectrum, dwarves such as canna Marjorie typically cap out at 2 feet to 2 1/2 feet. Adding to the plethora of features unique to canna lilies, growing between 5 feet to 9 feet, canna Indica is edible and used for a range of medicinal purposes throughout South America.

Cannas are wonderful in the garden as mass plantings, whether looking to add interest to flowerbeds or containers. As indicated, they are truly versatile plants, possessing a range in foliage, bloom colors and size, which can create quite a show in any garden.

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