Canna – Canna x generalis

In the last half of the 19th land early 20th centuries the Canna enjoyed greater popularity than it does today. Maly of the hybrids now available were developed during the 1920s and 30s.

Cannas were once a common sight in public parks, but unfortunately they seem to have fallen out of favour in recent years. Nevertheless they are excellent plants when used properly but their bold appearance demands careful consideration about their placement. They are best planted in a position — either indoors or outdoors — where they will not overwhelm other plants.

Looking after your plant When grown outdoors, Cannas prefer a sunny position sheltered from the wind. They will bloom throughout the summer until the first frosts, but you should lift them well before the cold weather arrives. Plants that are grown indoors should be placed in full sun, and do well in a conservatory. The tubers must be lifted in the autumn.Canna - Canna x generalis

Cannas grow quickly, and normally reach a height of 1.2m (4ft), although there are a few dwarf hybrids that only grow 75-90cm (2½-3ft) tall.

Colours and hybrids

The hybrids are usually placed in two groups according to the colour of their leaves, which may be green, brown or purple.

Green-leaved hybrids include the orangescarlet-flowering ‘Bonfire’, the vivid scarlet ‘President’ and pink ‘Evening Star’.

Hybrids with brown or purple leaves include ‘Lucifer’, which has bright red flowers with yellow margins, and ‘America’, with entirely red flowers. ‘Dr Bartolo’ is deep pink; ‘Wyoming’ bronzy-yellow.

Through The Year


Feed once a week and water generously.


Lift the plants as soon as they have been touched by frost and remove all traces of compost. Cut off all the remaining foliage and leave tubers in a warm dry place until they are partially dry. Store in barely moist, not wet, peat or leaf mould, in a frost-free place.


Plant the Canna tubers in equal parts loam-based compost and coarse peat sand. Keep them at a temperature of 15°-21°C (60°-70°F). Plant outdoors in June.

Plant in equal parts sand and peat. Give bottom heat at 24°– 32°C (75°-90°F). It will take at least 3-8 weeks for them to germinate. As soon as the seedlings start to grow, plant in pots using the same compost as before.


Cannas can be propagated by division of the tuber, or by sowing seed. Divide tubers in February or March. As soon as the first shoots appear, divide them into 5-8cm (2-3in) pieces, each with 1 or 2 ‘eyes’, or growth buds, and some new roots. Plant each section in a 10-13cm (4-5in) pot and keep at 13°-16°C (55°-60°F) until planting out in May.

Seeds should be sown in early spring. Soak them in warm water for 24 hours and Pests And Diseases

A grey mould appears on the tuber if during storage it is kept too damp.

Treatment: As this is one of the greatest problems of overwintering, you should check the tubers occasionally throughout the period. If the rot is noticed in time, dip the tubers in a fungicide solution and allow them to dry out before you put them back into storage again.

Fine webs on the undersides of the leaves and at the leaf axils are caused by red spider mites. Prevention: This pest thrives in dry conditions. In dry, warm weather, mist spray your plants daily.


This plant needs minimum care. Partially dry the tubers and then put in a fairly dry, frost-free place for winter storage. Remove any yellowed leaves and the flower stalks after all the flowers have faded.

  • Potting: Plant in a fresh compost every spring. Use equal parts coarse peat, soil-based compost and sand.
  • Water moderately in the spring and summer. Do not water in the winter once the tubers have been lifted and stored.
  • Feeding: Feed once a week in the summer growing period with a standard liquid fertilizer.


  • Light: These plants will thrive in full sun if given a sheltered position. Dwarf plants grown indoors should be placed in or near a sunny window.
  • Temperature: Keep at temperatures of 15°— 21°C (60°-70°). Store tubers at 4°-10°C (40°— 50°F).

Buying Tips

  • This plant is available in early spring or in summer from garden centres and nurseries.
  • Choose firm tubers with no sign of rot. If you buy the plant in summer, make certain it has lots of flower buds.
  • The plant will live for several years if it is overwintered in the correct conditions.

The flowers of the Canna are rather similar to those of the Gladiolus, but are a little more flamboyant and exotic-looking.

This is an excellent plant for indoor and outdoor cultivation.

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