Despite their tropical ancestry, Cannas are a great choice for West Texas gardens and flowerbeds. Boasting large, palmy foliage and canes topped by flowers in many available colors, they thrive and keep producing flowers from late spring to first frost in the fall.
Often called Canna lily (Canna indica) comes from the Greek word for reed. It is not a lily but more closely related to gingers and bananas. It has been cultivated by indigenous people in tropical America for thousands of years. The starchy rhizome was used as an arrowroot starch and the young tubers were cooked and eaten. Today cannas are selectively bred to produce starch.
The leaves are paddle shaped ranging in shades of green, bronze or rustic red. Depending on the variety, flowers can be red, orange, pink or yellow.
Many plants quit flowering in the heat of a West Texas summer but cannas thrive. Some varieties only grow about two feet tall, while others can be six feet.
Plant cannas either in the fall or late spring when soil temperatures are at least 60 degrees. They need full sun but will tolerate some shade, and moist soil until established. Best of all, they never need to be pampered. If you plant in the fall, expect them to bloom in the spring.
To plant, loosen the soil to about 12” then dig a hole about 3” deep and set the rhizome in the hole, eyes right side up. Cover with 2” of soil and tamp down. Water thoroughly. They should be 2’ to 4’ apart.
They are slow to sprout so be patient. Don’t water again until you begin to see growth. Once you see growth, water once a week. These plants bloom without fertilizer but if you plan to help them along, use a 10-10-10. Rose or tomato fertilizer is a good option as well. As flowers fade, deadhead them to promote longer production.
Cannas will die back to the ground after the first frost. You may want to leave them until you cut back other plants in your yard about the end of January or first of February to provide shelter for birds. At that time simply shear them off just above the ground.
This plant will need to be dug up and separated every couple of years. It is a perfect pass along plant so share with your gardening friends.
For more information, call the AgriLife office at 498-4071 in Odessa or at 686-4700 in Midland or visit aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu or westtexasgardening.org.