Cannas flowers, sometimes called canna lilies, are semi-tropical plants that grow from rhizomes. Gardeners love the bold flowers and foliage.
When we bought our home in Florida several years ago, we found several treasures in the otherwise bland backyard. As we dug up an area to create my native butterfly garden, we came across several large rhizomes, apparently dormant. We weren’t sure what they were, so for the time being, we popped them into a pot and waited to see what would happen. With a few months, our rhizomes had put on 5 feet of growth with giant leaves followed by brilliant pink blooms. We had found a treasure trove of cannas flowers!
Get expert calla lily care and growing tips.
Cannas Flower Care and Growing Tips
Cannas flowers, sometimes called canna lilies, are semi-tropical plants that grow from rhizomes. They are native to the warmer areas of the Americas. Golden canna (Canna flaccida) is native in the southeast United States, but most cannas flowers you buy today are cultivars or hybrids of a variety other species. This has given us a wide range of colors and growth habits, including some that are only about 2 feet tall instead of 5 to 8 feet, like the native varieties. Plant cannas in the spring for summer blooms.
- Zones 7 to 10
- Full Sun
- Moist, well-draining soil
Cannas need moist soil to perform well. They’re perfect for wet spots in the garden, such as an area where a downspout directs water. You can also plant taller varieties directly in water, up to about 2 feet deep. Choose a spot with full sun or partial shade, where these flowers can tolerate slightly drier soil in my experience.
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While the flower spikes are impressive in their own right, these plants are beloved for their foliage. The large, boldly colored leaves create a tropical effect when combined with other bright, flowering plants. Some varieties have bronze or even striped foliage.
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Cannas grow from fleshy rhizomes. Dig them up in fall and overwinter in sawdust or peat moss in a cool, dry area. Replant the rhizomes next spring, after the threat of frost passes.
Most varieties are considered winter-hardy to zone 7. Gardeners in colder areas can grow them as annuals or in pots that are brought inside for the winter.
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Pests on Cannas
In their native areas, cannas can be afflicted by the leaf-rolling caterpillars of canna skippers (Calpodes ethlius). These little guys can do some real damage to the foliage if they’re not noticed right away, but usually won’t affect the flowering or overall health of the plant.
As soon as you notice signs of leaf-rolling, pull the leaf apart and remove the caterpillar inside. Drop it in in soapy water to kill it. You can also watch for eggs on the leaves and remove them first.
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Cannas Flower Varieties
Hundreds of varieties are available. Try the vigorous, heat-loving South Pacific, an All-America Selections Winner with glowing orange flowers. This variety is grown from seed instead of rhizomes. For gorgeous golden flowers, plant Toucan Yellow. Red varieties like ‘King Humbert’ will attract hummingbirds.
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