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The tall cannas in the background of this Cannas are most impressive in the home landscape
planting are the selection Red King Humbert, an when massed at the end of a view across a lawn, terrace,
older red-leaved type. From it came another or other open area. In such settings, their coarse-textured
old favorite, The President (in foreground). foliage and colorful blossoms are used to best advantage.
Striped leaves add to the exotic look of
this canna, known as Striped Beauty
and originally introduced from India.
Nirvana is a similar striped selection.
Cannas Captivate the Eye
The tall, bold canna did just fine in Grandmother's flowerbed, but
over the years it's been overlooked in Southern gardens. Thanks to
hybridization, today's cannas are as varied as their landscape uses.
Cannas make a lasting impression.
Their tropical-looking foliage and
vivid flowers captivate those who
have never seen the plant and remain in
the memory of those who know it.
Southerners generally associate cannas
with city streets and parks, country
homes, or a grandmother's flower gar-
den-places where cannas have always
been planted and are still often seen.
Although common garden cannas (Canna
x generals) have not been widely planted
in home gardens in recent years, they
used to be an old standby.
In the past few years, however, a re-
newed interest in cannas has encouraged
by LOIS B. TRIGG
the breeders to begin hybridizing cannas
again. Some old selections like The Presi-
dent (a tried-and-true red) are still very
popular, but there are an increasing num-
ber of selections in various shades of red,
yellow, salmon, and pink also available.
Plant height may vary from 2 to 7 feet,
and the foliage can even be bronze or
variegated. If you still think of cannas as
the leafy-green plant with pretty red flow-
ers, the choices will amaze you.
You may be able to find a good sup-
ply of cannas at a local nursery in the
spring and early summer, or you can
write to us for a list of mail-order sources.
Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope
to Canna Editor, Southern Living, Box
523, Birmingham, Alabama 35201.
Where To Plant Cannas
Resist the temptation to dig an old-
fashioned round bed somewhere out in
your lawn and fill it with cannas. Your
lawn is a continuous area that shouldn't
be broken up with such little spaces. Also
avoid planting cannas in a single row.
Instead, mass the plants to make a sweep-
ing curve at least two to three plants
wide. To achieve a solid look, space them
12 to 18 inches apart, depending on their
Because of their large leaves, cannas
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have a strong, coarse texture in the land-
scape. In large spaces, they are perfect
for massing at the end of a view across
your lawn, terrace, or other open area.
On smaller lots, mass cannas in groups of
10 or more in a flower border, adjacent to
a terrace or walk, or anywhere bold tex-
ture is needed. Two or three plants
tucked into a sunny corner of a small
courtyard will be striking. When used as
an accent, cannas are bold enough to
stand alone in such a small space.
The background color of your canna
planting is an essential consideration. Se-
lections with pink or red flowers and/or
bronze foliage will clash with a red-brick
Cannas are still often used in street
plantings, such as this one in a Birmingham
neighborhood. Surviving their hot and
sometimes dry location very well, the cannas
catch the eye of all who drive by.
Photographs: Van Chaplin, Bath Maynor
house or garden wall. In this situation,
cannas with yellow blooms and green fo-
liage are a better choice.
How To Grow Them
Plant cannas as soon as the danger of
frost has passed; flowering should begin
in early summer. Even those set out this
month will have plenty of time to bloom
for a late-summer and early-fall show.
You'll need to give cannas a location in
full sun. Although rich, moist soil is their
preference, they will grow in either sandy
or clay soils.
For best results, incorporate plenty of
organic matter, such as compost, leaf
mold, or manure, into the planting beds.
Also work in /2 pound of 10-10-10 per 50
square feet of area.
Set the rhizomes 3 to 4 inches deep and
12 to 18 inches apart. Water thoroughly
at plantingtime and during periods of
drought. To support their fast growth,
feed cannas every six weeks throughout
the growing season; use 10-10-10, and
apply at the same rate as at plantingtime.
Simply broadcast the fertilizer around the
plants, and water it in.
To prolong flowering, cut off blossoms
after they fade. Be careful not to cut off
any flowering shoots that may be coming
out just below the spent blossoms. On
established clumps, remove the entire
flower stem, leaves and all, once all its
blossoms are spent; cut back to just
above ground level. This thins the clump
and permits light through to any newly
developing flower stems.
A crowded canna planting can be reju-
venated by digging and separating the
plants in the fall. Discard old rhizomes,
saving the younger ones that have eyes.
Store the rhizomes in an area where the
temperature stays between 40 and 50 de-
grees, such as the basement or a cool
place in the garage.
A Regional Consideration
In the Lower South andin most of the
Middle South, cannas are perennial and
overwinter when covered with a 3- to
4-inch layer of mulch. In the Upper
South, however, they must be dug every
fall, stored, and replanted in spring.
Gardeners who live in a cooler section
of the Middle South should check with
their county Extension agent to see if
cannas must be dug for the winter. For
example, cannas must be dug in Ashe-
ville, North Carolina; yet in Raleigh, they
do not. In Nashville, cannas will over-
winter except during those winters that
When digging cannas for the winter, do
it when frost first kills the foliage. Leave
the soil attached to the clumps, and store
them in a location where the temperature
is about 40 to 50 degrees; a basement or
cool area of the garage is ideal.
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