Canna Lilies

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If you want a bright, happy, tropical-style garden but you don’t live in the tropics, think about planting canna lilies. Cannas are undergoing a new wave of popularity now that warm colours and bold foliage are back in style.

In our segment Don visited canna grower Anne Glancy, who has been collecting, identifying and researching the history of cannas for the last 20 years. Anne has a garden and mail order nursery in Melbourne, where she grows over 170 named canna varieties.

Plant details

Common name: canna lily Botanic name: Canna x generalis Hybrids

Description:

Cannas are perennials which grow from thick underground roots (or rhizomes). The flowers grow up through tightly furled leaf bases or ‘false stems’. Modern canna hybrids come in four different sizes: pixie (45cm-60cm), dwarf (60cm-100cm), medium (1m-1.5m) and tall (1.5m-2m). They come in all colours except blue, green and black. The foliage may be green, blue-green, purple, burgundy, bronze or striped.

‘Ace of Spades’ – red flowers
‘Annjee’ – mottled pink and gold flowers
‘Camille Bernardin’ – salmon over apricot flowers with blue green foliage
‘Cleopatra’ – orange over yellow flowers, sometimes producing a red petal or complete stem of red flowers

‘Garton Baudie’ – bright, orange red flowers
‘Pfitzer’s Confetti’ – pale lemon flowers streaked with pink
‘Una’ – bright lolly pink flowers with gold edging
‘Zebra’ – red mottled flower

Best climate:

Cannas grow in most areas of Australia.

Best look:

Mass planted in blocks of a single colour in front of a wall or hedge.

Good points: 

Long flowering wide range of flower colours handsome foliage available in different sizes hardy and low maintenance.

Downside:

The species C. indica has escaped from gardens and naturalised in bushland. This is less likely to happen with canna hybrids.

Care:

Most cannas like a sunny position, but off-white flowering varieties prefer dappled shade. They grow well in moist soil enriched with organic matter such as compost. Fertilise in late winter with a mixture of four parts blood and bone and one part sulfate of potash. Water well before and after fertilising. Cannas also respond well to applications of well-rotted cow manure.Keep plants mulched and water well, particularly during dry spells. Remove spent flower heads to maintain an attractive display. Do not cut off more than about 15cm (6″), as new flowers will be forming lower down the stem. At the end of the flowering season, cut old stems down to within 2cm (1″) of the ground. Leave new young shoots – these will flower early next season. Lift and divide the clumps every three years.

Further information

Our segment was filmed at Canna Brae Country Garden Nursery. The nursery is not open to the public, but will mail order to all areas of Australia. Prices range from $2 – $7. If you’d like a catalogue send a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to:
Canna Brae Country Garden Nursery
35 Felix Crescent
Ringwood North VIC 3134