I first came across, and grew, cannas (Canna generalis) in the Midwest. Originally there was only the common red canna. This may be the most common, but is a terrific plant nonetheless. The red canna will grow to five feet or more in height and has plain mid-green leaves.

The more tropical looking cannas are the ones with burgundy leaves. Some of these have stripes whilst others are a deep burgundy color. The flowers vary from the basic red, to yellows and peach-colors. The blooms appear at the top of short stems above the leaves. The flower has four large outer petals and a smaller inner petal making the flower five or six inches across. Planted en masse, the canna will give a brilliant display of color and texture to your garden. They are ideal to plant at the back of a border where they are in full sun, or to add color to a partly shady area. The burgundy leaf cannas look particularly stunning if surrounded by hot pink petunias, or some other tropical looking annual.

growing cannas
growing cannas

To grow cannas, plant the rhizomes after the last frost has occurred. The plant will sprout and grow quickly, so that you will have flowers, in most areas, by midsummer. In far northern areas where summers are short though, you may have to start the plants inside so that they have time to mature outside and produce flowers before your first frost occurs.

In all zone six, or below, areas the rhizomes should be removed from the ground after the frost has killed the leaves. Remove the browned leaves and lift the rhizomes carefully. You will be surprised at how many pieces are produced in just one season growing! Allow the rhizomes to dry before storing them. In the south were they do not need to be lifted, you may still want to check the rhizomes, so that they do not get out of the designated garden area. Where you have to store the rhizomes inside over the winter, keep them in a frost free area and cover with peat moss or dry sand. They are only hardy through 7 at best.