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How to Grow Canna Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Indian Shot and Canna Lily

Although the Canna Lily is a half hardy perennial, it is often grown as an half hardy annual in the garden.

Despite their name, Canna plants are not a member of the lily family (Liliaceae) but are members of the ten species stong Cannaceae family.

Interestingly, Cannas are more genetically similar to Ginger plants (Zingiber officinale) and Bananas (Musa Spp.) than they are to the lily plant.

Canna lily
Canna lily by B&M Photography

It is a tall tropical plant that may reach 1.5 m (5 feet) in height. Common names for Canna Lily plants include Indian Shot and Achira.

Canna lilies bloom in the summer and early autumn with yellow, red, or pink flowers on spikes.

These plants are beloved by many gardeners for their attractive leaves and asymmetric flowers.

There are many cultivars available, and these carry a wide range of colors in both leaves and flowers.

The flowers tend to be red in nature, with similar colors such as orange and yellow often see. Whereas the leaves, which are predominantly green in nature, are often variegated, maroon, or brown in the cultivars.

Canna Plant Species and Cultivars: Canna Lily Images Grow Guides and Identification

Canna indica: Canna Lily, Indian Shot

Canna indica plant
Canna indica plant photograph by Ting Chen; CC.

Canna indica Flower
Canna indica flowers, photograph by Iezalel williams; CC.

Canna 'tropicanna': Synonymous with cultivated varieties (cv.) Canna 'Phasion' 'Andaloucia', 'Inferno', 'Gold Ader', and 'Tiger Stripe'.

Canna tropicanna
Canna tropicanna cultivar photograph by cultivar413; CC.

Canna: 'Cleopatra' - Synonymous cv. 'Yellow King Humbert', 'Fusion', 'Goldkrone', 'Harlequin', and 'Queen Helena'.

Canna cleopatra flower
Close up of a Canna cleopatra cultivar flower photograph by Michael Coghlan; CC.

Canna cleopatra leaves
Canna CV cleopatra leaves, image by peganum; CC.

Common Canna Plant Questions

How to plant Canna bulbs

Initially, prepare a loose soil in which to plant Canna lilies - dug to about 45 cm (15 inches) deep. Next mix in about a fifth of the depth volume of compost. Then dig an hole into the prepared soil of about 2.5 to 3 (7 to 8 cm) deep.

Canna rhizome should ideally be placed in the hole eyes up (don't worry if some are on the side). Next, cover the Canna bulb by topping up the soil to the surface, and firm using your foot. Give a good watering.

Advice on Growing Canna lilies in Colder Regions

If you are growing Canna in areas that have cold winters (below -18°C, 0°F / Zone 6) then you should dig up Canna bulbs, and bring indoors in the autumn before the first deep frosts.

In slightly warmer areas (below -15°C, 5°F / Zone 7), then you may get away with providing a mulch using leaf matter or straw, though it may be better to take no chances and bring indoors.

Canna should be able to survive winter and grow as a perennial in warmer zones of 8 and above (-15°C, 10°F).

How to Store Canna Bulbs

For Canna lily winter storage, in cooler areas cut back to six inches in the autumn, then lift tubers and store indoors in a frost free environment, keep within peat moss.

How to Grow Indian Shot (Canna)

When growing Indian Shot from seed outdoors, it is best to sow at a depth of 6 mm (quarter of an inch) in the late spring, when the last frost has long gone.

If growing from tubers, then Canna lily bulbs should be buried at a depth of about 9 cm (3 1/2 inches).

If planning to grow Canna seedlings indoors, then the seed first needs to be chipped with a knife, and then soaked in warm water for two days.

The seeds (which may take from a month right up to a year to germinate) should be kept at a temperature of about 22°C.

If you are successful in growing Canna seedlings, then they should be planted at a spacing of about 50 cm (20 inches) apart and located in a sunny part of the garden, that has good drainage.

Indian Shot requires a moist soil of pH 6 to 7.

Canna
Canna and Hummingbird by Aunt Owwee

Caring for Canna in the Garden

Canna / Indian Shot should be well watered in prolonged dry spells and fertilized monthly.

Tubers can be divided in the spring to create more plants (this is a lot easier than growing from seed).

How to Grow Canna

Canna Growing Guide and Facts

Common Names: Indian Shot, Canna Lily.
Family: Cannaceae.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial usually grown as a hardy annual by gardeners.
Height: 24 to 60 inches (60 to 150 cm).
Native: Tropic and subtropical regions of the Americas.

Growing Region: Annual: zones 3 to 7 (or bring rhizomes indoors over the winter). Perennial: zones 8 to 10. UK hardiness zone H3, this tender plant is hardy in the coastal areas, but will need to be brought indoors during the winter in other areas.
Flowers: Summer and early autumn.
Flower Details: Red, orange, yellow. Three small petals and sepals hidden beneath large stamens.
Foliage: Green, brown, maroon. Broad and flat. Herbaceous.

Sow Outdoors: Seed 1/4 inch (6mm). Tuber 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm); size dependent. About three or four weeks after the last frost. Spacing 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm).
Sow Indoors: Chip seeds. Soak in warm water for two days. Germination time: three weeks to one year. Temperature 70 to 75°F (21 to 24°C). Transplant outdoors well after the last frost; soil temperature should not drop below 50°F (10°C).

Requirements: Full sunlight (at least four hours per day). Soil pH 6 to 8. Fertile moist soils. Monthly feed. Winter mulch. Propagate by dividing in spring ensuring that each tuber has at least two buds.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on Canna. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow Ginger Lily and Fritillaria plants.


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