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Grow Cannas and Heat up the Jungle Fever

Summer flower bulbs can add a tropical flare to your garden with their lush free flowering habit. Lilies, gingers, elephant ears, cannas, caladiums and other summer bulbs are lively, undemanding plants that flourish when the heat is on.

One of my favorite summer blooming bulbs are the Cannas. Their extended flowering season (from summer through fall) and luxurious green or bronze colored foliage guaranty a spectacular display. There are many, many Canna cultivars - over 60, including standard and dwarf types. You could start them indoors in late March for a head start on growth. The tall cannas can grow up to 10" in the right conditions! You best look for the shorter varieties, like the Futurity series, if you don't have the space. Cannas have strong stems, so even the tall varieties rarely need staking.

Cannas have a wide range of flower colors -- from bright yellows, reds, pinks, orange and combinations of all those. Their foliage can be bright or dark green, yellow or purpley bronze, striped or solid.

Canna roots are actually rhizomes, not bulbs, and are planted around the first of May (depending on your location). For best results plant in soil that's rich in organic material like well-rotted manure). They'll even take soggy conditions. The rhizomes are planted horizontally and covered with an inch of soil.

To keep Cannas happy give them:

  • Full sun
  • Warm summers
  • Rich soil
  • Protection from the wind to keep their leaves from shredding
Start fertilizing them in the spring and then monthly as they grow throughout the summer with a 12-4-8 or its organic equivalent. This supplemental feeding plus adequate water will help guarantee optimum blooming.

Keep Cannas tidy through the summer by pruning off spent flowers to keep them blooming and cut back the stalks to the ground in fall. You can even collect the hard black seeds in late summer.

In colder areas of the country (zone 6 and lower) where the ground freezes, Cannas and other summer blooming bulbs will not overwinter well. It's best to dig them up and store in dry peat in a cool place for the winter. An unheated garage or cellar that will not freeze is ideal. In borderline zones - like zone 7 you can mulch well with 3 inches of organic material. Be sure to protect them from too much moisture as the winter rains will rot the rhizomes sooner than the cold will kill them.

In late spring (usually when your tomatoes go out) it's time to plant your Cannas. Unless you live where the ground doesn't freeze, you have to replant tender perennial bulbs every spring. Some dig and store their bulbs as described above. Others start with fresh bulbs every year.

Established Cannas beds can quickly become overcrowded. Dig up the clumps looking for rhizomes which contain viable eyes (sprouts). Rejuvenating the beds will allow you to clean up the bed and reset just the best rhizomes.

Also consider growing cannas in pots to brighten up a dull spot. A five gallon pot filled with rich soil is ideal. Pots can even be buried up to their rims to blend in with the landscape.

Cannas are some of the most show stopping plants in the summer garden. Check out our large selection of Cannas in many sizes and colors of flowers and leaves.


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