A tropical atmosphere with Canna: the summer bulb of the year

Beautiful background

The leaves of Canna alone are spectacular. Rolled up as a young leaf, they unfold into broad leaves in green or chocolate brown colors. The green leaves are reminiscent of banana leaves. Canna leaves are often variegated. With their exotic look, they make for a beautiful background for other plants and flowers in the garden.

Many varieties

The first flowers of this tropical surprise will appear in July. Through to October, they will tower above the leaf in red, orange, yellow, white or pink. Some flowers are even multicolored: speckled or with colored edges, for example. Canna comes in taller and shorter or dwarf varieties. 

How to plant?

Canna has tuberous rhizomes: underground stems where they store food reserves. They should be planted in April or May, once the soil has warmed up a bit after winter. Canna feels at home in borders and large pots alike. Choose a sheltered spot in the sun or half shade: the more sun, the richer the flowering. Dig a shallow planting hole of about 4 inches. Place the rhizome with the ‘eyes’ (growth points) facing upwards, then cover with soil and water.


The plant will grow of its own accord. The final height varies from 1.5 to more than 6 foot. Canna rarely needs support. It does, however, gratefully receive feed in the form of organic manure. If you deadhead the wilted flowers, Canna will continue to produce new flower buds. Branches left in place will develop elegant seed pods. Branches like these can be cut off and put in a vase.


Canna hails from South America. They are happy to hibernate outside in mild winter weather. In the fall, fold down leaves that are starting to die off and apply a layer of straw if necessary. For wintering out of the soil, dig out the rhizomes and store them in a cool, frost-free place. The following spring, you can simply replant them and start the cycle again.

Interesting little facts

  • The name Canna comes from the Greek word Kanna, which means ‘reed’. Canna is also called Canna lily, although it is not actually a lily.
  • Canna has its own family, the Cannaceae.
  • In Thailand, it is customary to offer a Canna flower as a gift on Father’s and Mother’s Day.
  • In some countries, Canna seeds are used to make rosaries.

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