I was surprised this week by this pretty cream and pink canna, blooming among some shrubs near the garage. It’s a short variety, and I need to move it to a place where it will get a little more attention.
This is another small canna currently blooming near the patio.
They are all I’ve found in our flower beds, which is a little strange since cannas are such a common plant here.
This is my favorite local variety. It’s medium tall and the blooms are clear orange.
Cannas are so common in Africa that you might think of them as native plants, but all cannas are native to the Americas. In the U.S., they range from southern South Carolina, west to southern Texas.
Cannas like full sun and consistently moist soil. They have a high tolerance for contaminants and can be used to extract pollutants from wetlands.
The blooms and foliage of cannas have such a strong presence that I think they need to be placed in gardens that are rather dramatic in return and maybe somewhat tropical.
Here is a nice old-fashioned garden bed with canna from the South African blog Sequoia Gardens.
Of course, they’re great in showy pots.
I found an interesting online newsletter, Old House Gardens, which offers a lot of history and advice on the use of cannas. It reports that Georgia gardener Ryan Gainey uses Canna indica (commonly called Indian Shot) in a big clump with chartreuse ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas and yellow ‘Hyperion’ daylilies.
Henry Mitchell lamented in The Essential Earthman that cannas had been swept out of favor, along with geraniums, elephant’s ear, and crotons, “because people remembered well how ridiculous they had looked in the wormy little dribbles of Victorian gardens.”
He recommended the large, red-flowered, green-leaved variety, ‘The President’, with “clumps of ligularias and rhubarbs and so on.”
For cannas with reddish-purple or bronze leaves, Mitchell recommended pairing them with plants of gray and bronze foliage, as well as straw-yellow, buffy, or sharp lemon flowers like daylilies — or with figs, pomegranates, or “chest-high mounds of gray wormwood and black-green yews.” It is perfectly OK to cut off the canna flowers if they are “too flashy” for you.