Smith County Master Gardener
Screaming to be seen, Canna Tropicana imposes itself upon the garden.
With its huge variegated yellow, orange, and green leaves, you would think it showy enough, but no! This beauty adds bright orange flowers and grows to about 5 to 6 feet high. No one can possibly miss this wildly conspicuous flower.
Summer in East Texas with the high temperatures and humidity begs for bright hot colors and cannas have always obliged.
Cannas originates from both South and North America. It has been a mainstay of southern gardens for eons of time. Tall tropical foliage ranging from green, deep purple, striped, and variations of all kinds plus huge stems of bright flowers beckon the summer. Blooms come in red, orange, yellow, splotched, and variegated colors as well.
You can have them from 10 feet tall down to 18 inches tall and all in between. They multiply quickly and are great to hide eyesores in the yard. Just be sure you do not plant them next to something delicate and dainty because they will walk all over it and never flinch.
You often see this species at the back of a fairly large property growing in a continuously wet site. It is a water hog and will not tolerate drought for long. It will grow in ditches and muddy areas (if there are any in Texas).
Cannas love highly fertile soil. My mother always shoveled manure over hers in spring and threw a handful of fertilizer on them a couple of times while blooming. The variegated leaved ones especially need fertile soil.
The variegation will be more pronounced and the flowers larger and brighter with extra fertilizer. We use 15-5-10 lawn fertilizer. The plants will need some mulch over the roots in a cold winter. If the ground freezes, they will freeze too.
I have never failed to have some survive any winter we have ever had when mulched. Plant cannas in full unmitigated sun for best results.
The down side of cannas is the leaf roller worms love them. They roll themselves up in the leaves and eat them from the inside out until the once beautiful leaves hang in shreds. They are worse some years than others.
You can use a spray for caterpillars but we just cut them to the ground, get rid of the leaves, and let them come out new. Usually we don’t have any more trouble.
Once the blooms are finished, just cut that stalk back to the ground. More will grow back and your cannas will grow and bloom all summer into fall.
Check out Canna Tropicana in our Rainbow Border in the IDEA Garden. You will see others in the other gardens as well.
Dee Bishop is a Smith County Master Gardener. She writes about plants blooming in Tyler Rose Garden.