Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
May, 2001
Regional Report

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Lay the canna rhizomes in the furrow, not quite touching, to create a solid mass of foliage and flowers this summer.

Get Growing With Cannas

Cannas may look exotic and tropical, but they still grow well in our cold climate. Cannas will stand up to most anything, except frost. Even though spring has a few light frosts left for this year, I can still plant canna rhizomes now for a show of flowers later this summer.

Old Fashioned Cannas

I like growing the old-fashioned cannas that grow to around 5 feet tall, but there are many newer varieties that grow only a few feet tall that are attractive as well. The strong central stalk is adorned with broad, banana-like leaves. Large red, orange, white, or pink flowers flounce at the top in July and August.

Planting Cannas

Cannas rhizomes need a good start to grow well. Mix compost with your soil and cultivate until it's finely textured. Dig a furrow 6 inches deep, and lay the rhizomes end-to-end, almost touching, then fill in the trench and water. I like to alternate the very biggest with smaller rhizomes so the bloom time is staggered. The largest rhizomes produce plants that bloom first. Cannas are most effective when planted in masses, so I make the next furrow about 8 inches away. In about a month the cannas will sprout. Keep them well watered for best blooms.

Summer Care

If you're gardening in a warmer part of our region, you can deadhead cannas by cutting the stalks down to the ground, and if the weather cooperates, the new growth may produce another flower stalk before frost. You can let cannas set seed instead and experiment with growing them. The seedpods contain attractive black, bead-like seeds. Seedlings will come up, but grow only to about 8-inches tall, producing a very small rhizome. The seedlings probably won't have enough energy to bloom, but you can grow the tubers for a few years to see what your seedlings become.

Winter Care

After a hard freeze, dig and store the tubers. Cut the stalks at ground level and dig up the rhizomes. Stack rhizomes in plastic laundry baskets or boxes large enough to allow air circulation. Cover them lightly with slightly moistened peat moss to keep from drying out. Let them rest in a frost-free, cool, unheated space, such as your basement, until spring.

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