Tropical gardens are generally low maintenance gardens, and cannas fit right in. They love the heat, and need it to flower well, like regular watering but can cope with drought, and grow easily and quickly.
Don’t assume that cannas only grow in frost free areas. They can grow almost anywhere, if cut down to the ground and mulched at the beginning of winter, for shooting up in spring. Within a month, plants are lush and leafy, with flowers appearing from midsummer onwards.
The large, banana-like leaves of cannas fit right in with other large-leaved tropical plants like delicious monsters, philodendrons, ferns and alocasia. They look particularly good with coleus, especially the sun coleus range that develop their brilliant foliage colours in the sun.
Canna Cannova (picture above) is a new generation canna which is a different species to the invasive Canna indica and is more compact. It reaches a maximum height of 1.2 m and has a good colour range that includes bronze-scarlet, mango, orange shades, red, rose and yellow. Plants are early flowering and repeatedly produce new blooms from summer to autumn.
Once established, Cannova can withstand heat, humidity and drought. Being more compact than older canna varieties, it is suited for growing in a large container, as an accent plant in a border, as a low hedge, and in mass planting.
Landscaping with cannas
Cannas are very useful for providing height towards the back of a bed or in the centre, as a focal point.
In this planting, Canna Cannova is used as the focal point and anchor for this planting of sun-loving annuals and perennials in complimentary shades of yellow, golden-orange, and red, with a sprinkling of white as a sparkling contrast.
Try these companions with bedding cannas:
Petchoa ‘BeautiCal’ Red Maple performs like a calibrachoa but has petunia-size flowers. The compact, rounded plants, 30cm high with a 45cm spread, are weather resistant, recovering from rain faster than traditional petunias. They are also more mildew resistant. The bloom colours include cinnamon, French vanilla, Sunray pink and Bordeaux, Pearl White, Purple Dawn, Yellow Sun, Red Maple.
Bidens Blazing Star is irresistible to bees and butterflies. It produces masses of orange star-shaped flowers from spring through to autumn. It thrives in the heat of summer and copes with hot afternoon sun. A great filler for garden beds and containers.
Zinni Zahara Single or Double White are compact, growing 35cm high and wide, and is disease resistant. The fully double flowers are long lasting. The plants have very low water needs once established and are outstanding in sunny, hot and dry conditions.
Canna Cannova ‘Red Shades’ combines with Carex ‘Red Rooster’ and Juncus ‘Blue Dart’(peeping from behind) in this simple but elegant planting. It’s a play on textures and contrasting leaf shapes, with canna leaves providing a lush counterpoint to the fountain-like Carex grass. This is a low maintenance garden for sun or semi shade. The background consists of upcycled wooden pallets painted blue and old railway sleepers.
The canna’s dramatic foliage and exotic flowers are more than a match for coleus, with its brilliantly coloured and patterned leaves. Both plants need fertile soil that drains well and regular watering, especially in very hot weather. An application of fertiliser once a month during summer will keep these exotic beauties in top form.
Canna growing guide:
- Lots of sun and fertile, moist soil.
- Regular watering, especially in hot, dry conditions.
- A thin layer of mulch helps retain moisture.
- For continuous flowering cut each stem to the ground after it has finished flowering.
- Cut foliage down to the ground at the beginning of winter and cover with a layer of mulch to protect the roots from the cold.
- Let cannas grow without moving them, until they form big clumps. Every 3 to 4 years in the winter, dig up the clumps, separate the roots, and plant them in well-enriched soil.
- Fertilise when new shoots appear in spring.
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Article and images supplied by Alice Coetzee.