By Ralph E. Mitchell
I wrote an article awhile back about canna lilies. These perennial plants are so well-adapted to our area and their floral display is orchid-like and abundant. While the blooms are fantastic and come in shades of pink, yellow, orange, red., white and some bi-colors, the foliage of some cultivars provides a second wave of color which can complement, if not overpower, the actual flower colors.
My number one example – which I grew this year – is a canna called ‘Pretoria’. “Pretoria’ has orange flowers – nice enough – but the yellow and green stripped foliage almost requires sunglasses to view. Understandably, ‘Pretoria’ is also called ‘Bengal Tiger’. ‘Pretoria’ may also sometimes be known as ‘Malawiensis Variegata’, and ‘Striata’. It can get confusing, but it is the same cultivar, just several different names have accumulated over the years. My main point is that some canna cultivars are worth growing for their exotic foliage coloration. ‘Cleopatra’, for example, is a canna with green leaves and maroon stripes. The foliage show is further enhanced with yellow flowers decorated with red spots. ‘Pink Sunburst’ looks like a cousin of ‘Pretoria’ with an interesting pink twist. Complete with pink flowers, the foliage has light pink stipes on a background of green with a reddish tinge.
If you like something very different, take a look at ‘Stuttgart’ – a light-green and white marbled variegated leaf with a peach-colored flower. The flowers are nice, but if you like variegated foliage, this plant is a must. ‘Phasion’ aka ‘Durban’ is another variegated canna to note. ‘Phasion’ combines yellow, pink and red stripes on a large five-foot plant with orange flowers. The title ‘Tropicanna’ is also sometimes substituted for this many-named cultivar. Patented cultivars are also available such as ‘Tropicanna® Gold’ decked out with an orange and yellow flower.
For me, I am very happy with my ‘Pretoria’ canna, but will look into other jazzy cannas for next year. While there are many cultivars available at local garden centers as ready-to-plant rhizomes (underground stems), and even potted started plants, there is an enormous selection on specialty internet canna sites for your perusal. The canna lily, a Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ plant, has great flowers and many have stunning foliage to help “double the color” and beautify your landscape! For more information on all types of flowering perennials suitable for growing in our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/03/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gardening Solutions – UF/IFAS. Cannas
Carey, D. & Avent, T. (2018) How to grow Canna Lily. https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/canna-lily-bulbs-plant-canna-lilies
Jauron, R. (2005) Growing Cannas in the Home Garden. Hort. News – Iowa State Extension.
Wikipedia (2018) List of Canna Cultivars
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services