An exotic looking foliage plant with large ovate leaves and tall colourful flower spikes. Although tender in the UK, Cannas are strong-growing plants that provide an impressive display, either on their own or in containers and bedding schemes.

Family: Cannaceae, canna lily
Botanical Name: Canna
Common Names: Indian shot

Foliage: deciduous, large ovate leaves, bronze-brown or dark green.

Flowers: large vivid showy blooms on erect stems, in shades of red, orange, yellow and pink.

Flowering Period: mid-summer to early autumn (June to October).

Soil: any moist, well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.

Conditions: best in full sun. Choose a sheltered south or west facing aspect.

Habit: upright, bushy.

Type: rhizomatous, herbaceous tender perennial.

Origin: tropical and subtropical reagons.

Hardiness: Half-hardy, protect from frost.

Planting and Growing

Pot up the rhizomes under glass in March, in a soil based compost (JI No 3). Water moderately, keep frost free and plant outdoors in late May.

Cannas make ideal tall specimen plants in a summer display or as a warm greenhouse plant. Ideal for flower beds, borders, pots and containers. Often used as a focal point in the centre of a border or bedding sceme.

Taking Care of Cannas

Water regularly during dry weather and water container grown plants daily. To improve flowering, apply an all purpose flowering plant food (slightly higher in potassium) monthly, or use a slow release form.

Leave to dieback in autumn, then lift the rhizomes once frost has killed the foliage. Over-winter in a dry potting mix and store in frost-free conditions. In mild areas of the UK they can be left in the ground (if well drained) and covered with straw or fleece.


Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to red spider mite and slug damage.

Propagating Cannas

Grow from seed in early spring, under glass. Soak the seed in water for 24 hours and nick the seeds before sowing. Cover the seed to their own depth of compost and keep at a temperature of 21°C (70°F). Plants raised from seed usually flower in their second year.

Cannas grow easily from seed and can be started off in the greenhouse or indoors in February. Soak the seeds in water overnight, to soften the hard coating. Cannas need quite a high temperature, 24°C (75°F), to germinate, so start them of in a propagator or in the airing cupboard.

Cultivars will not come true from seed, so propagate these by division in early spring. Divide the rhizomes into single shooted sections, each with two or three growing points.

Popular Varieties of Canna Grown in the UK

Hybrid cannas come in a range of bold and impressive forms, including:

'Assaut' brown-purple leaves and striking orange-scarlet flowers. Height: 6ft (2m) Spread: 2ft (60cm)

'Canasta' a dwarf series ideal for patio pots. Height to 2ft (60cm). Available from You Garden.

'Cannova Red' bright red flowers, early flowering. Ideal patio plant. Height to 2.5ft (75cm). Available from Thompson & Morgan.

'Cannova yellow' bold yellow flowers, early flowering. Ideal patio plant. Height to 2.5ft (75cm). Available from Thompson & Morgan.

‘Picasso’ green or blue-ish leaves and yellow flowers, splashed with red. Height to 5ft (1.5m).

'Striata' golden-striped green leaves and orange flowers. Height 6ft (1.9m).