New cannas varieties renew plant’s popularity

Spring Gardening News Distributed 03/30/09

Cannas have enjoyed a rebirth of popularity because of the introduction of new varieties, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.

“These great, old, garden plants offer an attractive, vertical appeal in the landscape,” Owings says, noting that cannas are perennial all across Louisiana unless there’s a really hard winter and plants are in poor health.

A popular newer variety in Louisiana is Bengal Tiger, also known as Pretoria. Other introductions include President, Tropical Red, Tropical Rose (a former All-America Selection winner), Wyoming, Black Knight, Pink Sunburst, Durban, Cleopatra and Tropicana (also known as Phaison).

Canna varieties are being evaluated at the LSU AgCenter’s Burden Center in Baton Rouge and Hammond Research Station in Hammond. New cannas released in 2008 that did best in Louisiana trials were Scarlet Wave, Primrose Yellow and Tangelo.

Older cannas varieties were primarily red-flowered and had rather ordinary-looking green foliage. Cannas now are a blast of foliage colors.

“Variegated forms really add appeal and pizzaz to the landscape,” Owings says, adding, “There are actually several different species of cannas, and these have not all been hybridized together to get our current varieties.”

Cannas are generally considered to be cold-hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hardiness zones 7-10. Because Louisiana is located in zones 8 and 9, the plants are considered reliable perennials.

“If you happen to have some northern friends or relatives, you can encourage them to grow cannas as annuals,” Owings suggests, pointing out that they can dig up the plants in the fall and replant them the next spring.

Cannas like fertilizer. Use a high application of a slow-release fertilizer in the early spring after the plants start growing. You can fertilize again lightly in the late summer if you think the plants look like they need some help to get some fall foliage growth.

Owings recommends full sun for cannas. Flowering is not as good, and foliage color fades in partially shaded locations. Raised beds are not needed. Cannas do well in poorly drained soil and can even tolerate standing water. Cannas love the heat and do their best growing as the weather gets hot.

The cannas leaf roller is the major insect pest that attacks this popular plant. Insecticides will aid in control. The larger-growing varieties can overcome damage to the foliage faster than slower-growing varieties.

Owings says cannas are dependable, easy to grow, easy to plant and easy to care for. “What more could we ask for in terms of an ornamental plant for a Louisiana landscape through our hot and humid summer months?” the horticulturist asks.


Editor: Mark Claesgens 

3/31/2009 2:19:05 AM
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