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Southern Gardening: Cannas thrive in heat, resist disease

 

Toucan Rose cannas are vigorous, fast growing and highly disease resistant. They feature coral-pink flowers.

Toucan Rose cannas are vigorous, fast growing and highly disease resistant. They feature coral-pink flowers. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension

 

Dr. Gary Bachman

 

 

Cannas are commonly grown as large-specimen plants and look fantastic mass planted in landscapes. Their tropical-looking foliage lends bold texture to the space until the flowers steal the show from summer through fall. 

 

In fact, the cannas I have planted in my Ocean Springs landscape right now are looking the best they have so far this year. 

 

The canna lily is another one of my go-to easy landscape plants that everyone should have in their garden. These plants can be used as accents for the back of garden borders or in containers. Contrary to what their delicate appearance might make you think, cannas are extremely durable, and when massed together, they are quite impressive.  

 

The cannas I remember back in the old days were giants that needed to sit in the back row of any landscape bed. With many reaching more than 5 feet tall, they would rise like sentinels standing guard with their colorful blooms as hats. It seemed this was going to be their lot in life, but plant breeders are doing a good job reducing the size of cannas.  

 

If you love the look of tropical plants but need some that grow more like petunias -- meaning easy to grow -- then look no further. Toucan cannas are fast growers, vigorous and highly disease resistant. They are ideal for our hot Mississippi climates, and they flower like crazy in the summer heat.  

 

Toucan cannas are available in a variety of luscious, tropical-themed colors. Toucan Dark Orange (formerly Red) flowers are a gorgeous and fiery reddish orange. Toucan Rose flowers feature coral-pink flowers. Toucan Scarlet has bright scarlet-red flowers and bronze-green foliage, and Toucan Yellow flowers are a clear, sunny yellow. These plants grow to 30 to 48 inches in the landscape.  

 

Other good, smaller cannas are the Cannova and Tropical canna series, which typically have flowers that are about 3 to 4 inches across -- pretty big for a smaller canna. The beautiful flowers are soft and form on spikes held high above the wide, lush foliage. These cannas produce reliable color in a variety of shades from rose to red to yellow.  

 

Another good choice is South Pacific Scarlet, which was selected in 2013 as an All-America Selections winner. This plant has 4-inch flowers that bloom all summer long with a blend of scarlet shades. It thrives in hot and humid conditions, which makes it the perfect choice for Mississippi gardens and landscapes. South Pacific Scarlet is a little bigger than the Tropical cannas, with the potential to reach 4 feet tall.  

 

Though not required, deadheading will prolong the bloom period. Each plant has multiple flower shoots, and removing the spent and faded flowers will allow the shoot below to develop and flower.  

 

For the best growth and flowering, plant these cannas to get full sun at least six hours each day. Keep the soil moisture consistent. While the plants will tolerate drier conditions, flowering will suffer.  

 

Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at southerngardening@msstate.edu.

 

 

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