Cannas are among my favorite summer bulbs. They are plants of many wonderful characteristics, including interesting flowers that come in several colors, ranging from dark red to light green.

The most compelling reason for me to grow cannas, however, is for the leaves. Few plants can rival them for tropical-looking foliage that comes in rich shades of red and green, maroon and bronze. They grow quickly and are wonderful as backgrounds for bedding plants.Cannas give a subtropical effect if used with castor beans, caladiums or other large leafed plants. Some cultivars are large and need plenty of room, while others are more compact and better adapted for smaller growing areas.

Cannas thrive in warm, sunny locations and need the same conditions as corn - warm, well-drained soil with plenty of decayed organic matter. The plants are tender, so they cannot go in the ground until all danger of frost is past. Many gardeners wait to plant them until the soil is warm.

The plants are readily available from nurseries, though many gardeners save their own from year to year. Planting them directly into the soil is easy, but since they take longer to develop, starting them inside gets a jump on the season.

Start with part of an old tuber containing several strong buds. These can be divided to single buds - but weak buds make weak plants. For large vigorous plants, use whole tubers. Larger plants need 12-18 inches between them for growing room.

Cannas plants are not very fussy and will grow with little care. If you are looking for maximum growth, give them plenty of nutrients and moisture. They will grow as pond plants in standing water, but they grow equally well in a terrestrial environment. The abundant foliage develops so quickly that regular applications of fertilizer are needed to keep them in top form. Though they have few pests, slugs and snails will damage smaller plants and should be controlled with the usual methods.

There are more than 60 cultivars available, providing a wide choice of flower colors and leaf colors, as well as different sizes for the plants. Flowers are not the dominant parts of these plants but add an extra sparkle in the landscape.

Spent flowers should be removed to keep new blossoms developing. Some cannas are self-cleaning, meaning they drop spent blooms and do not need mechanical deadheading. A bonus from the flowers - particularly red ones - is that they attract hummingbirds.

Use these plants to add a new dimension to your flower gardens. Choose the size and colors that will blend well with the other garden plants.

You may even become fascinated enough to start collecting many kinds of these attractive garden plants.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Selected Canna varieties

Arranged by height under Utah growing conditions

Variety: Grumpy

Height (in inches): 18

Flower color: red

Remarks: shortest series

Variety: Doc

Height (in inches): 18

Flower color: deep red

Remarks: shortest series

Variety: Happy

Height (in inches): 18

Flower color: primrose yellow

Remarks: shortest series

Variety: Futurity series

Height (in inches): 24

Flower color: red, rose, pink, yellow

Remarks: some are self-cleaning

Variety: Tropical rose

Height (in inches): 24

Flower color: rose-pink

Remarks: blooms first year from seed

Variety: Lucifer

Height (in inches): 24

Flower color: yellow w/ red centers

Remarks: green foliage

Variety: Pfitzers Dwarf series

Height (in inches): 24

Flower color: red, yellow, coral or salmon pink

Remarks: green foliage

Variety: Angel Pink

Height (in inches): 24

Flower color: apricot and pink

Remarks: self-cleaning

Variety: Confetti

Height (in inches): 30

Flower color: yellow w/ red dots

Remarks: -

Variety: Scarlet Beauty

Height (in inches): 32

Flower color: red

Remarks: blooms early

Variety: Miss Oklahoma

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: pink

Remarks: green foliage

Variety: La Boheme

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: peach

Remarks: mid-green foliage

Variety: La Traviata

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: rose

Remarks: mid-green foliage

Variety: The President

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: scarlet

Remarks: bluish-green leaves

Variety: North Star Landscape Red

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: red

Remarks: self-cleaning

Variety: Rigoletta

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: yellow

Remarks: mid-green foliage

Variety: Durban

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: tomato red

Remarks: bronze foliage w/ orange, yellow and red stripes

Variety: Stadt Fellbach

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: peach, orange

Remarks: vigorous grower

Variety: Rosamond Cole

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: scarlet w/ sharp, narrow yellow edge

Remarks: yellow buds

Variety: Tropicanna

Height (in inches): 36

Flower color: orange

Remarks: variegated foliage

Variety: City of Portland

Height (in inches): 42

Flower color: rosy pink

Remarks: compact

Variety: Endevour

Height (in inches): 48

Flower color: soft red

Remarks: blue-green foliage

Variety: Richard Wallace

Height (in inches): 48

Flower color: yellow

Remarks: vigorous grower

Variety: Striata

Height (in inches): 48

Flower color: orange

Remarks: purple stems with light-green leaves

Variety: King Midas

Height (in inches): 48

Flower color: yellow w/ orange markings

Remarks: dark green

Variety: Wyoming

Height (in inches): 48

Flower color: orange

Remarks: bronze foliage

Variety: Black Knight (Ambassador)

Height (in inches): 48

Flower color: dark red

Remarks: bronze foliage

Variety: Red King Humbert

Height (in inches): 54

Flower color: orange-red

Remarks: bronze-red foliage

Variety: Yellow King Humbert

Height (in inches): 60

Flower color: red-splashed yellow

Remarks: mid-green foliage

Variety: Stuttgart

Height (in inches): 60

Flower color: pale pink w/ tinges of orange, red and yellow

Remarks: foliage burns under hot, dry conditions

Variety: Pretoria

Height (in inches): 60

Flower color: orange

Remarks: green with yellow stripes

Variety: TyTy Red

Height (in inches): 60

Flower color: orange-red

Remarks: bronze-purple

Variety: Assault

Height (in inches): 60

Flower color: orange-scarlet

Remarks: purple-brown foliage