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Henry Clay, horticulturist
A perfect choice for a tropical look
Cannas - photo by Special
    If you want a tropical look in your garden, whether in containers or beds, cannas (Canna x generalis) are a perfect choice.  Cannas are dramatic, with large leaves and upright growth, and flower regularly throughout our summer period. 
    Foliage varies according to variety.  While some may have plain green leaves, others have dark maroon, copperish or yellowish, variegated foliage.  Flowers come in a multitude of colors ranging from red, yellow, and orange, to pink and bi-colored.  Flower form is spike-like and can range in height.  Height may be linked with variety and be as tall as six to eight feet or be a bit low, as is the case with the Seven Dwarf Series.
    Rhizomes are planted in early spring after danger of frost has passed: plant about five inches deep and ten to twelve inches a part.  Older clumps left over winter in our climate can be lifted and divided for replanting.  For a better effect plant several rhizomes in a clumping pattern.
    As with most plants, some bed preparation will pay dividends.  The plants respond to organic matter and fertilizer mixed with the soil prior to planting.  Side dressing clumps with fertilizer at four to six week intervals will stimulate additional growth when flowers are deadheaded.  Deadheading consist of cutting the stems back considerably to near ground level after flowers fade.  New shoots arise following this cultural procedure.  It makes no sense to remove all the foliage as a few remaining leaves are needed to manufacture carbohydrates (sugars) needed for added growth of the new shoots.
    Cannas work well in containers on patios, decks, and around pools where they add a dramatic flair.  Varieties such as Bengal Tiger with its variegated green and yellow stripes create a real show.  Tropicana Yellow and Tropicana Bronze are show stoppers with their two-toned foliage.  An easy way to handle these plants is to shift smaller container plants up to 12-14 inches diameter patio pots.  Small containers are almost impossible to keep watered during periods of high temperature and full sunlight.
    A good prepared soil mixture with ample organic matter and fortified with slow release nutrients will provide good results.  After establishment in containers (2-3 weeks) apply a liquid fertilizer to boost new growth and renew flowering, especially after dead heading.
    Although relatively carefree, cannas are prone to two insect problems.  First, caterpillars can cause holes in the leaves.  Look for them under the leaf surface.  Next leaf  rollers can be seen near the upper most leaves. Telltale chewing and leaf droppings are signs of this pest.  A good spray with Orthene (Acephate) will control both insects.  Drenching with Acephate is helpful as it is a systematic insecticide.
    Cannas are a nearly perfect choice for any gardener: they require little care and reward the gardener with abundant flowers and dramatic leaf color and texture.
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