The Gardener's Guide to Growing Cannas


The strong forms and eye-catching colors of cannas make them perfect for planting as focal points or to help create a subtropical ambience.

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The strong forms and eye-catching colors of cannas make them perfect for planting as focal points or to help create a subtropical ambience.

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Editorial Reviews

California Garden - Leanne Cook
"I was quite thrilled to find [this book]."—Leanne Cook, California Garden, November/December 2002
Decor and Style - Debra Lee Baldwin
"This book provides basic data for beginners, abundant facts for canna fanatics, lavish color photos and detailed descriptions of dozens of varieties."—Debra Lee Baldwin, Decor and Style, August 2002
From The Critics
The keeper of the National Collection of cannas at Nottingham U. introduces this plant ideal for creating an exotic look in temperate climates. An A-Z guide follows Cooke's chapters on history, botany, cultivation, propagation, species, commercial production, hybridization, and role in UK and US gardens. Includes color photos, a glossary, resources, information on importing/ exporting cannas, cannas for specific aims, and FAQs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780881927078
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/28/2005
  • Series: Gardener's Guide Ser.
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Big, brash, bright and gaudy, cannas could be described as the clowns of the plant world. Most are not discreet; they flaunt their big floppy leaves in the breeze, and their huge flashy flowers stand proud and bold at the top of giant ramrod stems. Cannas are not for the faint-hearted! But it is for these flamboyant characteristics that the hot-headed among the gardening fraternity will choose them.

The description above is, of course, a generalization and among the members of this variable genus are also found delicate flowers, pastel shades and compact, well-behaved plants that would also suit the most refined and restrained garden tastes.

If we could take a time-machine back a hundred years, we would find that the cannas were highly fashionable and widely grown in both large and small gardens. Times and fashions changed and they lost their appeal but once again they have regained their popularity and are now talked about and grown by keen gardeners in many countries. Their exotic foliage and multi-coloured flowers have awarded them a new and well-deserved status as easy garden plants with instant appeal.

The name is derived from the Greek kanna, meaning a reed-like plant. Cannas are sometimes referred to as 'canna lilies', although they have no relationship to the lily family: the word is merely used here to suggest a large, exotic-looking flowers. The other common name, occasionally used, is 'Indian shot plant', referring to the round, hard, black seeds that the plant produces. I have never been able to verify that they have ever been employed as missiles, but I believe that the seeds are used as rosary beads in Spain and Portugal. I have also heard of them being used as the contents for a Zimbabwean musical instrument, called a 'hosha', which is shaken.

Cannas suffer from a widespread misappreciation that they are difficult to grow. I have been at plant sales and witnessed ignorant but outspoken people dismissing them with a single cutting phrase, such as 'You can't grow these, they are tropical', and I have then seen a queue of potential customers melt away! However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Cannas are tropical plants, essentially natives of the West Indies and subtropical areas such as South America, where they are found in both mountainous and lowland areas. However, as ornamentals, they have been developed mainly in the temperate climate of Europe. As such, they have, over the years, been selected to be tolerant of a wide range of conditions and, provided a few basic requirements are understood, they are easy and rewarding to grow. As a generalization, they respond well to conditions and cultivation techniques that are similar to those required by dahlias. In fact, I have often said that they are easier than dahlias as they do not require staking.

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