Canna Care

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
One of the most important services I offer as the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office is assisting clients one on one with landscape/gardening issues. This week’s column is an example of that. If you would like to see columns about specific topics, contact me (information below) and if possible, I will be happy to discuss it in an upcoming column. As I always tell groups when I’m asked to speak, I would much rather talk about what you want to hear about than something I like but you have no interest in!

Now, on to canna care. These long lived perennials work very well in many landscape situations. From a landscape perspective, their limiting factor is probably the tendency to get a little bit ragged looking and beat up by the end of the season by our winds. This issue can be easily minimized by careful site selection or regular removal of damaged leaves.

Cannas are considered winter hardy in USDA zones 7-10. Payne County is in zone 7. This means they overwinter pretty well for us without any special precautions. However, once every decade or so, we will have a winter hard enough to kill some of these tough plants. If you have trouble with cannas surviving either because of a tender cultivar or an exposed site, try digging and storing them over the winter.

Cannas should be dug after the first good frost or freeze. In most years, this means November. This year has been so mild that right now is still early enough. Prepare the plants for storage by removing the top growth and digging all the rhizomes up. Separate them into small clumps (it’s ok to break a few) and save only the plants that look healthy. In this case, healthy is defined by firm and light-colored. Washing the soil off with a good blast of water helps make this task easier.

After cleaning and separating, set the cannas aside in a shady area for a few days and let them dry and harden off. Be sure to protect them from freezing weather at this stage! Once they’ve dried a bit, store them in a cool, dry, and dark place. A cardboard box filled with either sawdust or peat moss works well, just avoid something that seals tightly like a plastic box.

Even if you don’t have trouble with overwintering, cannas are a great pass-along plant. Taking this step is very helpful if you plan to give cannas to friends or family, or if you just need to freshen up your own landscape. A nice healthy, clean rhizome (also often called bulbs) makes for a very nice spring gardening gift.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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