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Dwarf canna is go-to plant for Mississippi
Lately, I’ve been telling you about some of my favorite go-to plants for Mississippi gardens. The canna lily is another easy landscape plant that I think everyone should have in his or her garden.
Cannas are valued for their large tropical foliage and showy, brilliantly colored flowers.
They can be used as accents for the back of a landscape bed or in containers. Contrary to what their delicate appearance might make you think, canna lilies are extremely durable and quite impressive when massed together.
The cannas I remember “back in the old days” were giants that needed to sit in the back row of any landscape bed. And for good reason: Many of them were over 5 feet tall. They would stand like sentries on guard with their colorful blooms as hats. It seemed at the time that this large size was the destiny of all cannas.
However, one of the latest crazes in cannas is the development of dwarf selections for containers.
These cannas have a compact growth habit and the ability to branch. Typically, these dwarf cannas are from 16 to 24 inches tall and are perfect thrillers for combination containers. At the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, we grow the dwarf cannas as massed bedding plants and enjoy their colorful flowers each summer.
The smaller size of these varieties does nothing to limit the proud display of their gorgeous flowers.
A couple of great examples are the Cannova and Tropical canna series. These plants usually have flowers that are about 3 to 4 inches across, which is pretty big for a dwarf. The beautiful flowers are soft and form on spikes held high above the wide, lush foliage. These varieties produce reliable color in shades from rose and red to yellow.
Another good choice is South Pacific Scarlet, which was named an All-America Selections winner in 2013.
This plant’s 4-inch flowers bloom all summer long and are a delicious blend of scarlet shades. South Pacific Scarlet thrives in hot and humid conditions, making it a perfect choice for our Mississippi gardens and landscapes. It is a little bigger than the tropical cannas, with the potential to reach 4 feet tall.
Though it’s not required, deadheading prolongs the bloom period. Each plant has multiple flower shoots, and removing the spent and faded flowers allows the shoot below to develop and flower.
For the best growth and flowering, plant dwarf canna in full sun, making sure they receive at least six hours each day. Keep soil moisture consistent. While the plants can tolerate drier conditions, flowering suffers.
An interesting note about dwarf cannas is that most are seed-grown and will produce quite a bumper crop of seeds each summer. For the ambitious gardener, this seed production is an opportunity to collect and grow your own canna seedlings. Simply put three or four seeds in potting mix in a 3-inch container. Place the pot in a shady location -- the north side of the house would be great -- and keep it moist every day.
With some luck, you’ll have a new crop of dwarf cannas to display and tell everyone, “I grew these.”