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Vermont Garden Journal: The Canna Lily Offers Late-Summer Color

The canna lily is perfect for adding late-summer color to a garden that gets full sun and has moist soil.
Nova Art
The canna lily is perfect for adding late-summer color to a garden that gets full sun and has moist soil.

We can thank the Victorians of the late 1800's for many things, including the canna lily. This tropical American native, wasn't grown in gardens until Victorian-era gardeners came upon them. Now canna lilies are a standard, grouped in clumps in gardens or planted in decorative containers.

If you're looking for some great mid- and late-season color, try canna lilies. And it's not too late to plant. The plants have large, banana-like leaves that come in a range of colors from chartreuse to deepest burgundy. Even if yours don't bloom, the leaves are a show, in and of themselves. The flower stalks are yellow, pink, white, orange or red. Some varieties include 'Tropicanna' with green, yellow and orange-striped leaves and orange blooms; 'Black Knight' with dark foliage and striking red flowers; and 'Pink Sunburst' with striped leaves and bubblegum pink blooms.

Canna lilies grow three- to five-feet tall. Dwarf types are great in pots. In containers, you can place them where you want in the landscape, move them with colder fall weather and store them more easily.

In the garden, plant canna lilies in the hottest spot you've got. Full sun and well-drained, moist soil is a must. They pair well in the back of a perennial flower border with other tall plants such as sunflowers, Joe Pye weed and plume poppy.

Dead head spent flower stalks and keep the soil evenly moist, especially in the heat. Fertilize container cannas every few weeks to keep them growing strong.

Like dahlias, canna lilies grow from a rhizome that doesn't overwinter in our climate. After a frost, dig up, clean and store the rhizome in a perforated plastic bag in a cool, dark basement, keeping the roots slightly moist. Divide the rhizomes in spring before planting.

Now for this week's tip: if you like stuffing and eating squash flowers, try daylily blooms. There are more of them and they have a sweet, nutty flavor when stuffed and baked.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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