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As far as summer flowering plants go, the Canna lily is one of my absolute favourites. Now I know that it is a plant completely overused by council grounds staff, but I choose to turn a blind eye to that. With that in mind, while I would rather not have my garden look as if its design has been lifted off the local roundabout, I couldn't stop myself from purchasing three gorgeous examples, each one now in different stages of flower, earlier on in the year.

And why wouldn't you want one of these? I admit that, at least in my opinion, the tall, green leaved varieties are not particularly desirable, but the newer, low growing cultivars with their large, bold coloured leaves do it for me every single time.

How to grow the Canna lily

Canna leaves - Image credit
You can purchase pot grow Cannas late in the spring but it can be expensive so with a little forethought you are better off buying pre-packed Rhizomes in February and March.

The advantage of this is that there will be a far larger selection of cultivars available to you.

Plant these rhizomes in pots or boxes, just giving each section of root just a covering of rich, peaty compost.

From there they can be placed in a greenhouse or a cool room in the house with a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius. If more than one shoot appears on a rhizome you can divide it into sections - each with a shoot and some new roots. These can be potted on into individual pots, again with a rich, peaty compost.

Canna flower - Image credit
Looking like miniature bananas their soft, luxurious foliage will unfurl from the soil late in the spring, promising much for the summer.

In April the growing plants can be moved into larger pots or tubs and grown on at a temperature of 13-16 degrees Celsius. In late May, these tubs can be moved outside.

Alternatively, Canna can be grow outside in a sheltered border once the risk of late frosts is over. However, it is advisable to lift and bring the rhizomes under cover before the autumn frosts arrive.

If you live in the warmer regions of northern Europe such as the south coast of England then you can leave your Cannas outside all year round.

Canna roots and stems - Image credit
In which case they will need to be planted a little deeper into a free draining soil, or better still, have them planted into raised beds.

They will still benefit from protection from ground frosts, so they are often overwintered with a covering of straw or a open structured mulch.

In my own sheltered, raised beds I have overwintered Cannas with no additional protection and they have all come up fine.

The only problem is that you may not see your first leaf emerge until late June, maybe even early July!

How to overwinter Cannas

Plants lifted from beds or borders should be partially dried before the leaves and roots are cut off in readiness for storing through the winter.

Store in moist, but not wet peat or leaf mold in a frost free position. If kept too dry, the rhizomes will shrivel up and die. If they are kept too wet then they will rot off.

Pests and Disease

On the whole, Canna lilies have very good pest and disease resistance. However there has been some issue with Canna rust on this species, but in recent years new varieties have been far more resistant.

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