Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

My Christmas Canna

décembre 17With Christmas just around the corner, I wanted to introduce my canna ‘Hello Yello’. This plant started to bloom in July and shows no signs of wanting to stop blooming. I know, you’re going to say that it’s impossible, that cannas are summer bulbs and need to go dormant winter, but I’ve been “saving” cannas from the cold for years by bringing them indoors in early September and growing them on a sunny window and I can assure you they can continue to grow throughout the year.

Cannas, in fact, have no obligatory dormancy in their natural habitat, the tropical and subtropical swamps of South and Central America. There they grow all year, only entering dormancy during periods of drought. So, cannas use dormancy as a sort of backup plan: they can go dormant if they have to, but actually do better when they can grow all year. Since I bring my cannas indoors and keep them well watered and warm through the fall and winter, nothing stimulates them to go dormant.

Usually I keep two or three cannas as “winter plants”. I do put the others into dormancy, largely due to a lack of indoor growing space. The average “winter canna” continues to grow throughout the year and even blooms indoors, but flowering is sporadic. For example, this year I also have a pot of canna ‘Australia’ on my windowsill and it is just beautiful with its shiny, deep purple leaves, but this canna is not a heavy bloomer. Outdoors, at least under my conditions, it doesn’t bloom until the end of summer; indoors, it blooms only very occasionally. Currently mine has one stem with a swelling flower bud and I expect it to bloom sometime in January. I really like my ‘Australia’ and will appreciate its bright red flowers when they appear, but ‘Hello Yello’ is even better!

First, ‘Hello Yello’ is a relatively dwarf canna, only about 3 ft (90 cm) high, and therefore takes up less space on the windowsill. Also, it is by far the most floriferous canna I’ve ever tried. I must admit that in 2012, the first year I grew it, flowering was pretty sporadic, but  now the pot is full of rhizomes and the plant continues to produce new stems, each stem producing at least 3 bunches of flowers, one after another. The result is that, this year at least, it has been in continuous bloom since July.

Maintenance? A summer outside in the sun, a winter on the sill of my sunniest window, warmth at all times (nights above 60?F/15?C), abundant watering in all seasons and continuous fertilization (since the plant doesn’t go dormant, I have to fertilize even in winter).

Next year, try it and see. And try a few other cannas indoors as well. I have no room to carry out much experimentation, but I’m sure you’ll find other cannas that are just as floriferous indoors as ‘Hello Yello’. If so, let me know your results. It is surprising what good houseplants cannas make and ‘Hello Yello’ is, so far, the best of them all!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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