Standing right in among the cannas – a new experience!

I promised a post on cannas – and this is for all of you facing dazzling, beautiful, overwhelming WHITE at the moment!

What could be sunnier?

Allthough in mid-summer the flowers are very impressive, they are not the main reason I grow cannas.

Flame effects that not even dahlias can match.

Although I bet right now you don’t believe me!

Flowers fortissimo!

No – I grow cannas for their leaves which give many months of joy.

Young canna leaves

Of these the most beautiful is known as  ‘Durban’  or  ‘Tropicanna’ or sometimes, incorrectly as someone tried to register it under this name, as  ‘Phasion’.

Durban is South Africa’s most tropical city; Tropicanna is a good name for this exquisite leaf! But the joys of cannas can also be much more subtle…

And not all flowers are brash.

In fact sometimes they can be as delicate as irises.

Most cannas today are hybrids and it seems species names are not readily attached, much like with roses. Sometimes they are incorrectly referred to as Canna x hybrida, or even more incorrectly as C. hybrida.

However we do have some species cannas. The small flowers belong to two sub-species of Canna indica. The lovely red one, with a red margin and tinge to the leaf and lovely dark seed-heads seems to me to be  C.i. var. warszewiczi.

 Then we have a thug, a boring, invasive plant which we try constantly to eradicate. It looks very similar, but is relentlessly green, with tiny yellow and red flowers. It seems to be called Canna indica var. maculata.

We have another and quite unusual species canna, Canna iridiflora, with elegant, hanging flowers in a lovely shade of pink.

You might have seen it before where it grows in the lower Rosemary Border.

You might also remember the massed cannas really showing off their lovely leaves in the third photograph over here.

Here are a few more cannas to brighten your day.

And lastly – the bright yellow canna, which we have unfairly neglected.


19 thoughts on “MORE ABOUT CANNAS

  1. Hi Jack, I have never seen cannas grown like this, it is amazing. I agree, the leaves are the thing. We have Durban, sold as Phaison from Plant Delights Nursery, a very reputable business here in the US. It has not bloomed, but I grow it for the leaves. Wish I had the numbers, or room for them, like you! Envy! 🙂

    • Hi Frances – can you recall if it was sold to you with a plantbreeder’s rights label, and when you bought it? It is more than possible that the name stuck once the rights were denied!

      • Hi Jack, I finally got into that bed and looked at the tag. It just says Canna ‘Phaison’ PP 10,569. Is that last part plant patent and number perhaps?

      • Hi again, Frances! I answered in detail below, but your PP number was my google key to pulling the bits together. It seems KK’s SA marketing is very ambiguous these days about rights or not on this canna!

  2. Not a blemish on a leaf! We have an insect here called”Leaf Rollers” that chew holes in the leaves and make them ugly. Do you suffer from any insects on your canna?

    • Hi Jim
      Some careful selection of subject, careful cropping, and in the final pic some careful use of the spot removing tool… by late-summer the results are less happy. On the whole though we have a very balanced ecology and don’t mind giving up what a very dear old family servant used to refer to as ‘die Here se deel’ – ‘God’s portion’…

  3. Hi Jack

    They look fantastic under a SA sun.

    I believe the Indica var. warszewiczi can be grown easily from seed, I don’t know if you do this.

    There was/is something known as Canna virus over here in Europe. It would attack the plants gradually browning the leaves from the bottom up. Many efforts have been taken to eradicate it now and most stock is clean.

    Yours look vibrant, healthy plants.

    I really like the yellow and I’ve seen some beautiful pinks.

    Thanks Jack

    • Hi Rob. My original C.i. warszewiczi I grew from seed from a similar climate 200km away. I knew I was taking a risk as at that time C.i. maculata had already proved itself an invasive thug. (It has been around for as long as I can recall.) However warszewiczi has behaved impeccably, and I’ve grown ever fonder of it, especially as it doesn’t have the tatty late-season appearance of the other cannas. We have some damae from leaf eaters, but there is so much growing so fast by mid-October that damage is relativey slight and so far -touch wood- I’ve not had problems with any viral diseases. Wish I coul say the same for my flag irises ;( !

    • Thank you Tatiana! Do you know that it was another photographer who first photographed the cannas against the barn and made me take note that we had created something rather special. I had simply used a plant of which I had a great many for that bank! How pleased I am for that almost unconcious decision!

  4. Hi Jack,
    Reading the comments, I think we take for granted, our amazing climate where plants like canna seem to thrive without much work!
    My wife and I took a drive through the verdant Natal Midlands last week, and I was blown away at how beautiful the Cannas were – they had just been planted in the drainage ditch on the road-side. I’m sure no-one really looks after them, but there they were looking spectacular!
    BTW, I loved your stories about your staff on the farm…

    • Hi Ross! Nice to see you around again! I hope your silence has been because you’re so busy creating beauty and getting rich ;)!

  5. Hi Jack, I still have the tag stuck in the ground next to the plant. When the ground thaws, I don’t want to walk of frozen plants, it is not good for them, I will check. Tony Avent is quite responsible about ownership, etc. He wrote a book about it I think, or at least an article for magazines. I can’t imagine he would not give proper credit.

  6. Jack,
    What a sight, seeing these beauties growing en masse. Tropicana is one of my favorites, such vividly colored leaves! Thank you for sharing, this was indeed a treat.

    • My apologies Liisa! Your comment was lurking in the ‘to be approved’ tray and I somehow never picked it up. Thanks for popping in and for your comment.

  7. Frances, I’ve done some research and include the links. The first concerns the PP rights here in SA: It is interesting that Keith Kirsten whose original registration was declared null and void does not include the plant in “The KK Collection”, but from his website ( ) it is clear he is in close partnership with Anthony Tesselaar who seems to hold a PP in the USA and Australia for 3 cannas. I have found some more info on the registering of ‘Black’ (included) and ‘Gold’ which, by the photographs at ATI, are almost a weed on the Natal coast of South Africa; I grew up thinking both were indigenous plants and my original stock of these two I dug up ‘in the wild’ there! I bought Phasion in the late 80s from a rural nursery long before KK’s claims, so knew from the start of the publicity that it was far-fetched. I believe there is a huge amount of opportunistic marketing that happens, and we gardeners pay their pleasure! By all means charge for introducing new plants – there are massive costs and risks involved. But there is a difference between registering a right as an importer and claiming to have BRED it. I do think KK learnt from the experience, because he tends to choose plants now that are safely new and different.

  8. Thank you, Helen and Deborah! Aren’t we all just such suckers for a wow effect in the garden. Now if I think how I slave over SOME areas…;)

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