Canna is a genus of about 10 species of herbaceous perennials in the family Cannaceae, native to tropical and semi-tropical regions of North, Central and South America.
Cannas are often referred to as “Canna Lily”, although they have no relationship to the lily family (Liliaceae). They produce large, banana-shaped leaves and striking, colorful flowers that resemble Irises. These exotic flowers will add color, visual interest and texture to the landscape. They will brighten up your flower beds and borders instantly all summer long.
The genus name comes from the Greek word “kanna”, meaning “reed”, which refers to a “reed-like plant”.
The common name Canna Lily comes from its tropical foliage and exotic flowers that resemble Lilies. Despite their common name, they are not true Lilies at all.
These exotic beauties are associated with glory and power, but they also represent beauty and perfection.
Interesting facts about Canna:
Canna is widely grown as an ornamental, being valued mainly for its exotic flowers and attractive leaves. Cannas are popular cultivated plants with many varieties. They come in various colors, shapes and sizes, sometimes with spots or flames on it.
These plants have been cultivated by Native Americans for thousands of years and were one of the earliest domesticated plants in the Americas. They became widely popular as ornamental plants in the Victorian era in England, under the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Their popularity is proven by the huge array of cultivars available today, with more than 1000 cultivars believed to exist. Some popular cultivars include: ‘Annei’, ‘Bangkok’, ‘Bethany’, ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Freedom’ ‘Mystique’ ‘President’, ‘Pretoria’, ‘Russian Red’, ‘Society Belle’, ‘Stuttgart’ and ‘Tropical Rose’.
Is Canna Invasive?
Canna has a bad reputation as an invasive plant. It is a tricky weed to deal with, because it spreads underground through its thick underground rhizomes.
Canna indica is considered invasive in many parts of the world including Africa, Australia, and many Pacific islands, but also elsewhere where it is naturalised.
Benefits and Uses
Several species, such as Canna indica, have many beneficial uses.
There are numerous medicinal uses of this plant. Traditionally, it has been used in the treatment of fever, diarrhea, hepatitis, malaria, women’s complaints, headaches, yaws, eye diseases, ear aches, gonorrhea, amenorrhea and to alleviate nose bleeding. The plant has also been used for cancer treatment.
Canna has been used as a food source in some cultures. The rhizomes are edible, along with the flowers and leaves. In Central and South America, the plant has been cultivated as a food crop for over 4000 years.
It has also been used for animal fodder for a long time. The rhizomes and leaves would make an important addition to the fodder supply during the dry season when animal feed is scarce.
Cannas are also used as natural food coloring agent.
Canna indica has large and heavy seeds, with an exceptionally hard exterior. The seeds have been used as shotgun pellets in India, hence the common name “Indian Shot”. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, soldiers used the seeds when they ran out of bullets.
The seeds are also used to make musical instruments, baby rattles and jewellery such as bracelets and earrings.
The fibers extracted from the stems and leaves are used to make jute and paper.
The flowers come in various colors, including red, orange, pink, yellow, cream and white.
The species vary in height from 90 cm (3 ft) to 3 m (10 ft).
They can be planted in a wide range of soils, but optimal soil is fertile, moist and well-drained. The ideal soil pH is between 5.5 and 6.5.