You Can Grow Colorful Cannas – Part I

Cannas are (circle all that apply) colorful, tropical, large-flowered, bold, brash, bright, sometimes gaudy, glorious, short or tall, a glorious garden plant.   I hope you circled them all, because cannas are all of the above.    Plus very delightful and very variable.

Cannas in the Southwest

pink flowered tropical rose canna grows in the southwest
So pretty in pink! Canna ‘Tropical Rose’ was an All-America Selection in 1992. Image courtesy

If you have an entirely desert landscape, cannas won’t look right in your landscape. But – if you are like most of us in the Southwest – you have an oasis zone in your low-water landscape (we used to call ’em xeriscapes), thus cannas will fit right in.    Cannas also grow well in a water garden.    So yes – you can grow cannas in the Southwest.

Lush Looking

The broad flat leaves of cannas are typically solid green but some cultivars have maroon, bronzy, or even enchantingly variegated (striped) leaves. Also fascinating to behold is how the leaves emerge. They grow out of a stem in a long tapering roll and once fully grown they will unfurl.

Canna Flowers

While the leaves are wonderfully striking, the flowers are stunning.    Almost like a living tiki torch, the flame colored flowers appear on a long lasting spike. Individual flowers sequentially grow in an upwards spiral in vivid hues of crimson, scarlet, golden, yellow, orange, or a sunrise blend of all of these colors.

orange canna flowers in the southwest

How to Grow Colorful Cannas

Here in the Southwest, cannas grow best in some afternoon shade in summer. They are used to tropical sun, not desert sun.

Provide ample water.
Mine grow in pots in the water garden with the bottom half inch in the water. They have as much water as they want.

Plant in well-drained rich soil.  This means that “cactus mix” is just fine. I often say this about cactus mix because it’s about the only potting mix I use anymore. Less fussing over this blend or that. If it a plant isn’t happy in cactus mix, or in the ground – then I don’t grow it.

peach colored canna flowers grow in the southwest


Cannas do well very in containers, but be sure to select the right pot for the final size of the variety you have. The large leaves can act like a sail and pot that is too small can tip over on a windy day.

orange flowered south pacific canna grows in the southwest
Cannas grow well in containers and are content to be slightly pot bound. This is Canna ‘South Pacific Orange’ and was an All-America Selection for 2018. Image courtesy All-America
soule canna plant emerging from soil after winter dormancy
Emerging from the winter nap.

Cannas will die back to their below ground rhizomes for the winter if it gets much below 40F where you live. Don’t throw them away! Once the soil warms up they will reappear.

If you live in those colder elevations of the Southwest (USDA Zone 7 or colder) You will need to grow your cannas in pots and bring the pots to a non-freezing area for the winter. I’d say basement – but not too many of those here. A garage might work.

yellow and orange canna flowers all summer in the southwest

Do Try Some

I grow cannas for their colorful flowers, for their lush leaves, and because – in the summer at least – they help shade the fish in my water garden!

More Colorful Summer Flowers in My Book

The Month By Month Guide offers tips for your landscape (yes even lawns and roses) in every month of the year.  I have a few copies left and am offering them to you – my loyal readers. When you buy from me you get a signed copy!soule-books-buy

From the review:

“A great reference book is key to successful gardening in the region where you live. Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening takes the guesswork out of gardening for anyone residing in the Southwest. With this book, you’ll know what to do each month to enjoy a thriving garden all year, from January to December. Chronologically organized, this guide is full of critical gardening when-to and how-to advice, along with illustrated step-by-step instructions.

The book’s author is Jacqueline Soule, a Tucson-based gardening expert. She knows this arid region inside and out, and she’s written several articles and books packed with her gardening advice. Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening showcases Soule’s expertise in one easy-to-read guide.”

Profits from the sale of this book go to the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  Heads up – I may have to increase the price when the US Postal Service increases their rates in July 2024.


© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt – but you must give proper credit to Gardening With Soule. You must include a link to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.

One thought on “You Can Grow Colorful Cannas – Part I

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *