Editor’s note: Starting seeds is usually something cold climate gardeners do in the wi– no, I won’t say that word. But some seeds can be started now. Guest blogger Lisa Ueda shares her method for starting cannas from seed.
My winter vacation destination of choice has always been the Florida Keys, where I usually fantasize about selling shells on the beach and leaving the snow behind. I find myself fascinated by the lush flower structures thriving in that great subtropical climate, so different from the Midwest. Wanting to recreate that in my own life, I’ve found that cannas are a great summer addition to my cottage gardens. With their dramatic banana leaf like foliage and impressive flower spikes, they help to draw the eye away from annuals and perennials that may be past their prime while I wait for their seed to ripen.
Seed-Grown Cannas Outperform Purchased Cannas
I was unhappy when the first cannas I brought home from my local mega store were stunted, didn’t bloom, and the rhizomes never kept. Not good. I was fortunate enough to be the lucky recipient of a large variety of canna seeds from a gardening friend who was thinning out her collection. This gave me the opportunity to boldly experiment with finding which seed starting technique would give me the highest germination rate and healthiest plants. My seed grown cannas are easy to grow, flower abundantly, and the rhizomes, they’re massively healthy and keep VERY well during the winter.
Where to Find Canna Seed
Not everyone is lucky enough to score the kind of seed haul that I did. Park Seeds and Thompson and Morgan are two of my favorite companies, both offering canna seeds. As an active seed collector and trader, I’ve also enjoyed trading for canna seeds on the GardenWeb Seed Exchange. Being observant of forum etiquette and offering up more often than asking will increase your odds of finding the seed you’re looking for.
Start Canna Seed in January or August
Seeds started inside during January bloom the first year by July or August in my zone 4-5 garden, before being cut back by the first heavy frost, and dug and packed in peat moss for storage in my just above freezing basement. Canna rhizomes should not be kept too warm, allowed to freeze, or completely dry out. Starting in August will produce good sized seedlings but no rhizomes. Bring them inside to a Southern facing window before the first frost, and continue to water and lightly fertilize until ready to plant out after the last Spring frost.
Basic Method for Starting Cannas from Seed
Since my gardens are caught up, I thought it would be fun to try germinating seed again. The last time I wound up with a gorgeous dwarf canna with the palest yellow flowers and red speckles, ever so delicate.
Ta da! Four week old cannas thriving on my front porch. I’m already noticing variation among the leaf form. Two with strappier shaped foliage look like they might be struggling, the remaining six with standard shaped leaves are thriving. I won’t cull the two oddballs, I’m interested in seeing what they look like if they survive.
About the author: Lisa Ueda offers home gardening tips at The Frugal Garden. Her aim is to inspire, awaken and motivate new gardeners into discovering their inner green thumbs.