One of the aspects I love the most about the Meals Plus Harvest Garden is our use of various flowers throughout the garden. Flowers are an important asset to edible gardens because, well, they make them beautiful and may attract pollinators and other beneficial insects to the garden area.
The number one question I get from garden visitors is ‘what is that flower’? After much oohing and ahhing over the vibrant rainbow displays of sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds, I tell folks about how easy and important it is to include room for floral displays in your garden. I also get to introduce them to one of my favorite, and often under-utilized, garden floral contributions, the magnificent canna lily.
Canna lilies are such a treat in the garden due to their height (3 to 5+ feet), tropical appearance, and attractiveness to hummingbirds. Canna lilies are extraordinarily easy to grow but take a little extra maintenance in the fall.
Rhizomes grow in clumps and are easy to divide into new plants. Canna lily flowers come in vibrant shades red, yellow and orange and foliage may be green, purple or variegated. The only thing you need to know to successfully grow canna lilies is that the plants are not hardy in Northern Utah since they are winter hardy in zones 7 to 10. Therefore, gardeners must lift the rhizomes in late fall and store them in a cool (45 to 60 degrees), dry place with adequate air circulation.
Plant canna lily rhizomes in the spring when you are planting your carrots and radish and watch plants grow and flower mid-summer to the first frost. Also, do not forget to keep an ear out for high pitched ‘chirps’ since you can expect hummingbirds to become frequent garden visitors to your canna lily flowers! One last garden tip, use canna lilies in your crop rotation cycle. Since canna lilies are the only genus in the family Cannaceae and the plant is free of disease, they make an excellent, and beautiful, crop rotation option. As a bonus, add green stalks and leaves to your compost pile in late fall as a good ‘green’ (nitrogen-rich) addition to balance your ‘brown’ (carbon-rich) additions from mulched fallen leaves. For more information on canna lilies, see the Penn State Extension fact sheet Canna Lilies – Care & Winterization