Cannova Series Canna

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Canna ‘Cannova Yellow’ within a large stand of spikes

In the world of Cannas, the Cannova series is a game changer for the horticultural professional in two major ways. First, the plants flower much better in Cincinnati than traditional varieties because they were bred for our market. Second, Cannovas are reliable in a way that Cannas haven’t been in a long time. In the bad old days, Canna propagation was more art than science, and a dark art at that. The supply chain was deeply troubled by serious disruptions so Cannas were often consigned to the novelty rack, not because they were spectacular but because it was uncertain whether you could get them at all.

Cannovas changed all that.

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Cannovas mass together easily for bright displays


North is relative, of course, but traditional Cannas thrive in tropical climates. If the locals are not suffering through hot and muggy air, Cannas are stubborn about their growth. They want blazing hot sun all the time and cloud cover, even for a few days, stalls them. They are built for stuffy, sweaty days—when you are comfortable, they pout.

Cannovas are different because they are Dutch, from one of the last places considered tropical. Northern Europeans love beautiful Cannas, but their dreary skies and mild summers made Cannas questionable. The clever Dutch felt they could breed their way around this handicap and they did.

In America, Cannovas bloom easily in our shirt sleeve weather. They do well in hot, muggy Cincinnati summers due to their basic nature, but they also flower fine in the autumn. In fact, they keep going until frost nips them in the bud, something Cannas normally don’t do. Overall, this is a much better Canna for northern markets, as in north of Florida, because they like the weather as much as we do.

But getting the Cannova over here turned out to be a problem.

 CAN Cannova Orange with Bronze Foliage 01
The bronze leaf of ‘Cannova Orange’


As good as the breeding was, Cannovas hit a brick wall when it came to distribution. A decade ago, Canna shortages were a serious problem due to terrible disruptions in the supply chain. The traditional method, bare root, was ravaged by virus problems. Tissue culture was a failure because Cannas, for some reason, hate that method. Seed varieties? Cannas have a notoriously hard shell surrounding their seed, so germination required serious black magic. The bad old days were a mess for everyone, and no one was happy about the situation.

The Canna world changed the day Japanese breeding giant Takii bought the Cannova genetics from the Dutch. Japan has always been a hotbed of Canna breeding, and Takii had recently developed an innovative seed pre-treatment that made Canna germination easy and reliable. However, southern Japan, where they are located, is known for hot and muggy weather so Takii’s breeding program had a hole. Nothing worked well in the all-important European and American markets because too northern equals too cold.

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Notice the racing pinstripes around the edges of ‘Cannova Orange Shades’


Cannovas fixed that northern hole. Even better, the new plants were happy with Takii’s innovative seed pre-treatment. Cannas suddenly went from a gloomy who do you know to a sunny set your watch by it. You could count on Cannovas in a way you couldn’t count on Cannas before that.

Even better, Cannovas moved the Canna category from an enthusiast’s passion to a professional’s tool. The breeders made several smart decisions that, in our experience, make Cannovas much easier and more attractive to deploy into a wider range of projects:

  • Bronze Leaf and Green Leaf. The banana-like foliage has alway been a draw, but two distinct leaf colors add an extra dimension to garden designs.
  • Quirky trim on the Red Flame and Orange Shades varieties. These flowers have yellow pin striping along the edges, making them the racing coupes among the Cannovas.
  • The Cinderella size. They are not too tall and not too dwarf. These are mid-sized Cannas. Some Cannas are smaller and others are taller, but Cannovas fit in just right.
  • Consistent height. Being Dutch, Cannovas of each color are very good about hitting their mark. They all grow to the same height in the same bed. It’s a true series.

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‘Cannova Red Shades’ at Field Day—the spikes on the seedpods are pliable


At the heart of the plant is the rhizome, which looks like a tuber. In the Cannova, the rhizome is deeply committed to heavy branching, which translates into spike after spike emerging from the ground all season long. Each spike comes with its own banana-like leaves and flag-like flower, and the spikes stay close to the mother rhizome.The end effect is a small stand of complex flowers, held at eye level. Previously, Cannas weren’t known for their non-stop blooming cycles, but Cannovas can do it.

Once the flowers are done, you can cut them back for more blooms on the same stalk or let them develop into tinted seedpods covered with soft, pliable spikes. Either way, the rhizome continues to kick out more spikes for the season—the seedpods don’t slow down the pace of the plant.

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‘Cannova Scarlet’ with bronze foliage near a pond


This brings us to some Cannova warnings. First, the plant likes room to grow. Though not invasive, it is strong enough to crack pottery if you plant it into a snug pot. Make sure Cannova has about twice as much soil to grow into, and then a little more. In a garden bed, standard soil, standard water, and standard feeding schedules work just fine—the only issue is dryness.

Cannovas are not water plants so you can’t sink them into a pond like Cyperus, but they are perfectly happy in the occasionally soggy soil found near ponds, streams, or catchments. Impact sprinkler stuck for a week? It would kill other plants but Cannovas shrug it off easily. This love of water, when flipped on its head, means that dry is not good. Cannova is fine with normal watering regimes, but irregular watering generates distorted leaves, and long dry spells create leaf burn.

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A dark sheath covers ‘Cannova Rose’ as it emerges inside a larger flower cluster


Usually dramatic plants are considered specialists, but we look at the Cannova as an all-arounder. It’s large enough to serve as a backdrop for large gardens, or to enhance structures like fences and pools. It can be a showpiece in garden beds or plaza squares. We’ve seen Cannovas in home gardens, corporate landscapes, and retail establishments; we’ve also seen them as specimens in eye-catching pottery. If you need easy, dramatic, and dependable in a single package, you should turn to the Cannovas.

All summed up, we find the Cannova to be a summer and autumn design tool to deploy where drama is needed but hassle is not. It handles standard garden beds with standard watering and feeding schedules very well and doesn’t require anything special in light or climate beyond a sunny bed. Cannova works in pottery, troughs, and raised beds as long as it has room to stretch its legs. It grows fast, blooms heavily, and stays that way through the end of the season. We haven’t seen any sputtering of performance, summer or fall, in our display gardens for several years. Cannova always looks good, and it always works.

Our Cannova Canna is shipping now in Yellow, Rose, Red, and Orange Shades in the 8-inch pot. We also have ‘Cannova Scarlet’ with beautiful bronze foliage currently shipping in the 8-inch pot.

CAN Cannova Orange Shade with Green Foliage 01
‘Cannova Orange Shades’