Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 147 Canna X generalis

Common Names: canna, canna lily, Indian shot Family: Cannaceae (canna Family)
Image Gallery

'Tropicanna' cannas
A gorgeous group of 'Tropicanna' cannas glow in the afternoon sunshine against the blue haze of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.


Cannas, or canna lilies, look like banana trees without the trunk! That's no accident - they're kin to bananas and gingers, and their wide, furled leaves come out of thick, multiple-eyed rhizomes, just like their larger, edible cousins. Flowers are the main reason cannas are so highly prized, though. The tropical Indian shot (Canna indica) was hybridized and backcrossed with other Canna species, including the North American native, golden canna (C. flaccida). These hybrids have been known as Canna X generalis, or Canna X orchiodes, depending on flower characteristics, but they've been crossed too, and the distinctions are now largely lost or forgotten. Nowadays most experts include all the canna hybrids under Canna X generalis. Indeed there are hundreds of named cultivars, ranging from less than 30 in (76.2 cm) to more than 8 ft (2.4 m) in height, in colors from creams to yellows, to oranges and reds, and with a colorful diversity of leaf patterns as well. Some of the most striking cultivars have red or variegated foliage. Canna flowers are asymmetrical, with three petals, three sepals and three highly modified showy petal-like stamens. They come in a rainbow of shades from yellows, oranges, reds and pinks. The flowers are followed by a capsule with round, shotlike seeds.

'Tropicanna' flower
In addition to spectacular foliage 'Tropicanna' boasts some of the orangiest flowers in the Plant Kingdom!


Canna flaccida is native to the southeastern U.S. and Central America and the Antilles. Canna indica is native to tropical Central and South America. The many hybrid selections are of garden origin, some dating back to the 18th century. Canna species and various hybrids have naturalized in wetlands throughout the subtropical and tropical world.


Light: Cannas prefer sun, but will grow in partial shade. Moisture: Cannas like moist soil and will thrive even in boggy conditions. They can be grown in ordinary garden soils, but will need regular watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 12. Cannas can be grown in colder regions, but where the ground freezes, either lift the rhizomes during winter, or protect them with a thick layer of mulch. In cold climates, the rhizomes may be susceptible to rot. Propagation: Cannas are easy to propagate by dividing off pieces of the rhizomes.


Canna lilies are remarkably easy to grow. These are great flowers for a wet area. They will even grow in moderately polluted wetlands. Cannas look best in masses. Leaf rolling caterpillars can be devastating to the foliage, but are easily controlled. Plant cannas with bananas, gingers and palms for an enormous tropical foliage statement!

canna 'Pretoria'
'Pretoria' is another favorite canna with showy yellow and green patterned foliage and bright orange flowers.


There are just 9 species of Canna, all native to the New World tropics and subtropics. Canna indica, also known as Canna edulis, makes an edible root and is the source of arrowroot starch. Its seeds have been used as shot (thus the common name, "Indian shot"). Canna is from the Greek for a type of reed.

Jack Scheper 07/27/98; updated Steve Christman 03/14/01, 10/19/03

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Canna species profiled on Floridata:

Canna X generalis

( canna, canna lily, Indian shot )

Canna flaccida

( Golden canna )

Canna indica

( Indian shot, Queensland arrowroot )

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