Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1163 Canna indica

Common Names: Indian shot, Queensland arrowroot Family: Cannaceae (canna Family)
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Indian shot flowers
Indian shot flowers are showy but nearly as much as those of the hybrid cannas.


Like the popular hybrid cannas referred to as Canna x generalis, Canna indica or Indian shot is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial with large leaves and showy flowers, although the flowers are smaller than those of the fancy hybrids. Leaves are dark green, often with bronze highlights. They are oblong-lance shaped, up to 20 in (50 cm) long and 8 in (20 cm) wide. The asymmetric flowers, around 2-3 in (5-8 cm) across, have three petals that are bright red with orange lips or spots. Plants can get 4-7 ft (120-210 cm) tall, but are usually smaller. ‘Purpurea’ has purplish leaves and smaller, bright red flowers.

Indian shot seed pods
These ripening Indian shot seed pods contain the small, hard black seeds the give the plant its common name.


Canna indica is native to tropical and subtropical Central and South America. It is grown in Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and the West Indies and has become naturalized in many parts of the world with suitable climate. Indian shot can be found growing along road shoulders and ditches in the West Indies, southeastern U.S., Hawaii and southern Europe.


Light: Grow Canna indica in full sun to partial shade. It will benefit from some midday shade in hot climates. Moisture: Indian shot grows best in a moisture retentive soil. Water freely when in bloom. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Where not hardy, Indian shot can be lifted and brought indoors for winter. When the leaves become blackened from the first good frost, cut off the stems and leaves and dig up the rhizomes for winter storage in damp peat or sawdust. In zones 7 and 8 you can usually get away with leaving the rhizomes in the ground under a thick layer of mulch. Propagation: Propagate cannas by division of the rhizomes. Be sure each section has the "eye" (bud) from which the new growth will emerge. Indian shot can be grown from seed, of course, but the extremely hard seeds will have to be scarified first, then soaked in water for a day or two before sowing.


Cannas are grown in borders and beds, and are among the most popular flowers in tropical and subtropical gardens. Where not hardy, rhizomes can be planted out in spring for summer blooming, then dug in autumn for winter storage. Indian shot also can be grown in containers.

A starch is made from the rhizomes that is very similar to, and a good substitute for, arrowroot starch which is derived from an unrelated plant, Maranta arundinacea. The young rhizomes of Indian shot are sometimes eaten; they are sweet, but woody and fibrous.

The seeds are perfectly round and very hard and reportedly were used as shot for flintlock muskets when lead shot was not available. Nowadays the seeds are commonly used as beads in natural seed jewelry for necklaces and especially rosaries.

Indian shot plants
Indian shot is a large plant growing up to 7 feet in height.


There are several dozen species in the genus Canna, but most of what gardeners see are the results of hybridization between a handful of tropical species, and distributed under the name Canna x generalis or simply “hybrid cannas.” Canna indica was probably one of the original parent species.

Steve Christman 9/22/12

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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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