Even though temperatures are still quite warm, and it may seem early to begin preparing the garden for winter, it soon will be time to bring in tender perennials.
Cannas (Canna indica) are on the list of tender perennials to bring in for the winter. The genus Canna comes from the Greek for “reed”, while the species indica means “Indian”, from Southeast Asia. All Cannas are flowering tropical plants with large, paddle-shaped, fleshy, tender leaves.
Cannas look ragged as the end of their growing season nears and if not already done, flowers should be deadheaded. Cut off faded flowers by severing the flower stalk down to the point of leaf attachment. Plants can remain like this until a light frost but since Cannas are tropical plants, the tender foliage will be killed by a frost.
Cannas can be left in the ground in areas that have mild winters, but because Lubbock has in recent years experienced severe winter temperatures that have damaged even winter-hardy plants, gardeners wishing to save rhizomes for the next growing season can lift them and store until the next spring.
Rhizomes can be lifted when foliage senesces and at any time prior to or after a light frost. Lift rhizomes before a hard freeze.
Prepare Cannas for lifting by cutting back foliage to several inches before the first frost. Lift rhizome clumps using a garden fork. Start a foot away from the clumps to avoid damaging any rhizomes. Gently lift the soil under the clump. Roots that interfere with the lifting will eventually become free of the soil. Raise the clump and shake off soil. Wait until spring to divide clumps.
Label each clump of rhizomes if more than one cultivar is being saved. Cure rhizomes in a dark, cool, well-ventilated location until skin toughens. A few days is usually sufficient for the skin to dry. This step is necessary to reduce spoilage.
Store rhizomes in a dry, dark, ventilated location that does not drop below 40°F. Hold over the winter by loosely wrapping rhizomes in tissue or newspaper, keeping clumps separate and without touching neighbors.
Rhizomes are divided in the spring. Keep several rhizomes in each clump, leaving several growing points per clump. When dividing clumps, keep as much stem tissue as possible for each growing point. Healthy, firm growing points are essential as they give rise to next year’s shoots.
Transplant rhizomes in the spring after danger of frost has past, when night temperatures are above 50°F and when soil temperatures are at least 60°F. Place rhizomes in well-tilled soil that has been amended with organic matter. Rhizomes are large and are deeply planted, about 5 inches deep with several feet between clumps.
Keep soil most, but not wet. Rhizomes will resume growth. Beautiful Canna blooms can be expected in early summer.
Ellen Peffley taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, 25 of those at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two onion varieties. She is now the sole proprietor of From the Garden, a market garden farmette. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org