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How to Select Canna Lilies

Pretoria/Bengal Tiger Flower

One quick and easy way to give a lush tropical look to a garden is the grow canna lilies. A lot of people grow them in the middle of a lawn with annuals planted around them but they look good in the border as well as in containers. They are not bothered by insects pests, are heat tolerant; give them moist soil and a regular application of high nitrogen fertilizer and they will give you season long color.

Cannas vary in height, leaf color, and flower color. This gives you lots of choices so you can find just the right ones for almost any place you want to use them. Decide where you want to use the canna lilies and that will narrow your choices for height. Then consider foliage color, and finally flower color. Here are some of the options.

Height: cannas vary in height from 2-6+’ tall and are divided into 3 groups.
Dwarf: 2-3’
Mid height: 3-4’
Tall 5-14’

Leaf Color:
Of course there are lots of cannas with lush green leaves but there are also ones with various other colors. Since the leaves make up a large part of the plant the color of the leaves can have a significant impact on the look of a border. Leaves may be:

Green-light, dark, and in between
Red-burgundy, bronze, mahogany, purple
Variegated-green with varying amounts of cream, gold, yellow, and pink.

Flower Color: Flowers come in lots of colors but no blue, purple or lavender. Some are spotted or splashed with a second color. Flowers may be:

Decide what you want to do with the cannas and that will narrow down your choices. Here is a list divided first by height; each height class is divided by foliage color and each foliage class has examples of various cannas cultivars with their flower color.

'Primrose Yellow'

Dwarf (2-3’ tall)
Green Leaves:
The Pfitzer Series

    ‘Chinese Coral’ (2 ½’ tall, pink flowers)
    ‘Crimson Beauty’ (2’ tall, red flowers)
    ‘Primrose Yellow’ (2’ tall, yellow flowers with orange freckles)

Red Leaves:

'Futurity Red'

Most of the Futurity series, the smallest of all cannas, have leaves in various shades of red with flowers in pink, and red.

    ‘Pink Futurity’ (dark burgundy leaves, 2 ½’ tall, pink flowers)
    ‘Red Futurity’ (bronze leaves, 3’ tall, scarlet flowers)


'Pink Sunburst'

    ‘Pink Sunburst’ (18-24” tall, pink flowers, green, yellow, and pink striped leaves)

Medium Height (4-5’ tall)
Green Leaves

    ‘Aida’ (30-40” tall, pink flowers)
    ‘Lenape’ (3-4’ tall, yellow flowers with red spots)
    ‘President’ (3-4’ tall, scarlet flowers)
    ‘Richard Wallace’ (3-4’ tall, yellow flowers with red streaks and spots)
    ‘Rosamund Cole’ (3-4’, orange-red flowers with gold margins and undersides on petals)

'Black Knight'

Red Leaves

    ‘Black Knight’ (30-40”, crimson flowers)

'Miss Oklahoma'

Variegated Leaves

    ‘Miss Oklahoma’ ( 30-40” tall, pink flowers, green leaves with red margins)
    ‘Tropicana’ (2-4’ tall, orange flowers, green leaves striped with burgundy that turns to red, pink, yellow, and gold)

'Yellow King Humberet'

Tall (5’+)
Green Leaves

    ‘Omega’ (10-14’ tall, small apricot flowers)
    ‘ Yellow King Humbert) ( 5’ tall, yellow flowers with throat splashed with red)


Red Leaves

    ‘Red King Humbert’ (5-6’ tall, orange-red flowers)
    ‘Wyoming’ (4-7’ tall, red flowers, bronze red leaves)
    ‘Black Knight’ (3-5’ tall, red flowers, mahogany to purple leaves)


Bengal Tiger/Pretoria foliage

    Pretoria/Bengal Tiger (4-6’, orange flowers, yellow striped green leaves; flower shown at the top of the post.)

As you make your selection keep in mind the impact of the flower color on the foliage color. For example, ‘Wyoming’s’ orange flowers with its bronze leaves has a very different look than ‘Pink Futurity’s” pink flowers with its dark burgundy leaves. The look of both is exciting but very different and the key to success is finding the right combination of flower and leaf color to make the statement you want.

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