Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

November 20, 2015

Caring for cannas in Phoenix, Arizona

A friend of mine visited me yesterday here at the Tropical Paradise, and when he looked at my cannas I could tell that he knew that they were a lot of trouble to care for. He's right. For me it's a labor of love, which I've been doing for many years.

Cannas do great here in the Phoenix, Arizona area. And since I have a tropical theme to my garden, I love their big, bold leaves. But you have to fuss with them. And this is what I recommend:

• Plant them in your backyard. Plant them where you can get to them easily, like when you're walking around having your morning coffee. It only takes a few days of neglect for cannas to start looking ratty, so having them out front, or where you can't get to them easily, is a mistake. These aren't very good plants if you want to have a gardener come every few weeks.

• Be vicious. Cut them back hard. I have a curved Japanese saw/knife that does a great job of cutting the stalks down. When I see a plant starting to get ratty, I reach as far back as I can and cut it as close to the ground as possible. It's the new growth that looks so nice, and cannas grow back very fast.

• Get a tarp. I use an old shower curtain, and throw the cut down stalks onto it. Then you roll them up into it, and it's a whole lot easier to haul them away.

As you can see on the photo, the new leaves are beautiful, but they're fragile. We had a hail storm a few weeks ago and you can see how the hail cut through some of the old leaves. They gotta go! And the edges of the leaves get ratty, and so I take a look at the plant, and if it's just a leaf or two I'll cut them off, but if the whole stalk is looking ratty, it gets cut down to the ground. And after a bloom, I cut the whole stalk to the ground. I told you I'm vicious!

By the way, the frost in Phoenix won't kill your cannas, but it will make look pretty darn bad. Keep an eye on the overnight lows in January, and it's gonna get below freezing, throw some old bedsheets over them, and remove them in the morning. Just never use plastic!

OK, enough sitting here at my computer. It's a beautiful day, and I'll go get that shower curtain out of the garage, and do some cutting.
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