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Tropicana Canna Lily

It was love at first sight, even though I didn't like canna lilies and preferred softer colors in my garden. 

Softer colors?  I reminded myself that pastels wash out to nothingness in the hot Alabama sun. I looked at the plant in front of me. Tropicana Canna Lily looked very suited to my subtropical climate. Its name declared it so. I studied the price tag. It cost too much, so I left the nursery without it. But I couldn't stop thinking about it and later returned to buy it.

I love Tropicana because of its bold foliage, which can reach four to six feet in height. It is what it is, without apology. It is as loud as a fire truck.

Tropicana's foliage has purple, orange, and blue-green stripes that glow when backlit by the sun, and it holds its orange blossoms aloft like bright torches. Mine has just put out its first bloom of the season.

Tropicana is hardy to zone 7, but it may survive outdoors in zones 5 to 6 if planted deep enough to escape the frozen earth. In colder climates the rhizomes need to be dug and stored inside for the winter. It does best in slightly acid to neutral, moist but well drained soil and may spread rapidly in ideal conditions. I planted mine in full sun, close to a water hose. It can also tolerate some shade. I have divided the clump several times. I now have Tropicana growing in several locations and have had plenty to give away to friends.

Tropicana's main pest is the Brazilian skipper butterfly, a little brown butterfly with diamond shaped markings in shades of white and gray on its wings. The caterpillars roll up the leaves and feed on them. The plant also will begin to look tattered if it lacks fertilizer or moisture. I usually water it when I fill the nearby bird feeder, and that keeps it happy. The birds like this plant too, and I have seen them eating its blossoms. That doesn't bother me.

If deadheaded, Tropicana will usually sprout new blooms, right up till fall. Deadhead them by clipping the old blooms at the end of the stalk. The stalk will soon send out new blooms.

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Reader Comments (33)

My sister has used the canna lilly in containers and I have thought about one for my home, but just have never bought one. I do plan to get one next season. Nice photos and you are right the colors are quite bold.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Dear Deborah, The Cannas are all so very exciting - used extensively as summer 'bedding' in Hungary - but 'Tropicana' really is a show stopper. No wonder you went back for it - the correct move in my view. But isn't it always the way? Nothing we tame for our gardens is ever, or so it seems, without some little problem - in this case the Skipper butterfly who clearly does not simply 'skip off'. Persevere for the plant is wonderful.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEdith Hope

I have it but it gets way too much shade and it never blooms for me. I think I'll try to move it. Can it handle being moved this time of year?

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip

You have got to love those leaves! ;>)

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

You probably know I'm one to love the bright and bold in the garden. I love the way the striped foliage pops out of that sea of green! You made a good choice. I fought those awful leaf-rollers for years in my Atlanta garden. Only kept the cannas because the neighbors all seemed so impressed by them. Vanity. Swore I'd never plant them again. But here I am, with a few beauties gracing my Florida garden. I got them inadvertently. A neighbor came home with a pile of baby plants passed along from a friend, and he offered me some. He couldn't remember the name. Mistaking the foliage for heliconias, which I love, I gladly accepted. Imagine my surprise when it bloomed! However, once a plant makes it in the soil in my garden, it's there forever. So far, we've been lucky and have not seen any leaf rollers. (knock on wood!)

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFloridagirl

Those cannas are stunning. I haven't Tropicana, but I do have Bengal Tiger, with green and yellow striped leaves and similar orange blossoms. They've been slow to get started this year, but they're coming on now.

I'm crazy for bright, hot colors.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternell jean

As lovely as the flowers are, it's clear that the main reason to grow this variety is for the foliage. It looks like a fun festive party in plant!

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

It's so beautiful that it seems not real.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterellada

The closeup really shows the beautiful details on the leaves, with those colourful curving lines. It doesn't even need flowers to get your attention. I've dine that, kept thinking about a plant I saw, and gone back for it, wishing I had got it in the first place.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNorthern Shade

Wow..gorgeous series...beautiful patterns ..just beautiful!

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiki

I like what you said: "It is what it is..." I personally think it looks great next to the other "loud as a fire truck plant, purple heart! Thats one dramatic color combination! (ornamental sweet potato vine works well too.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRainforest Gardener

I fell in love with these plants when I visited Butchart Gardens in B.C. last fall. They're not suitable for my Maine garden, but I do love to visit them in warmer-climate gardens. Yours are stunning, well worth going back for!

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I have never seen this plant before. It is beautiful, leaves are prettier than flowers! It would not survive in my climate, and it’s too much work to dig it out every fall. It would probably survive as indoor plant.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervrtlaricaana

I'm in zone 6a, but don't grow canna - they just don't fit my garden style. But I must admit the foliage you show is striking and really evokes a sense of the tropics. They would be lovely around a swimming pool with a tropical flare. I think most who grow canna in my area dig them up or really mulch/protect heavily to prevent winter kill.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoene

Your photos of these cannas are phenomenal!!! I've never tried to grow them and as I'm running out of room on my "little" hillside I may have to wait till something else dies. --sure can't beat that color -- wowza!

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Oh, what a beautiful plant. Aren't you glad you returned to buy it? I love foliage and of course the flowers. Canna lilies grow here in the desert as well, but there are not usually not too many.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle

Love those leaves!! What great color and texture... lucky you.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDirty Girl Gardening

What a festive lady! She is a queen of tropics! Great collage, Deborah!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

Great plant!
Used to have a large hot border and put out about a dozen different cannas each year. In the end I got bored with that and used to keep winter wet off with a cover of plastic sheet held up so that air could circulate underneath. That was ok for most of them. Did grow this or similar,which I knew as striata. Great plants for making a show and creating a sense of exoticism which of course is what a hot border is alll about.
Lovely photos! Your plants look very happy - which is only what I would expect!
Best Wishes

June 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Webber

I'm feeling the need to make some very vibrant "Tropicana" bouquets at work today!
Thanks for the inspiration.

Oh how lovely the colors of your canna leaves are! I dont like canna also because they are just green and becomes so dense and expand through rhizomes if planted in the ground. But if the leaf colors are like this, i will not hesitate to plant them too. These are hybrids and very beautiful. If only i am near i will ask for a small rhizome to start in mine, hehe. thanks.

I love my tropicana plants but it's starting to get cold out now, I've heard to just "leave" them be all winter but our winters are extremely cold, (-30s) Really not sure what to do, it's my first time gardening so any input would help me a lot!

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChantal

Hi Chantel, thanks for stopping by my blog. I think you will have to dig your rhizomes and store them for the winter. After the first hard frost has killed the leaves, dig them up, leaving as much soil around the roots as possible. The soil should be moist but not wet. If too wet, let them sit for a few days before storing them. Then put the entire clump inside a large plastic bag. If you have a clear bag, use that so you can see what's going on. Cover any holes or gaps around the rhizomes with damp peat moss. Fold the top of the bag loosely to close it and store in a cool place, but don't allow the roots and rhizomes to freeze. When spring comes, you will notice the clumps start to sprout. Then it's time to replant outside. You can divide the clumps at that time if you want to. Good luck!

September 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

I have my first Tropicana this year in a large pot on the patio and love it! I'm in zone 5, so would moving the potted plant into the garage get it thru the winter?

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSally

Hi Sally,
I'm glad you stopped by to visit my blog! I think moving the canna into the garage would be fine, as long as you don't have hard freezing temps inside your garage. Be sure to keep the soil a little moist through the winter. Also see my reply to Chantel above. Best wishes, Deborah

August 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Great plants but nobody mentions where to get them ...
I am still looking on the internet in Va Beach, Va

May 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Maston

I think these are gorgeous. Mine bloomed for the first time this week!
I'm wondering, I'm in zone 9b. Will I need to move this into the garage during the winter months?
Beginner gardener here and not quite sure what to do.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

My Tropicanna froze last night.. I live in northern Ontario and I guess I put them out to early.. One was about 10 inches high the others just a few inches..Will they come back? I have brought them in in the winter and replanedt them in spring..Dam frost Thank you Deb

May 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

Hi Deb,
I am sorry your tropicana canna lily froze! If it was in a pot, it is probably gone. It it was in the ground and the ground itself did not freeze, there is a good chance the tuber survived and new growth will sprout. But if the ground froze, then probably the canna is dead.
Thanks for visiting my blog! Best wishes,

May 23, 2015 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

the first year i plant cannas from the nursery they bloom their heads off.
the second year they multiply like crazy but 10% of the blooms i got the first year of planting. they are very healthy and pretty but few blooms. I've tried them sun , part sun and shade and same response the second year. some i divide hoping that will rejuvenate them but no avail. i'm zone 7b in Dallas. any thoughts? i use organic fertilizer and compost.

September 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Hello, I want to keep my tropicana in the pot in my garage. If I mulch it and cut it back will it be safe our of the weather in freeezing temps?

September 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMARCIA

Hi Dave,
Sorry to hear your Tropicana Canna lily is not blooming well! I don't get many blooms on mine either, but I grow it mainly for foliage so it doesn't bother me. However, I have read these plants need a lot of fertilizer, as well as water to bloom well. Try using a fertilizer high in phosphorus, which promotes blooming. Bat guano (High P), steamed bone meal ( doesn't work well in alkaline soils - soils with pH higher than 7) and fish bone meal are some good organic fertilizers high in phosphorus.
Best wishes!

September 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Nice to see people still reading this post after all this time! Marcia, You did not mention what hardiness zone you are in. Tropicanas are hardy in the ground in zone 7 (5 degrees F) and above and can survive down to zone 5 (-10 degrees F) with protection. It will die to the ground with frost but come back in the spring. I really think your plant in a pot should survive inside your garage. Just be sure to water it occasionally. Wrap the pot in a blanket or some sort of insulation during extreme sub-freezing temps.

Best wishes!

September 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

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