The canna, or canna lily, is a tropical plant with large, attractive foliage, and serves as a large-flowered and bright garden plant. In addition, it is one of the world’s richest starch sources, and the name canna originates from the Celtic word for a cane or reed. Cannas are a tropical plant, but prefer temperate climates, and will stop blooming when fall approaches; leaving the remaining foliage on the plant when this happens will help to nourish the bulb for the next summer’s array of color and enjoyment. The bold, tropical colors of the canna make borders and beds come alive, and are very easy to grow and maintain.
The plants are large and the broad, flat, alternate leaves grow out of a stem in a long, narrow roll and then unfurl. The flowers are typically red, orange, yellow, or any variation of those bright, warm colors, and can add dramatic emphasis to any garden. Although these flowers are popular with gardeners, nature intended them to attract pollinators, namely bees and hummingbirds.
What makes the Canna so unique is its myriad of non-agricultural uses. Interestingly, the seeds from Canna flowers are often used as beads in jewelry and as the mobile elements of the kayamba, a musical instrument from France, as well as the hosho, a ground rattle from Zimbabwe. Cannas can be fermented to produce alcohol, used to make purple dye, and fibers obtained from the leaves can be used to make paper. Furthermore, in Thailand Cannas are a traditional gift for Father’s Day.