Do I cut cannas back in Winter?

panspipes(zone 9)January 14, 2012

I am new to Texas and I have brought my cannas down here with me from Michigan. Obviously, I don't have to dig them up anymore, thank God!

Anyway, Houston will usually get a good freeze that will kill all the foliage, but it might not happen this year, as it's getting warmer already.

More than half of the leaves are still green and healthy. There are even flowers still!

Normally I would just cut them all back, but the 3 or 4 tubers I brought down here 3 years ago have become probably close to 200. What can I say, they like Houston.

So I don't want to go to that much trouble if I don't need to.

On the other hand, last Summer Houston had the the worst drought in recorded history. (over 100 years) Even with my vigilant watering and Miracle Gro they all topped out about 2-3 feet shorter than they should have been.

If I don't cut them back, will they stay stunted?

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Like much of the Gulf state growing area as well as Southern California cannas need not be lifted or offered much in the way of freeze protection. BUT cannas in these areas do need to be severely thinned out. The wonderfully abundant growing conditions produce abundant rhizome growth that severely overcrowds the available nutrients and sun requirements. Depending on the growing needs available, the plants ultimately become very tall and scraggly or very stunted. Bloom production becomes severely limited.
Simply cutting back the foliage will not solve the problem.
The major difference between growing cannas in the Deep South or the Far North is if we should lift and protect or lift and divide. You at least do not have to freeze to death getting it done.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 2:41PM
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panspipes(zone 9)

Thanks Kent. Yeah, it didn't take long to notice how fast they multiply down here! It's wonderful.
Oddly, just in the past few days I have noticed a rapid decline in their condition. Even though it has been in the 60s-70s, the suddenly look like they had a hard frost. I guess they just shut down every Winter regardless of temps, so I've started hacking away. Meh, it's good exercise I guess.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 6:17PM
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So I didn't get a clear answer from your response... I'm in Galveston and I only have a few cannas (not thick enough to worry about thinning yet). It is Feb 11 and the plants look green, healthy, and about 2-3 feet tall. Do I need to cut them down? If yes, about how tall? 6-8 inches? What if I don't?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 11:34AM
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You do not indicate how long your cannas have been planted or if they have completed a full season blooming cycle. In your area they often continue to grow and bloom all year long; a bit slower in the winter. Most healthy cultivars need to be divided about once a year in the very early spring (in your area). If they are not overcrowded you can forgo lifting and dividing for the coming season.
Assuming your growing location (sun-water-nutrients-etc.) meets optimal conditions they should require dividing from time to time. Choosing not to lift and divide, you may want to consider removing any single mature cane within each clump once it has completed its cycle. Cut that single cane off near the ground and leave the surrounding canes to mature.
When you see the need to divide, we usually cut off all stalks about 4 to 5 inches above the ground then lift, divide and replant (in your area).


    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 11:39AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I don't have much Canna knowledge, so for what it's worth...

Here in Phoenix we get a hard frost for a few days in winter. I have some Canna that were protected and have kept going strong, flowering, healthy green. In another location the frost did some damage, but the new shoots (there's always new shoots) were protected from the larger plants.

For plants to be divided I cut all the large diameter stalks, leaving 18" and under sprouts. Dividing 6' tall plants isn't easy and they're likely to die on me any ways.

For plants I'm not dividing I just cut any stalks that don't look that great, which after a year of growing is most. I keep a few flowering stalks only because I like the flowers. In a few months when the current sprouts are ready to flower I'll cut those older stalks. I think new growth looks better, flowers better.

In hard, long frost years I cut them all. So basically I just cut out poor performing stalks to make room for new stalks at anytime of the year. It occurs to me as I write this...I wonder if I kept cutting new growth to thin if those tubers would eventually die and reduce the need to divide? Is this something that's been tried?.

I do cut to maybe 1" above the ground.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 1:50AM
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I`m in Galveston, I only cut mine back if they die back, some years they do, some they don`t, they are all blooming like mad right now. I sometimes whack them down in the summer when they start to look ratty.
Dang things will take over if given half a chance, I was shocked when I found out people actually WANT them, we mow them down on a regular basis LOL! Ditch lilies are the common name here.
Tally Ho!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:38PM
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