Cutting back cannas

the_loam_ranger(8a Ennis NC TX)December 1, 2004

Hi, y'all--

Well...we had our first killing freeze here (Dallas area) last night. It got down around 25*, so, as expected, my cannas and hymenocallis got zapped.

What I need is for someone to refresh my memory: when cutting back the cannas, how far down do you cut them? I seem to vaguely recall something about cutting them about 2" from the ground...or is it all the way to the ground? Should they be mulched after cutting, even though our ground rarely, if ever, freezes here?

TIA for any info...

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cannafreak(z7 NY)

I always cut mine back all the way to the ground and then mulch. HTH, Tara

    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 6:47AM
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Boca_Joe(zone 7A)


I would let them "ripen" - that is dry up and turn brown all the way through. They provide a lot of sugars that go right to the roots for storage as they turn from green to brown.

Don;t be in a hurry to cut them down, they may be a little unsightly but be patient. They will reward you next year.

good luck
Boca Joe

    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 9:36AM
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We also have recently had a few "freezing" nights...low thirties, some people have reported high twenties, I don't keep a thermometer in my yard.
My canna was planted in October and has looked pretty pitiful since day one. Since the frosty nights, it's looking more brown around the edges and some of the large green leaves are shrinking and curling up. Should I cut it down or leave it alone???

    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 3:59PM
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Ooh - I just knew searching would give me a good 'hit!'

This was my first year with cannas. Love 'em - and they seem to love me, too! (I had a freakin' Canna Jungle growing this summer! It was awesome!!!).

We just got zapped with several nights of 30* temps in a row (very unusual here - and my bananas took a serious hit). The cannas look terrible, and I want to feed them to the compost pile - but it sounds like I should wait.

The question is: How long should I wait? At this point, I'm not sure they're going to reach a brown, crumbly stage and die back by themselves. Although several have flopped over (yet continue to grow!). About 30% of the leaves (overall) are starting to get crumbly, but the remainder seem to be thriving. I see "pups" poking up from the bases of most of 'em. PLUS I've got new blooms on the way (On the partially-dead stalks)!

I think they're confused!!! (Of course, with our wacky weather - I'm not surprised. Afternoon temps still hit the low 70*s! Evenings dip into the low 30*s)

Plus, right now, they're downright ugly!

I'm guessing I shouldn't allow them to bloom - since they need to send their energy to the rhizomes. But at what point do I chop them back to the ground? I don't want to deprive them of any nutrients gained from photosynthesizing on our sunny days. But then, I don't want them looking like this, come springtime! So cutting back seems to be "The Plan." I'm just not sure when!

Any thoughts/suggestions?


Canna-Lover Nan

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden and Cannas in their Heyday!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2004 at 6:53PM
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cannafreak(z7 NY)

Hi Felicity plx & Canna-Lover Nan, First of all I must warn you I am unsure of your normal winter climate but I will try to help. What I would do is cut off the dead leaves and mulch. If your temperatures are at least 70 degrees during the day they will grow slowly. Cut down on the watering and fertilizing and they should be fine.

Canna-Lover Nan I loved the pictures of your gardens they are gorgeous and the tiki dog house is so cool. It must be a pleasure just to step outside and take it all in.


    Bookmark   December 11, 2004 at 11:37PM
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Thanks for the compliments! Yeah, I like to think my garden is a little slice of heaven on earth - During the summer anyway!

Right now, it's pretty depressing to walk out there (I got a little wistful when I went back and looked at the pics on my webpage!). On the plus side, I *do* enjoy feeding my compost pile - and I know that NEXT year's garden will be *that* much better!

As far as food and water goes: Water's been cut waaaay back (basically just whatever rain falls, and it's been relatively dry so far) and food has been nonexistent - I just amended the soil w/compost and steer manure when I planted the rhizomes last spring. Nothing since then!

Thanks for the advice on cutting back the leaves. Trouble is - I went a little nuts when I found Horn Canna Farm, and there are, literally, hundreds of cannas out there! Some are planted so thickly, I'm not sure I can even *get* to them!

Which actually leaves me with a secondary dilemma - how/when can I dig some of them up and plant them elsewhere? I know they're gonna multiply like crazy!

I actually think I *do* want to cut them all the way back, mulch the heck out of 'em, then "start fresh." The tall ones are HUGE - and getting kind of ugly (okay, REALLY ugly!). Many are flopping over now - and to tackle the individual crunchy leaves would be an enormous undertaking!

I just don't know "when" is the optimal time to do that.

Winters, normally, hover in the 40's-50's - with a handful of frozen nights. This winter has just been "bizarre!"

It's generally pretty "temperate" around here - and we get a heavy rainy season in Feb-Mar. Thankfully, I think Cannas won't mind having wet feet in squishy clay soil!

Would there be any harm in cutting them back now, I wonder? Or should I wait a bit longer? I'm sure I want to do it before the growing season starts (March-ish, it'll start to warm up a tad, and come April - look out!).

January is usually our "freeze" month - but I don't think we're gonna get hit with several-nights-in-a-row again like we did a couple of weeks ago (at least I hope not!!!).

Thanks for any advice!!!


    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 10:00PM
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cannafreak(z7 NY)

Hi Nancy, If you want to cut them back now and mulch I do not think it will be a problem although others could possibly disagree.

Normally the rule is to wait until they are hit by a hard frost and the leaves die, but since yours has had a complete growing season they should be fine.

I think it is to late for you too dig them up, divide, and replant wait until early spring.

It sounds like you have one heck of a canna garden if you can post more pictures would love to see them. HTH, Tara

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 12:54AM
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Robin_northtexas(z8 dfw tx)

Cannas are tough. I just cut them down when we have our first freeze. Mine have multiplied like crazy in the two years I've had them. So I thinned them and put half of them else where. They were monster size.. I then mulched them heavily and now waiting for the show. I need to do the same thing with my elephant ears too. Robin

    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 5:25PM
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