Canna lilies may not be accurate, but they can make a perfect substitute in cooler climates.
The name of the genus is derived from the Greek word for “cane,” referring to their tall stalks.
Not only are canna lilies a beautiful flowering plant, but many species have been traditionally grown as a source of food starch.
In recent years, the genus has been compressed from more than 100 species to just 10, with many reclassified as subspecies and cultivars.
There is also an entire group of cannas known as “dwarf cannas.”
Dwarf cannas are smaller and compact, making them an excellent choice for people who prefer to grow cannas in pots or have limited space.
But how difficult is it to grow dwarf annas, and what are the differences between dwarf and tall specimens?
How To Grow Dwarf Canna Lily
Growing dwarf cannas can be very much like growing tall cannas if you use proper techniques such as soak-and-dry watering.
The main differences come in the form of planting requirements.
Dwarf vs. Tall Cannas
The height is the first and most apparent difference between dwarf and tall cannas.
Dwarf cultivars tend to range from 2 ½’ to 3′ feet tall and create smaller clusters than their taller counterparts.
The blooms come in a wide range of colors, usually more vibrant than their taller counterparts, with many pastels and custom hues available.
Due to their smaller size, it’s often easy to force early blooms when growing indoors.
Quick Growing Guide
Growing a dwarf canna is very similar to their full-sized counterparts.
Here’s a quick summary of care requirements for your dwarf canna lilies.
Soil and Spacing
Even dwarf cannas tend to have deep roots, so that you will need a container at least 12″ inches deep or to loosen the garden space to 18″ inches deep.
You will need to space each dwarf canna 1′ foot apart or use a 6″ inch diameter container.
Any container needs to have suitable drainage holes, and the soil itself should be well-draining.
Just about any potting mix will do, but loamy or peat-based compounds will tend to work better for heavy feeders such as cannas.
Amend your soil with some perlite to improve drainage.
You may also wish to mix in an organic fertilizer such as aged cow manure, significantly if growing outdoors.
Plant the rhizome 4″ inches deep with the eyes facing upwards.
Fiber pots can be placed directly into the ground and degrade over time to provide additional food for the plant.
Once the plant sprouts, you can add a layer of pine needles or similar mulching to help prevent the soil from drying out too quickly.
Cannas love sunlight, and you will want to ensure they get 6 to 8 hours of full sun per day.
In hotter regions, you may prefer to provide this full sun in the morning or evening with some light afternoon shade or filtered light, so the plant doesn’t scorch or dehydrate.
The soak-and-dry method is perfect for cannas, including dwarf varieties.
Stick your finger into the soil and water if it feels dry 1″ inch down.
Water slowly and thoroughly, working your way around the plant and trying not to get the leaves wet.
You’ll know to stop wate5ring when the soil surface is no longer absorbing at the same speed you’re pouring, or you see moisture beginning to seep from a container’s drainage holes.
A balanced liquid fertilizer applied monthly is a good default for your dwarf canna.
However, you may use a slightly higher phosphorus blend during bloom time, then switch to one with somewhat more nitrogen for the rest of the summer to encourage fuller blooms and foliage, respectively.
You’ll want to cut back on feeding in fall and winter, even if you bring your potted dwarves inside instead of uprooting.
You will need to repot your cannas every 2 to 3 years, dividing the canna rhizome and giving it a fresh potting medium.
Keep an eye out for roots popping out of the soil surface or drainage holes, which indicates you’ll need to graduate to a container one size larger and divide the canna.
Sheltering Dwarf Cannas for Winter
Because you can grow dwarf cannas in containers, you don’t need to uproot them to overwinter in storage.
Instead, bring them inside when the temperature drops below 60° degrees Fahrenheit and place them in a greenhouse, terrarium, or sunny south-facing window.
You will want to cut back on feeding and watering, as the plant will still go through a dormant phase.
However, when overwintering in a container like this, it’s possible to force the plant by artificially changing the environmental conditions to make it think spring has already hit a few weeks early.
By starting this process around March, your cannas will bloom a few weeks earlier than usual without causing any adverse effects to the plant.
Dwarf Canna Uses
Due to their smaller size, dwarf cannas are perfect for growing in containers. This can allow you to increase your cannas as perennials instead of annuals, even when keeping them outdoors.
Plant the cannas in pots or rectangular containers and partially submerge them in the garden during the spring and summer months, bringing them inside as temperatures cool off.
When done correctly, you won’t have to uproot the rhizomes for overwintering.
The smaller size makes them perfect for window boxes or a backdrop to a centerpiece for shorter plants.