When deciding what to plant in my container gardens, I have not typically considered using canna lilies. Years ago, cannas with red flowers were pretty much the only ones readily available to home gardeners. While their tropical look was interesting, I felt that they would look out of place with my other flowers. The fact that their rhizomes needed to be dug up, stored over the winter, and replanted every spring further deterred me.
I just did not have the time or energy for that.
I did try some variegated cannas in my front planters a decade ago, but without great success. They were subjected to the full exposure of wind, intense heat, and bright sunlight. They did not perform well under these harsh conditions, so I have not planted them again.
Now I see that one of the 2018 All America Selection (AAS) winners is a new canna with orange flowers. AAS is an independent testing organization that tests and judges new non-GMO flowers and vegetable varieties. They award their AAS designation to those varieties that are reliable and significantly superior to the varieties that are already available on the market.
The new canna lily is called South Pacific Orange F1. AAS found it to have a compact growth habit that works well in both gardens and containers. They indicate that it is “more vigorous, more uniform, and has more basal branching” than other cannas. The plant is semi-compact and grows from 15 to 52 inches tall, depending on its location.
The flowers are a brilliant orange and contrast well with its dark green leaves. In addition, the plant has a long bloom period and gorgeous 4 1/2-inch flowers that are attractive to pollinators.
South Pacific Orange supposedly needs full sun and is rated as heat tolerant. However, given my past experiences with canna lilies in our area, I suspect cannas would do best in a somewhat protected spot that gets some late afternoon shade. Cannas grow best in rich, well-drained soil that is kept consistently moist. Some cannas, including South Pacific Orange, also grow fairly well in wet, boggy-type areas around ponds and water gardens.
Even though South Pacific Orange is an F1 plant started from seed, it will develop a rhizome. If you want to overwinter these plants, the rhizomes will need to be dug up in the fall and overwintered in a cool (40 to 50 degrees), dry location. If you are growing your cannas in pots, they can be overwintered in those containers. For more on overwintering cannas go to bit.ly/TCHcanlil.
South Pacific Orange is not the first in Takii’s South Pacific series of canna lilies. South Pacific Scarlet with scarlet flowers was introduced in 2013 and was also an AAS winner.
While I generally do not gravitate towards tropical-looking plants like cannas and hibiscus, I think it would be fun to plant a large container with a South Pacific Orange canna in the center along with another 2018 AAS winner, Queeny Lime Orange zinnia. This new zinnia grows up to 2 feet tall and produces some uniquely hued flowers that transition from dark coral-peach-orange to a light peach with a yellowish center as they mature. These delightful bicolor flowers are 2 to 4 inches in diameter.
I would also want to add a “filler or spiller” plant with dark purple foliage, such as Blackie, Black Heart, or Sweet Carolina Purple ornamental sweet potatoes. Other candidates might be purple fountain grass or a coleus with dark purple leaves, such as ColorBlaze Maroon or Dark Star. Oh yes, I must try this combination sometime soon!
Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.