Q. What is the proper care for Canna lilies. Since they are a dominant plant in my landscaping here in Palm Springs, I'd like to know what to fertilize them with, when to fertilize, when to cut back, when to water, how much and in which season, etc. I read your information on deadheading and that was useful.
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A. I like Canna Lily as well. There are many types to pick from; different heights, flower color, leaf color, leaf variegation. One thing is for sure; these plants love lots of organics in the soil and plenty of water. They grow even in fish ponds!
Plant them in a high, water use areas of the landscape together with other plants that like lots of water. They can take full sun as long as they get plenty of water and great soil. Make sure their soil is amended with lots of compost at planting time. They love the surface of the soil surrounding them covered with woodchip mulch, not rock mulch.
If they are growing well and robustly, they need to be dug up and divided every 3 to 4 years. Do this at the same time as you would iris; when it cools off in the fall or very early spring. Fall is best. Divide them at this time, wait a few days to heal and replant them.
Deadheading is always important for looks and continual blooming. Fertilize them 3 or 4 times during the year with a rose type fertilizer; very early spring when new growth is pushing, lightly during the summer months at about half rate, late summer when it begins to cool and once more around Halloween.
To help you remember it think of Labor Day, Fourth of July (half rate), Memorial Day and Halloween. To get vibrant Cannas, substitute compost instead of fertilizer for the first or last application of the year.
Cut them back to the ground after they freeze in December or just before new growth if they don’t freeze.