Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canna 'Bengal Tiger'

A perennial that has always been a favorite of mine is Canna x generalis, commonly known as Canna, or the Canna Lily. It adds a strong, bold, very vertical element to a landscape, with its erect stems that reach five feet in height, and its big, two foot long leaves that reach for an upright position. Adding to the verticality of this plant are varieties specifically bred for the venetion such as, my favorite, ‘Bengal Tiger’.

‘Bengal Tiger’ has almost neon yellow leaves with vertical lime green venation. Its most notable feature is definitely its foliage, which is big and bright. ‘Bengal Tiger’ will also flower profusely in our zone with highlighter orange flowers. Although this Canna has pretty flowers, other varieties are bred more for big flowers, which may be striped or speckled. These cultivars generally have smaller leaves and possibly no foliage variegation. If you like the looks of ‘Bengal Tiger’, another good foliage Canna is ‘Tropicana’ which also has large leaves and striped venation, but is a more muted bronzy color which would look nice next to a brick structure.

One thing that I do for any Canna if it has flowers is remove the spent blooms before they go to 'seed'. In my opinion, it cleans up the appearance although some people prefer to leave the seeds because of their interesting spherical appearance. There are benefits to removing the seed heads, such as encouraging faster flower production and saving energy that would be spent on making seeds for making bigger blooms. When pruning the flowers though, be careful not to prune so far back that you remove the next flower head!

This perennial will die back to the ground in the fall, but don't worry it will come back! Remove the dead growth in the fall so its not in the way of other plants that may not be done yet and wait for the Cannas to shoot back up next Spring!

Sources: Stills, Steven M. Manual of Herbacious Ornamental Plants. p. 161-162.

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