A Gardener’s Diary: Cannas can be stored in winter

The summer has been fantastic and now some of the plants that did so well need to come in for winter. I had a reader phoning me and wanting to know what to do with all her canna lilies. As I write this, mine are still in the garden waiting for the coming frost. The following information comes from The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.

Cannas are perennials but will not survive our winters. They brighten the flower bed or border from midsummer to frost. The roots should be planted as soon as the soil has thoroughly warmed up in the spring. Set them about two inches (five cm) deep and 12 to 24 inches (30 cm to 60 cm) apart. A good shovelful of compost should be mixed in the soil around each root. If you want earlier flowers, the roots may be started inside early in April. Use good soil in the pots with some compost mixed in. After warm weather comes, transplant them to the garden.

Cannas need as much sunlight as they can get. They do not bloom in shade, and should have sun at least half of the day. The soil must be moist at all times, and should never be allowed to dry out.

By midsummer they will make good growth and will be ready for another feeding of compost. With correct culture, each root division will have grown into a large clump by fall. On the morning you find the leaves frosted, cut off the stalks just above the soil line before the sun shines on them and turns them black. This improves the keeping quality of the roots. Lift each clump carefully, allowing some soil to adhere to it.

One of the best methods of storing is to put the soil-covered clumps in boxes and cover with dry sand. A temperature of about 60 degrees F (15 degrees C) is best for storage. Cannas will rot at a low storage temperature and dry at a high one. The roots should be examined several times during the winter, spoiled ones removed and the temperature changed if necessary. When planting time comes again, remove all dirt from the roots and divide them into sections with two or three points, or “eyes.” Each of these will grow into a stalk.

Storing differs a lot for gardeners. Some store them in shredded newspaper, others in peat moss or even leaf mold. One internet site suggests putting them in plastic bags with holes to let the air circulate. I will leave mine in pots with the dirt. Last year I lost most of them as they dried in the peat moss as our basement is a bit too warm. The same method as above can also be applied to dahlias. I will be dealing with both this week. I do not take off all the dirt from my dahlias and I pack them in open plastic grocery bags with some peat moss. Early January I check on them and if too dry, I will spray with water very lightly.

I finally got my potted perennials in the greenhouse for winter. I covered the whole floor with three layers of newspaper and added shredded leaves on top. The larger pots are lined along the outside and the smaller ones are in the centre. I have a mini greenhouse inside and some pots are on the shelves which are also covered with newspaper. I have some smaller pots in black crates also lined with newspaper and leaves. Later on I will cover everything with more leaves and like my plants, I will hibernate.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.

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