This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The various species of Canna form a genus of highly ornamental foliage plants of majestic habit and tropical appearance, remarkable alike for their large and handsome foliage, as well as their beautiful and various colored flowers.
One of the prettiest and most distinct is Canna Nepalensis, a very beautiful species growing from four to five feet in height, with large, bright yellow flowers, which are produced from June until frost. The Canna is a half hardy perennial plant belonging to the natural order Maran-tacese, and this species is a native of Nepaul, from whence its specific name is derived. This Canna is not at all adapted for the flower border, on account of its robust habit, but for groups of ornamental foliage plants, or as single specimens on the lawn it is almost without an equal.
In order to cultivate this Canna to perfection, as well as to see it in all its beauty, it should be grown as a single specimen on the lawn, and in order to enable to so grow it is necessary that it should be given a rich, loamy, very deep soil; the place where the plant is to stand should be dug at least to the depth of two and a half feet, and a good quantity of well-rotted stable manure thorougly incorporated with the soil; if possible, add also a sprinkling of bone-dust; a strong, robust plant will require a space of about four feet in diameter. Like all of the Maran-tacese, Cannas require a deep, rich soil and a hot, moist atmosphere during their season of growth. During the summer season we can supply all their wants with the exception of a moist atmosphere; the best substitute for this is to give it an abundant supply of water at the roots. In order to do this it is necessary to form a shallow basin around the plant, or better still, to have the space allotted to the plant about two inches below the surface of the lawn.
When hot, dry weather sets in, cover this space with about two inches of coarse stable manure, being careful to remove all straw; once a week give it a thorough soaking of water, and if a little guano is dissolved: in the water, so much the better; thus grown the Canna will astonish all by its vigorous growth and its tropical appearance.
A few days after frost has destroyed the foliage the roots should be taken up carefully and placed in a warm, dry cellar or under the stage of a greenhouse for the winter - they can be divided, if necessary, and planted out the ensuing season; they can also be grown in large pots for decorative purposes, with fair results if rich soil and an abundance of water be given them.
Propagation is effected by dividing the plant in the spring before planting, and also by seeds which, if sown early, and the young plants properly cared for, will produce nice plants the same season. As the seeds possess a hard integument they will vegetate much sooner if slightly scratched with a file on one side, or else placed in boiling water previous to sowing. The seeds can be sown in a well-drained pot of light sandy soil, covered slightly and placed in a moist, warm situation. As soon as the plants are strong enough to handle, take up carefully and pot off into three or four inch pots ; place the pots again in heat, and keep the plants constantly growing until all danger of frost is over, when they can be planted out in the open air.
It is an essential point in the cultivation of Cannas to have the plants as strong as possible when planted out in May.
The Canna is popularly called the Indian Shot plant, from the fancied resemblance of the round, black, hard seed to shot. The term Canna signifies a cane or reed.