hey, big boy: canna ‘musaefolia’ or ‘grande’

I HAVE NO INTEREST IN CANNA FLOWERS–in fact, I cut them off–but oh, those leaves. There is no better one to my eye than Canna ‘Musaefolia,’ or ‘Musifolia,’ a.k.a. Canna ‘Grande,’ a banana-like canna (hence the name, since banana in botanical Latin is Musa). I’ve grown the banana canna, which came to me as ‘Grande,’ for many years, and never seen a flower, anyhow–until this oddball season of much heat and little rain.

I’d read in catalogs and books that ‘Musaefolia’ would have relatively small blooms for its overall size; the plant gets to about 10 feet here when happy, and can grow even taller, apparently, in ideal conditions over a longer season. But then I saw my first bloom (and so did every hummingbird in town). For perspective, here’s how big this plant got by midsummer, by my patio (and the one defiant orangey-red bloom it put out):

This giant among cannas makes a great seasonal screen, and friends who had a lot of ‘Grande’ used it as a sort of summer hedge to wall off an area of their garden one year, which was great fun. Besides its 3-foot-by-1-foot leaves and statuesque appearance, it’s the details about this canna that I really love. Stems are tinted a wine color, and so are the leaf margins. Even the rhizomes are tinged with a reddish-pink, as below (which is how I can tell ‘Grande’ apart from others I store in the cellar if I forgot to label them).

Specialty cannas like ‘Musaefolia’ may be pricey at first, but they’re prolific multipliers and easy to store for next spring–what I call a true investment plant. I’m glad I invested in this big boy, who just gets better and better every year.

more canna how-to’s

  1. Virginia says:

    I love your patio area. I’m hoping to have something along the lines of what you have in the next year or so in our back garden. Something simple but surrounded by flowers.

  2. Alvaro says:

    unfortunately, I lost my tuber this spring along with my Canna Pacific Beauty tuber. I did keep them dry and in the basement, I just don’t know what happened I will order next year from PDN again. My Colocasia ‘Mojito’ is doing fantastic this year.

  3. narf7 says:

    I love leaves. Not to fussy about flowers and so this delightful “Big Boy” is right up my alley. I just googled it and noted that the tubers (like most Canna) are edible so this would make an amazing display as well as having food forest merit for our food forest. Cheers for a great post and for sharing a plant that I didn’t even know about. Now I just have to source some in Australia! (the hard bit! ;))

  4. Julie says:

    You make absolutely every plant appealing with your writing, photographs, and the way you site them in your garden. I used to think I disliked cannas until I read your post.

  5. Tracy says:

    I read your blog every day. And it seems that too often, it costs me about $40 – $50. Between the stunning photography (I note the glowing canna leaves, above) and the enticing descriptions of plants heretofore in the shadows of my catalog-studying memory, I invariably click over to Plant Delights, Brushwood, or whatever source you’ve referenced and place an order, squinting through my fingers and looking nervously over my shoulder lest someone take note of my addiction. Any day now, I will receive box after box of sleepy plants and bulbs needing a home. Yesterday, I received a politely worded email from Brushwood asking gently if I would mind if they bundled the FIVE orders I’ve placed in the last few months to save on shipping. And it’s all your fault.

    1. margaret says:

      Uh-oh, Tracey. All my fault, as you say. I will try to only write about ugly weeds from now on, promise. (And if it makes you feel any better: I think I got the same note from Brushwood the other day!) See you soon again, I hope — despite the bad example I set!

  6. Thanks for such a great idea–a summer screen would be greatly appreciated in my garden. One aspect of living in the UK which I miss is the loving interest placed on individual plants. However, your detailed and appreciative posts highlighting your favorite species more than makes up.

    I like using a small clump of flowering dwarf cannas to brighten up a border and for their long flowering period. The shorter ones blend with the rest of the border more easily.

  7. Jason says:

    I’ve been growing cannas for the first time and have been thinking they should really be grown for the foliage. The flowers are gorgeous but fade quickly and are somewhat few and far between, at least in my yard. Not growing any real monsters like ‘Grande’ – mine top out at about 5′.

  8. kolleen says:

    Love cannas for the foliage and have been growing them the past 4 years but Japanese beetles [here in the southern Berkshires] love them as well. I’ve tried numerous strategies but they munch away. Eventually, they all disappear usually in mid August but by then the leaves look like Swiss cheese. Any thoughts?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Kolleen. I always hand-pick them off in the morning and drown them in a jar of water, to try to stay ahead. I have also inoculated my lawn around the house with beneficial nematodes to try to reduce the white grub population. Some info here.

  9. Charlie benedic says:

    Oh I am laughing out loud relieved to know others are looking over their shoulders as we quickly add one more plant or shrub to our virtual web cart. I have been known (ahem….) to have ordered too much, I can’t even remember what I needed it for. And, the brakes squealing on the UPS truck send me into a panic if my husband is home because I don’t want him to know the UPS guy is here again!! we all know I won’t stop buying plants… So maybe I should offer to have the squealing brakes fixed on the UPS truck… Oh! I forgot why I was posting! Joe pye weed is marvelous and needs some good PR.

  10. Stella says:

    what website do you recommend to purchase the best variety and quality of canna bulbs ? I live in zone 6B and want to make an atempt next year to include some in my perennial gardens.

  11. susan says:

    My Grande Canna is so welcome all summer long, it is very happy in Salem,Oregon.
    What I haven’t done is lifted it out to divide in the three years since planting.
    The bulb was in a pot for about 2 years before that so it had already multipled to 3 of 4 stems and created large bulbs.

    Now the stems are crowded in the ground, although with our unusually warm summer some still grew to the top and bloomed for the first time last year. (much like your experience, Margaret) I would say there are about 20 stems in the ground. I protect it with plastic, mulch on top and a tarp in the coldest weather. It works so far.
    Do you think there would be some success by cutting out bulbs instead of trying to lift out the whole mass.? Any other suggestions how to reduce it

    Thank you.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Susan. Digging up a large clump is pretty rough work. I suppose you could hack it apart (into big chunks) and dislodge portions at a time, then trim them to discard the damaged portions, but I have never tried that. I have lifted clumps that are nearly 30 inches across and it takes a lot of work — and they are heavy!

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