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Potting stored canna bulbs

Oftentimes at the Oklahoma Gardening Studio Garden, we will dig up our cannas to store them for the winter. Although it’s still a bit early to put them back in the ground, we can give them a jump start on spring.

Potting stored canna bulbs

Oftentimes at the Oklahoma Gardening Studio Garden, we will dig up our cannas to store them for the winter. Although it’s still a bit early to put them back in the ground, we can give them a jump start on spring.

Cannas won’t flower until they’ve reached their full height. By potting them and allowing the plants to grow indoors for a few weeks, we can move the bloom time up significantly. Good timing for potting stored cannas is about six to eight weeks before your last average frost date, which is around April 15 in the Stillwater area. The timing would need to be adjusted a bit for other parts of the state.

We stored our cannas in a cool, damp location. When we remove the bulbs from storage, we’ll need to inspect the sections carefully to look for signs of disease or rotting. We sure don’t want to keep any diseased bulbs. Look for small offsets from the mature bulb. These basal offsets are called “pups.” This is a natural form of asexual reproduction, or another way to look at it, a way for the plant to increase its numbers without producing seed.

Though we commonly call the storage organ of a canna a bulb, it is technically a rhizome. You can think of these offsets or rhizomes as underground shoots growing from the mother plant.

Spring is a great time to divide and pot these pups. To separate the pups from their mother plant, use a clean, sharp blade. You want each new section to have a healthy shoot tip. Some sections will have visible roots and others will not. Do not worry if there aren’t any roots visible because the bulb will produce these as it begins to grow.

Pot the pups in a well-drained soil mix in good-sized containers. Proper drainage is essential. Fill the container about two-thirds full of soil. It’s helpful to dampen the soil as you work. Place the canna bulb so it makes good contact with the soil and the shoot tip is pointing upwards. Add enough potting mix to fill the container. Make sure the bulb is set 3 to 4 inches below the soil surface.

After the cannas are potted, place them in a warm, sunny location, such as near a window. However, don’t put them in direct sunlight. Once the shoots emerge, move the containers to a sunny window and add a slow-release fertilizer. Remember to keep your cannas damp, but not wet. The plants will utilize very little water at first, but you don’t want the soil to dry out. Once the shoots emerge you may increase water supply. Wait until the threat of frost has passed before you move your cannas outdoors.

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