Flowering from midsummer to mid-autumn, cannas and hedychiums bring tropical opulence to bed and border displays.
While not closely related, the two enjoy similar growing conditions of humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil. Cannas can be grown in full sun or partial shade, whereas hedychiums are better suited to partial shade, as the foliage can wither in hot, direct sun. A sheltered position suits both.
To protect them from harsh winter weather, canna foliage should be cut back in mid- to late autumn, before digging up the rhizomes and storing in a cool, frost-free position. Ensure they don’t dry out. In milder coastal or locations in the south of Britain, you may be able to leave them in the ground all year round, with just a protective mulch to see them through winter.
Hedychiums, like cannas, should have their foliage cut back in autumn. However, the toughest ginger lilies, like Hedychium densiflorum, can remain in the ground over winter if given a generous mulch. Cannas should be lifted and stored over winter in all but the mildest locations.
Take a look at some of the best cannas and hedychiums (or ginger lilies) to grow, in our feature.
Red-purple leaves of canna ‘Mystique’
The gorgeous red-purple leaves of ‘Mystique’ are at their most intense if grown in full sun. The flowers are relatively small but a shocking pink colour that really catches the eye. Surround it with green-leaved plants to help the foliage stand out. Reaches 2m in height.
Height x spread: 2m x 100cm.
Pink-flecked, yellow flowers of canna ‘Lincroft’
‘Lincroft’ is a medium-sized cultivar reaching around 1.2m in height. The warm yellow flowers have bright pink spots, set against rich green foliage. Like all cannas, it needs to be grown in soil that stays moist and won’t dry out.
H x S: 120cm x 100cm.
Canna ‘Eric Neubert’
Orange-red flowers of canna ‘Eric Neubert’
This striking variety has blazing orange-red flowers and intense bronze-green foliage. ‘Eric Neubert’ is a medium-sized canna, reaching a height of around 1m.
H x S: 1m x 50cm.
Cream-orange flowers of canna ‘Ambassador’
More unusually for a canna, ‘Ambassador’ has creamy-orange flowers that are more subtle compared to many other varieties. The large green leaves resemble those of bananas. Good for a spot in partial shade where the flowers can stand out more. Reaches 1.5m tall.
H x S: 1.5m x 60cm.
Yellow-striped green leaves of canna ‘Striata’
‘Striata’ has striking green leaves bearing yellow stripes, which complement the bright orange flowers (not pictured), and any other orange- or yellow-flowered plants growing nearby. Grows to 1.9m in height.
H x S: 1.9m x 50cm.
Dusky orange-pink canna ‘Champion’
‘Champion’ has gorgeous dusky pink flowers set against a foil of bronze foliage. This short variety looks beautiful growing alongside cream-, orange- and pink-flowered plants and is great for containers.
H x S: 80cm x 50cm.
Orange-gold flowers of canna ‘Semaphore’
The lava-coloured flowers of ‘Semaphore’ dazzle against its bronze leaves. This is a compact, dwarf variety that reaches around 80cm in height.
H x S: 80cm x 60cm.
Orange ginger-lily ‘Tara’
As a cultivar of Hedychium coccineum, ‘Tara’ is one of the hardiest ginger lilies you can grow. The fragrant, bright orange flowers are produced from midsummer to September. Can reach 2m tall.
H x S: 2m x 1.2m.
Pale-yellow ginger lily
While not hardy, this species of ginger lily has richly perfumed, pale yellow flowers that make it well worth growing. Hedychium gardnerianum can also be grown in a large container that can moved to a frost-free location over winter.
H x S: 2m x 1m.
Hedychiums (middle left) growing in a border
Planting partners for cannas and hedychiums