Monday, 11 February 2008

Growing Cannas from Seed

A posting by Keith Hayward on the International Canna Group

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, now is the time to sow seeds for flowers this year. Here are a few pointers for those who've never done it before.

Canna seeds have a very hard and impermeable coat, and you can't just bury them in compost and expect them to grow. The chances are that nothing would happen.

You have to scarify them. But this is not as easy as it sounds. It truly is an engineering job, requiring engineering equipment if you are to make any impression on the hard seed surface.

I use an engineers file and a pair of engineers pliers. I grip the seed in the pliers, and wipe it several times across the file until the white interior of the seed just shows through at one place.

Then I bury the seed to a depth of about 1 cm in peat-based seed compost. I soak the compost in water, and enclose the whole seed tray in a polythene bag, and then place the whole thing in a propagator at 80F (30C).

Done this way, germination is very quick. The first shoot usually comes through in about 7 days, and most are up after about 10 days. Germination rate is very good, 70% to 100%.

I find that pre-soaking the seed makes no difference to the speed of germination. What is important is the humidity and the germination temperature. The great danger to seedlings is damping-off, which happens more at lower temperatures. Also, canna seedlings will not tolerate being dried out.

Other people may have other techniques - let's hear them.

The photo shows C. tuerckheimi sown on 22 January 08. Tuerck is a particularly fast mover and the first shoot came through in 4 days! The photos were taken 31st January. Germination was very good, and they are growing well.

Also shown are seedlings of Tropical Rose about 2 weeks from sowing the seed. Seeds of the Tropical Series will flower in 100 days from sowing the seeds, so you can sow them in March and still have them in flower in summer. They come in 5 colours: Rose, Yellow, Red, White, Salmon. The Tropical series are pre-scarified, and germinate in 7 to 10 days. If anyone would like to try them but can't find the seed, then we will post it anywhere worldwide.

See website

Keith Hayward

Farnborough, England

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