Golden canna, also known as the banana of the everglades, is a beautiful wetland plant. It’s native to the southern United States, primarily found in Florida. The leaves are large and lanceolate shaped, pretty much the same as a garden/landscape canna, and are often longer than a foot. As new leaves emerge, they unroll until fully opened.
Their namesake flower is golden to yellow and opens at dusk, closing at dawn. A single plant can produce multiple flowers, which occur spring through early fall. After closing, the flowers produce brown ‘furry’ seed pods. The seeds themselves are very hard, and will bounce on hard surfaces such as concrete.
Where does it grow?
Most accounts of golden canna are in Florida. It is typically found in wetlands, ponds and lakes and thrives in moist soils to shallow water (2-4 inches).
How tough is it?
It is cold tolerant but can be damaged by frost. Zone 8 is the farthest north it can grow, even then a long, cold winter could kill the plant.
How is it beneficial?
The obvious benefit is the aesthetic of its beautiful flower, which will attract pollinators. The root/rhizome system is also a great tool for erosion control and nutrient abatement, a theme you’ll see in wetland/emergent aquatic plants. These roots spread vertically and laterally, holding bank and shoreline soils. At the same time, they are taking in nutrients as nutrients flow into the water body. This reduces erosion and nutrient inflow in a water system.
How does it spread/grow?
The root system grows rapidly in favorable conditions, producing daughter plants via the rhizome. These daughter plants can be divided for easy manual spreading. After seed pods dry, they will eventually drop and fall into the water below.
How to tell it from other plants?
It can be difficult to distinguish from other cannas. However, this native canna is not hybridized meaning it will produce seeds. Many ornamental cannas are unable to produce seeds. Canna glauca is a native canna that is very similar in appearance. C. glauca flowers are orchid like in appearance where golden canna flowers resemble a vase.
What else should you know about this plant?
Golden canna will thrive and spread well, providing a tropical ‘vibe’, in zones 8 and up. Once daughter plants begin to emerge, that’s when you know the plant is well on its way to establishing that tropical feel!