Designing an easy container garden using Tropicanna® cannas

Tropicanna cannas, with their height, tropical flair and season-long color, are an excellent choice for container gardens. That’s why this easy-care, versatile plant stars in my latest two Growing Wisdom gardening-how-to videos, “How to Build the Perfect Container Garden featuring Tropicanna canna” and “Easy Tips for Growing Plants in Containers.”


Here’s a breakdown of the tips I shared in the videos above:

Prepare your pot

  • Lightweight, synthetic pots mimic the look of heavier materials that dry out quicker (i.e. wood, metal, clay).
  • Drill a hole into the bottom of your pot if it doesn’t already one.
  • A layer of rocks at the bottom will improve drainage and stop soil from falling out.
  • To save money on container soil, stack small, upside-down plastic pots within your container until they’re slightly above the proper planting depth. Cover with landscape fabric, then soil before planting.
Drilling a hole at the bottom of your container is an important step for this container garden

Drilling a hole at the bottom of your container is an important step for this container garden

Planting pointers

  • Fill pot halfway with lightweight potting mix for containers and work in a slow-release, granular fertilizer.
  • Loosen the roots of each plant with your hands before potting.
  • If you put the tall plant in the center, the filler can go all the way around that and the spiller all the way around that. If you put the tall plant in back, the filler can go in front of that and the spiller in front of that.
  • A layer of mulch on top helps hold in moisture.

Think in threes

An easy way to ensure a pleasing design is to use three kinds of plants: a thriller (the “wow” factor, often the tallest plant), a filler (fills the center of the container) and a spiller (tumbles over the container’s edge).

For my thriller, I chose Tropicanna Gold (green leaves with gold stripes) and Tropicanna Black (burgundy-black leaves). For my filler, I chose purple celosia; and for my spiller.

Here are some other combinations . . .

Tropicanna canna in mixed container

Tropicanna as the thriller in this container works nicely with similar colored coleus and calibrachoas.

Echo or contrast colors, textures

When it comes to mixing and matching plants, it’s about echoing or contrasting colors and textures. For instance, the broad, flat, ovate or lanceolate leaves of Tropicanna cannas differ from the fleshy rosettes of echeveria, yet the two go together since they’re both burgundy. In the videos, I contrast the dark burgundy canna or echeveria with either a white petunia or purple celosia. The color of your pot is also part of your palette.

award winning container designs

Echoed colors are the theme in the combination of planters designed by Todd Holloway


Mixed garden container

Home gardener Denise Pierce’s container includes Tropicanna Gold as the “thriller”, purple Angelonia as “filler” and trailing petunias as “spiller.”


easy container ideas

A perfect combination of fillers, spillers and thrillers!

Monitor and maintain

  • Plants in pots dry out quicker than plants in the ground, so check the moisture level daily (I like to do it in the cool of the morning) by sticking your finger 2 to 3 inches into the soil. Only water if it’s dry. On hot days, you may need to water again in the afternoon.
  • For optimum growth and performance, plants also need liquid fertilizer.
  • To grow a successful organic container add worm castings, compost or fish emulsion to your containers.   Adding fertilizers with live microbes will also help keep your soil healthy throughout the season.
  • Deadheading prolongs the display and keeps plants looking tidy. Remove dead blooms and yellow or brown leaves and shred for mulch.
  • Be sure not to remove side-shoots below the first set of flowers; these become subsequent blooms.
  • Remember:  Most cannas don’t need staking unless they’re in a high-wind area.

Winter care

Tropicanna cannas are hardy from zones 7 to 11, so those in Zone 6 and below will need to bring them in for the winter. You can keep them in a cool (not freezing) area like a basement. If you don’t have such an area, you can store the rhizomes in warmer spaces in peat moss.  Click here for more tips on winter care of tender bulbs.


Do you have a great container garden recipe?  We’d love to hear it.

For more great gardening tips, visit

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10 Responses to Designing an easy container garden using Tropicanna® cannas

  1. Graciebelle February 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Thanks for these great ideas. The videos were helpful too. Even though I’ve been doing containers for years, I learned a few good tricks. Thanks Dave!

  2. Marcia Harris March 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I am mistaken or aren’t those trailing PETUNIAS? (3-9-2014)

  3. Marcia Harris March 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    I’ve never seen a pansy that looks just like a petunia.

  4. Your Easy Garden Team March 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Thanks for discovering our “typo” mistake. We’ll fix it ASAP.

  5. Margot April 16, 2014 at 1:36 pm #


  6. Kim Klatt April 19, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    Great Ideas… Thanks for making things a lot simpler.

  7. Betty Smith May 2, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    Great ideas!! I love the Bengal canna with the petunias!

  8. Your Easy Garden Team May 2, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Yes, we do too!

  9. Jude June 12, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    I live in zone 3 and would like a hardy easy care type of rose bush…are there to carpet roses…that I carpet roses grow in my area.??

    If not what kind of rose should I purchase for my zone 3 area.
    to grown along my driveway or along a fence.



  10. Your Easy Garden Team June 12, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Flower Carpet roses have been trialed to Zone 4 but no colder. My guess is that you’ll have a hard time finding a rose that’s hardy enough to withstand your cold winters. Your best bet is to check with your local garden center. If they’re carrying any roses, including Flower Carpet, it will be because they’re confident they can survive in your area. If you do find one, please remember to add extra mulch around the base in the fall for added winter protection. If you get a heavy snow cover, that helps to insulate the plants as well. Happy Gardening and please let us know what you find!

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