More polyploidy in Cannas


Fertility in Cannas is affected by the chromosome number, and the following table and comments were published by Dr Khoshoo following his research in India in the early 1960’s.

Tillering capability

As a rule, triploid cultivars tend to have fewer tillers (underground rhizomes) than diploids, although Canna ‘Roi Humbert III’, a triploid, is an exception. In general, the diploid cultivars have rather large but relatively narrow leaves in comparison to the triploids. The leaves in triploids are thicker than in diploids.

Flowering Period

Being a perennial plant, Canna has the potential to bloom throughout the year, however, under the hot subtropical conditions, as found in its native environment, most of the elemental species and cultivars are unable to bear the heat in the hottest month or so. For the remaining period, weather conditions being suitable, both elemental species and cultivars show a variable response. In the main diploid cultivars will flower for nine months while triploids will flower for 10 months. Tetraploids have the potential to flower for longer periods.


Canna ‘Wintzer’s Colossal’, photo courtesy of Malcolm McFarland

In the main, the sterile cultivars have larger flowers than those that are fertile.  Triploids in general have larger flowers than diploids.

The largest triploid, C. ‘Wintzer’s Colossal’, has a flower diameter of 21cm, not quite as large as the early nurserymen alleged in their catalogues, but nevertheless a large flower.


The phenotype transformation from wild to the cultivated condition has involved reduction in plant height, change in form and colour of leaves, spikes well above the foliage, free flowering, erect flowers, increase in flower size and colour diversity, increase in thickness of flower petals, durability of flowers and self-shedding capability.


Studies have shown that over 80% of cultivars are diploid. The majority of these belong to the Crozy group which are rather small in size but produce an abundance of relatively large flowers.


Triploids make up about 15% of cultivars and the properties of them varies dependant on their horticultural species (x generalis and x orchoides). [Ed. The use of those garden species names is pertinent, as Dr Khoshoo was applying L. H. Baileys’ scientific definitions to them, and not the all-embracing generalisation that is currently prevalent].


Stray tetraploids have occurred, but the slow growth and lack of fertility has meant that these are freak exceptions.

It is speculated that triploidy appears to be the highest effective level of polyploidy achieved in ornamental canna. This is also true of cannas yielding starch (C. discolor). Perhaps cell size increases to an optimum at this level and higher levels, as well as aneuploid progeny, are not possible because of total seed sterility. Therefore, unlike hyacinth, also a vegetatively reproduced ornamental, unbalanced progeny is not possible with canna.


Origin and Evolution of Cultivated Cannas, T.N. Khoshoo and I. Guha (Neé Mukherjee)

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