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Edible uses


Root - raw or cooked[1][2][3]. It is the source of 'canna starch' which is used as an arrowroot[4][5][6][7]. The arrowroot is obtained by rasping the root to a pulp, then washing and straining to get rid of the fibres[1]. This starch is very digestible[3]. The very young tubers can also be eaten cooked[8][9][10][11], they are sweet but fibrousy[97, K]. The root can be very large, sometimes as long as a person's forearm[3]. In Peru the roots are baked for up to 12 hours by which time they become a white, translucent, fibrous and somewhat mucilaginous mass with a sweetish taste[7][3]. The starch is in very large grains, about three times the size of potato starch grains, and can be seen with the naked eye[7][3]. This starch is easily separated from the fibre of the root[3]. The roots contain about 25% starch[8]. The dry matter contains about 75 - 80% starch, 6 - 14% sugar, 1 - 3% protein, it is high in potassium, low in calcium and phosphorus[3].

Young shoots - cooked and eaten as a green vegetable[7][3]. Quite nutritious, containing at least 10% protein[3].

The immature seeds are cooked in fat tortillas[7].


Material uses

The starch from the roots is sometimes used as a laundry starch or for sizing[3].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

There are no medicinal uses listed for Canna edulis.


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow February/March in a warm greenhouse at 20°c[4][12]. Plant the seeds 2 - 5cm deep in individual pots[4]. Scarifying the seed can speed germination, especially if the seed has not swollen after being soaked[124, K]. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 9 weeks[12]. Grow the plants on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Division of the root clump as the plant comes into growth in the spring. Each portion must have at least one growing point. Pot up the divisions and grow them on in the greenhouse until they are well established and then plant them out in the summer.

Root cuttings.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Canna edulis. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Requires a deep rich well-drained soil in a sunny position[4][13]. Tolerates heavy soils[3]. The plant has large leaves and dislikes windy conditions since this can tear the leaves to shreds[13]. Requires ample water in the growing season[3]. Tolerates a pH range from 4.5 to 8[3].

This species is probably hardy in the mildest areas of Britain but even then it should be given a good mulch if left in the ground overwinter[4]. The top growth tolerates light frosts and plants can be grown in areas with winter snow[3]. The tubers can be harvested in late autumn after the top growth has been killed back by frost and stored over winter. They should be kept in a frost-free place covered in moist soil or leaves[4]. According to some botanists this species is no more than a synonym for C. indica[13]. Cultivated for its edible root in the Tropics, there are some named varieties[5][3]. The root can be harvested within 6 months from planting out, though larger yields are obtained after 8 - 10 months[3]. In the British climate this probably means 2 years growth is required for good yields[K]. Yields in the Andes range from 13 - 85 tonnes per hectare, with 22 - 50 tonnes being average[3]. Plants are rarely troubled by pests or diseases[3]. Most cultivated forms do not produce fertile seed[3]. There are also sterile triploid forms, these contain a significantly higher proportion of starch though their cropping potential is not known[3].

Slugs love the young growth in spring and can cause serious damage to plants[14].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Canna edulis. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Canna edulis.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Canna edulis
Imported References
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
no shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    3 x 1 meters
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


    1. ? Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    2. ? 2.02.1 Sholto-Douglas. J. Alternative Foods. ()
    3. ? Popenoe. H. et al Lost Crops of the Incas National Academy Press ISBN 0-309-04264-X (1990-00-00)
    4. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    5. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.1 Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press (1952-00-00)
    7. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    8. ? Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    9. ? 9.09.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
    10. ? 10.010.1 Brouk. B. Plants Consumed by Man. Academic Press ISBN 0-12-136450-x (1975-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.1 Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3874292169 (1984-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Bird. R. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 3. Thompson and Morgan. (1989-00-00)
    13. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    14. ? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)

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