Saturday, October 20, 2018

Random plant events: Leuchtenbergia principis, Zamia furfuracea

Everything was going fine, and then it was time to dig up the Cannas and bring them in for the winter. And you've seen the Cannas.1

As of 18 October, direct-weighing on a bathroom scale has given us the approximate figure of 787 lb. (357 kg) of Canna rhizomes brought inside for the winter, and we haven't even dug them all up yet.2 My best guess is that another 200-300 lb. (91-136 kg) remain to be dug up.

Meanwhile, one of the Leuchtenbergia seedlings has decided to bloom, in the basement, under artificial lights. I'm surprised that this is even possible.

The seedling in question was sown on 8 May 2013, so it's about five and a half years old. In some ways that feels like a really long time to wait for a bloom, and in other ways it feels incredibly fast. (It's not as if Leuchtenbergia is known for its speed.)

Also, I purchased four kinds of seeds from at the beginning of September. Three of them are sort of disappointing. There's nothing at all going on with Chamaedorea cataractum, and one of the six seeds in that package was rotten when it arrived, so I kind of suspect that was wasted money. A few seeds of Ficus religiosa and Ficus benghalensis have germinated, but they're developing slowly and I'm not optimistic about getting actual plants of either one.3

But the fourth one, Zamia furfuracea, is doing more or less what it's supposed to.

I have germination on eight of the ten seeds so far, and it's only been four or five weeks (the first seed to germinate, photographed below, took 26 days; the package instructions said to allow "several weeks to a few months"), so I'm hopeful about the other two.

Not that the Zamias are much to look at so far. But still. It's something.

I have no idea when I might get back to regular posting again.


1 (Well, some of the Cannas. There were a lot of Cannas.)
2 Also, this omits a box with about 35-40 lb. of Cannas that we just gave to a total stranger because he stopped at the house and asked. (He knew we had them because we piled all the cut stalks on the curb, in hopes that the city will eventually take them away for us, and the pile was kind of . . . unmissable, I guess is the word.)
3 Though you never know. I tried F. religiosa once many years ago, and got at least one plant that survived long enough to develop some leaves. It didn't transition to a pot well, probably because I was asking it to go too long between waterings. There's probably a reason people don't normally grow these species indoors anyway; I just thought it might be fun to try. (It hasn't been.)


Paul said...

That is a huge amount of cannas! Are you storing them in the basement?

Don't recall ever seeing a Leuchtenbergia flower before ... so give yourself a well earned pat-on-the-back.

mr_subjunctive said...


Yeah, in the basement. It's probably too warm for them, but there aren't any other options. And we can afford to lose a few, obviously.

Since I wrote this post, the husband dug up another batch of them. We haven't weighed those yet, because we're giving them a few days to dry first, but just from looking at the size of the boxes they're in, and the weight I got for the similar-sized boxes, I would bet that we've cleared a literal half-ton (well, a half-short ton) of Canna rhizomes, and there's still a section about 30-40 feet long, containing 2 or 3 rows of Cannas, that we haven't dug up yet. So it's at least 2.5 times more rhizomes than there are in the photos here. Possibly three times more, if you include the un-dug ones and the ones we gave away.

Since they're not a fancy cultivar or anything, just a plain green leaf / red flower, it's doubtful that anyone will want to take them, and it feels wrong to throw them away. We've considered trying to eat them, but that feels . . . wrong. The husband's already said no (really emphatically) to the idea of expanding the existing beds; otherwise we'd be in Canna-Maze territory. So it's sort of unclear what we're going to do with them all.

mr_subjunctive said...

UPDATE: The weighing is complete, and to my surprise, we've fallen short of the literal half-ton, but only just. Official total is 950 lb. in the house. (The stuff outside still puts it significantly above a half-ton, but not as far above as I would have guessed.)

Paul said...

Impressive! Didn't know the rhizomes were edible. With that many, might be interesting to try them out... provided one could find a good recipe.

Virginia Burton said...

Are you absolutely certain that the tubers won't survive if left in the ground under a thick layer of mulch? It's such a lot of work to dig and replant that many plants. It's exhausting just thinking about it! (But then, I'm old.)

mr_subjunctive said...

Virginia Burton:

We haven't tried that specifically, no. We know they won't survive without mulch, because we've tried that. Logically, there's some amount of mulch that could be added that would work, but I don't have a guess as to how much it would be.

I think 20F is supposed to be as cold as the rhizomes can get without dying, though I no longer remember where I heard that so it could be wrong. I did read recently that some Canna species are native to the southern U.S. -- South Carolina to Texas. The USDA zone 9a runs from South Carolina to Texas and has 20F as its average minimum winter temperature, so possibly that's where it comes from? We're in 5b (average minimum of -15F), so . . . that's a lot of USDA zones to try to mulch past.

Also I assume if it were practical to mulch instead of digging, somebody around here would be doing it already; there are a fair number of Canna-growers around, and digging them up would have to be just as annoying to all of them as it is to us, just on a smaller scale. I suppose that's not the best argument for it being impossible, but it suggests that it's at least as difficult to mulch as it is to dig and replant.

We did have help this year with the digging; it wasn't only the husband and me. So about half of it wound up being sort of fun; it's just that I estimate that we needed 48 person-hours' of chopping / cleaning / washing / boxing, and the Canna Festival only got us 21. So the digging was a lot less work for the two of us than it could have been, and provided a decent excuse to get together with people into the bargain; there was just a lot of work left over. Next year we find more people to invite, or grow fewer Cannas, or (ideally) both.

Granted that preparing for the Canna Festival took up an awful lot of time and money too (planning, shopping, and cooking for the meal; cleaning the house; obtaining enough digging tools for everybody; finding something appropriately regal for the Canna Queen[1] to wear), and if we'd spent that time digging, we'd have had it done much earlier. But that wouldn't have been nearly as fun.

One does wish that "canna" and "cannabis" sounded a bit less similar. There was some confusion early in the invitation process.

[1] (We did actually crown a Canna Queen.)

Ivynettle said...

I always felt tempted to eat a rhizome back during my apprenticeship, when much of the winter was spent cleaning canna rhizomes, but for some reason I never did. So I think you should do it, for science.

Now I don't have cannas any more, but I have customers asking for them, so if you weren't so far away, I would come and take some of them off your hands.

Ivynettle said...

Also, now I wish I was close enough to come to the Canna Festival. That sounds fun! (And I do kind of miss cleaning the rhizomes, so I'd happily help with that outside of a festival too, but alas, distance. And also the "not travelling to dystopian hellholes run by a deranged pumpkin" thing, I suppose.)