I like the way it looks and might want to get one but I need to know what it is. The location is Minnesota.

Unidentified Plant

5 Answers 5


That is a canna. the variety name is Red King Humbert. It is the same as what I grow. To overwinter, I wait until the top gets frosted off, then cut them off and dig up the rhizomes and store them in baskets in the basement. In spring, after the frost is gone, I plant the pieces 3' apart in moist soil. They are very tolerant to poor drainage and will grow in standing water.

  • Any explanation for why Eric Nitardy's response that the "plant is not a canna lily" is wrong and this answer is right? This doesn't seem sorted out to me yet.
    – Lisa
    Jan 18, 2012 at 1:18

At first I thought that it was canna. Then I went outside and took a picture of a small red-variegated banana growing outside. It looks very much like your picture. It could live quite easily in Minnesota in the summertime. Would die as soon as it got anywhere the low 40s.enter image description here

  • Well, Canna lilies and bananas are both zingiberales. That's about as close as you get. Mike's picture matches the Canna lily perfectly but doesn't match this.
    – Lisa
    Jul 19, 2011 at 4:34
  • 4
    @Lisa: Gardening Directions is correct. The OP's photo is likely of an ornamental banana. One way to tell: Cannas (and gingers) have distichous leaves which means that the leaves alternate back and forth on opposite sides of the stem; whereas, banana leaves are arranged spirally. So the leaves of bananas can go in any direction, but canna leaves on a single stem tend go in two directly opposite directions. Therefore, we can see the plant in the OP's photo is not a canna. So banana becomes the best guess. (The long petioles also indicate banana, but less definitively). Oct 6, 2011 at 14:27

It looks like a Canna (lily) to me (sorry don't know which particular family/variety).

You may find the following videos from the University of Illinois Extension of some interest:


Why that plant is not a Canna-Lily

Although the pictured plant has large, reddish leaves, in habit, it looks nothing like a canna.

Canna leaves usually alternate back and forth on opposite sides of the stem, botanists call this characteristic distichous. Banana leaves, in contrast, are arranged spirally around the stem. So the leaves of bananas can go in any direction, but canna leaves on a single stem tend go in two directly opposite directions, giving it a habit vaguely similar to corn (maize), which also has distichous foliage. As one can see in the photo,

enter image description here

the leaves of our plant run in every direction, so the plant does not have distichous foliage. Michael G. Simpson in Plant Systematics uses the foliage arrangement as a primary means of distinguishing cannas, bananas, and related families (like gingers). He notes, however, that on rare occasions, canna foliage can be spiral. Nonetheless, the leaf arrangement of the plant in the photo is not very canna-like.

The plant exhibits a number of un-canna-like features. First, let us use Bing's and Google's images of cannas to remind ourselves what they look like. Cannas are stiffly upright plants, our plant has a very relaxed habit almost spreading. Canna leaves point mostly upwards. Our plant's leaves point mostly out. Canna leaves are bent around the stem, which helps give them their stiffly upright look. With the exception of the youngest leaf, our plant's leaves bend away from the stem.

enter image description here

Canna's stems are very straight and tall, like corn (maize). Our plant scarcely seems to have a stem. A canna plant as large as our plant would have started to flower, yet, our plant is still unfurling leaves. As mentioned earlier, our plant looks nothing like a canna.

So what is it?

In all of these ways that our plant differs from cannas, it resembles bananas. In fact, it very closely resembles a red sport of Abyssinian banana (Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii') (Another photo of the plant).

Here is a source for red Abyssinian banana, but I am sure there are others. The International Banana Society is a good source for cultural information.

  • 2
    Guess I have to the settle this once and for all. I'll contact the city that planted them and ask them.
    – Mike Wills
    Oct 24, 2011 at 13:15

This is a Banana. I grow Cannas and at first glimpse the leaves do resemble those of Cannas in colour and structure, but the low, stocky and compact stems and their formation confirm to me it's a Banana.

  • In Minnesota???? Can you dig them and move to a green house every winter?
    – Mike Wills
    Oct 15, 2012 at 2:29

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