Thor Dalebø.

Italian Group

The Italian Group is a cultivar group with large, fragile staminodes. Flowers are arranged somewhat loosely, with wide petals (staminodes) so wide that there is no space between them when arranged formally. The labellum (lip) is larger, or at least as large, as the staminodes, unlike the other groups where it is smaller and sometimes curled. The stamen and style is also much wider than that in the other cultivar groups.


In 1895 when Carl Sprenger of Dammon & Co., in Naples, Italy, distributed his radically different “orchid flowered” cannas with Canna flaccida in their ancestry, they startled the gardening world. Never before had such huge Canna blooms been seen. They were bred for use in glassed conservatories and never claimed to be excellent open bedding plants.


The modification of the stamen and style into what resembled extra staminodes (those showy parts of a Canna flower that look like petals), created the illusion of a semi-double flower. In fact the old nurserymen describe them in their catalogues as outer petals being a certain colour and the inner petals (the modified organs) being of another colour or pattern of colouration. The gardening world likened them to large orchids – hence the early epithet. [Ed. this cyclopedia describes the stamen and style separately when their colour or markings are different from the staminodes.]


Also, used to be called the orchid flowering cannas, or C. × orchiodes L.H. Bailey garden species, although such artificial garden species are now deprecated in favour of Cultivar Groups. 

CannaWyoming’ introduces by Conard & Jones

The Italian cultivar  group obtained its larger sized flowers from the introduction of Canna flaccida to the mainstream cannas in the early 1890s by Dr Sprenger in Naples, followed over a year later by Luther Burbank in California, United States, with the same cultivar cross.

CannaMrs Kate Gray

Antoine Wintzer at Conard & Jones and Sydney Percy-Lancaster of Alipore Cannas also produced significant Italian Group cultivars, but no other significant hybridisation of the Italian Group has been  recorded since.  It must be stated that the hybridisation involved is not simple, and in any case the existing cultivars have exhausted the flower and foliage colours and types available with this material.