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What is Canarina?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Canarina is a small genus — containing only three known species — of climbing vines native to the Canary Islands and Africa. This genus is placed in the bellflower family and produces very visually distinctive bell-shaped flowers. One species, C. canariensis, is popular in gardens as a domesticated plant. Nurseries and garden supply stores sometimes carry it, although it is rare in propagation, and other gardeners are sometimes willing to provide divisions or seeds for trade with people who are interested in cultivating this plant.

Members of this genus produce bright flowers that may be orange, red, yellow, pink, fuscia, and other colors in between. The foliage is profuse and grows on long climbing vines that will develop a trailing growth habit if the plant has nothing to climb. The flowers develop into bold yellow seed pods. The seeds can be used as a source of propagation, and the tuberous roots can also be broken up in divisions to produce more plants.

These plants like full to partial shade, reflecting the forest environments where they evolved. They have moderate moisture requirements and need high humidity, as well as moist, but not wet, soil in order to thrive, although some gardeners report success with Canarina in drought conditions. The soil should be rich and well worked with peat to promote drainage and air circulation around the roots.

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In tropical climates or in the greenhouse, Canarina is a perennial plant and it can grow quite large. In cooler regions, people may grow it as an annual, using it as an ornamental in the spring and summer. For annuals, seedlings should be started indoors in the spring so they can be planted out after the last frost, and the plants should produce flowers through the summer before dying off in cool fall and early winter weather. Canarina usually does not require pruning or trimming and will develop a rambling growth habit if left to its own devices.

Obtaining Canarina can be challenging, as it is not a common plant. Nurseries specializing in rare plants may stock it or have access to a supplier who can provide it. Otherwise, people may need to turn to other gardeners for assistance. Online gardening exchanges are a good resource, allowing people to connect with other gardeners all over the world to trade seeds and specimens. Many gardeners cultivating this plant are aware of the rarity and will be happy to send seeds on request.

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