Cannas are native to Tropical America, where there are about 25 wild species. Canna generalis, commonly known as garden cannas, are hybrids that come in many different colours. Most cannas propagate by underground creeping stems (rhizomes), while others propagate by hard, bead-like seeds.
Cannas gained popularity as a garden plant in the mid-19th century, when the first hybrids were produced in France (1848). Since then, hundreds of hybrids displaying many shades of red, yellow, orange and pink flowers have been produced.
According to Professor R.E. Holttum in Gardening in the Lowlands of Malaya 1953): "There are very few plants in Malayan gardens that give really solid masses of colour... cannas are very important, as few other plants, whether herbaceous or woody, can compare with them in producing massed colour effects."