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Learn How To Plant, Care and Grow Splendid Canna Lilies

Often grown for their dramatic foliage – large banana like leaves – Cannas are vibrant tender perennials that provide a strong ornamental interest and immediately give a touch of the tropics in the garden or containers. Impossibly exotic, they bloom prolifically from mid summer to the first frost in a flamboyant array of colors varying from red, orange, yellow, pink or cream. Their architectural shapes and eye-catching colors make them perfect for planting as focal plants or massed to create a tropical effect. Easy to grow, they stand proud and bold provided some basic rules are respected.

1. Choose The Right Rhizomes (or Tubers)

  • Choose rhizomes that are large, firm, and plump.
  • The number of eyes (growth points) of the rhizomes is highly correlated to the overall size of the plant and its blossoms. The more eyes, the bigger the plant and more spectacular the flowers.
  • The optimum number of eyes should be 3-5.

Canna ‘Lucifer’

Canna rhizome

Canna ‘Musifolia’

2. Select The Right Site

  • Best flowering occurs in full sun in organically rich, moist and well-drained soils. Canna lilies will survive in the shade but best flower production is obtained in full sun – except in hotter climates where part shade will enable the flowers to last longer.
  • Choose a sheltered spot and soil that has been improved by digging in well-rotted manure or garden compost.

Canna ‘Richard Wallace’

Canna ‘Ambassadour’

Canna ‘City of Portland’

3. Planting Your Canna Lilies

  • Canna rhizomes can be planted from spring (after all danger of frost has passed) through early summer. They may be started indoors as early as a month before the average last frost date (for earlier blooms) or planted directly in the ground after the danger of frost has passed.
  • As they come from tropical and subtropical regions, cannas are heat-loving plants. If conditions are cool or soil temperature is cold, delay the planting until the soil has warmed to at least 65°F (18°C).
  • Plant your canna rhizomes 4 in. deep (10 cm).
  • Planting distance varies with the size of your canna plants. Dwarf cannas (less than 18 in. tall) should be spaced 18 in. apart (45 cm), medium and standard cultivars about 2 ft. (60 cm), and tall vigorous canna varieties (over 5ft. tall) about 3ft. (90 cm).
  • Set the canna rhizome with the growing tips facing up. Cover the rhizome with soil and water as needed. Mulch to keep down weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Canna ‘Phasion’

Canna ‘Erebus’

Canna ‘Picasso’

4. Aftercare

  • Provide consistent moisture during the growing season and do not allow the soil to dry out. After flowering, you may reduce watering.
  • Cannas are greedy feeders. Apply a general purpose fertilizer in mid-season to promote a brilliant display.
  • Deadhead Cannas throughout the growing season to keep them blooming for as long as possible. When a flowering spike has no more buds, it can be removed with shears or a sharp knife down to the next side shoot, where another flowering spike will emerge. Usually, canna produce 2-4 spikes per stem. When the stem is entirely spent, it can be removed from the base (usually at the end of the season).

Canna ‘Apricot Dream’

Canna ‘Toucan Dark Orange’

Canna ‘Rosemond Coles’

5. Overwintering

  • Most canna lilies are winter hardy in zones 8-11, so in these warm climates the rhizomes can be left right in the ground. If you live in a colder area and you want to save your rhizomes for next spring, you may dig them up before the first frost and store them over winter before replanting them next spring. Not sure about your growing zone? Check here.
  • As soon as temperatures drop below freezing and the foliage turns brown, cut down the foliage and stems to about 6 in. (15cm), and lift the rhizomes for winter storage. If you are growing different varieties of canna lilies, you should label them.
  • Remove surplus soil, dry and then store in trays in barely-damp wood vermiculite or multi-purpose compost. Place in a frost-free position for the winter, no higher than 50°F (10°C). Little, if any, watering should be necessary.
  • Check the rhizomes during the winter months to make sure they are not too moist or too dry.

Canna indica ‘Purpurea’

Canna Pretoria’

Canna ‘Tropicanna Gold’

6. Water Cannas

  • Water Cannas are generally hybrids of Canna glauca. They can be grown in wet soils, along with other bog plants, and can be planted in baskets, with up to 6 in. (15 cm) water above their rootstock.
  • The basket, at least 12 in. across (30 cm), should be filled with loam-based compost. Slow-release fertilizers like those intended for water lilies can be added.
  • Plant your canna at the normal height and cover the surface of the basket with gravel or chunky cobbles. After planting, keep the basket in shallow water to enable your water canna to get acclimatized.
  • As a precaution in winter, take the basket under cover into a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory. Keep the pots moist but not saturated. In late spring, plant the sprouted plants out when the risk of frost has passed.

If you want a bright, happy, tropical-style garden but you don’t live in the tropics, think about planting canna lilies. Cannas are undergoing a new wave of popularity now that warm colours and bold foliage are back in style.

In our segment Don visited canna grower Anne Glancy, who has been collecting, identifying and researching the history of cannas for the last 20 years. Anne has a garden and mail order nursery in Melbourne, where she grows over 170 named canna varieties.

Plant details

Common name: canna lily Botanic name: Canna x generalis Hybrids

Description:

Cannas are perennials which grow from thick underground roots (or rhizomes). The flowers grow up through tightly furled leaf bases or ‘false stems’. Modern canna hybrids come in four different sizes: pixie (45cm-60cm), dwarf (60cm-100cm), medium (1m-1.5m) and tall (1.5m-2m). They come in all colours except blue, green and black. The foliage may be green, blue-green, purple, burgundy, bronze or striped.

‘Ace of Spades’ – red flowers
‘Annjee’ – mottled pink and gold flowers
‘Camille Bernardin’ – salmon over apricot flowers with blue green foliage
‘Cleopatra’ – orange over yellow flowers, sometimes producing a red petal or complete stem of red flowers

‘Garton Baudie’ – bright, orange red flowers
‘Pfitzer’s Confetti’ – pale lemon flowers streaked with pink
‘Una’ – bright lolly pink flowers with gold edging
‘Zebra’ – red mottled flower

Best climate:

Cannas grow in most areas of Australia.

Best look:

Mass planted in blocks of a single colour in front of a wall or hedge.

Good points:

Long flowering wide range of flower colours handsome foliage available in different sizes hardy and low maintenance.

Downside:

The species C. indica has escaped from gardens and naturalised in bushland. This is less likely to happen with canna hybrids.

Care:

Most cannas like a sunny position, but off-white flowering varieties prefer dappled shade. They grow well in moist soil enriched with organic matter such as compost. Fertilise in late winter with a mixture of four parts blood and bone and one part sulfate of potash. Water well before and after fertilising. Cannas also respond well to applications of well-rotted cow manure.Keep plants mulched and water well, particularly during dry spells. Remove spent flower heads to maintain an attractive display. Do not cut off more than about 15cm (6″), as new flowers will be forming lower down the stem. At the end of the flowering season, cut old stems down to within 2cm (1″) of the ground. Leave new young shoots – these will flower early next season. Lift and divide the clumps every three years.

Further information

Our segment was filmed at Canna Brae Country Garden Nursery. The nursery is not open to the public, but will mail order to all areas of Australia. Prices range from $2 – $7. If you’d like a catalogue send a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to:
Canna Brae Country Garden Nursery
35 Felix Crescent
Ringwood North VIC 3134

Canna Lily Care: How To Grow Canna Lilies

The canna lily plant is a rhizomatous perennial with tropical-like foliage and large flowers that resemble that of iris. Canna lilies are low maintenance and easy to grow, and both their flowers and foliage offer long-lasting color in the garden. Flower color may be red, orange or yellow. Depending on the variety, foliage color varies from green to maroon, bronze, and variegated types. Let’s look at how to plant canna lilies and tips for growing cannas.

Growing Cannas

While typically grown as annuals in cooler regions, given the proper conditions, canna lilies can color the garden year after year. They like plenty of heat, so place them in full sun. They can also tolerate partial shade.

Cannas like moist conditions

too, but will tolerate nearly any well-draining soil that is either neutral or slightly acidic. They appreciate bog-like conditions as well. The soil should also be rich in organic matter.

When growing cannas in the garden, placing them in mixed borders or group plantings will offer the most dramatic effect.

How to Plant Canna Lilies

Cannas can be planted outdoors in warm climates or containers in other areas. During spring, when planting of canna lily plant, wait until the threat of frost has passed. Groups of cannas should be planted about a foot or two apart.

While technically they don’t have a top or bottom, most canna rhizomes can be planted horizontally with the eyes facing up. Cover the rhizomes with 3 to 6 inches of soil. Water well and apply a layer of mulch to retain moisture.

Canna Lily Care

Once established, cannas need to be kept moist. They also require monthly fertilizer that is relatively higher in phosphate for continual bloom. It’s usually necessary to dig up and store canna rhizomes in the fall.

They can also be overwintered in pots and allowed to grow throughout the winter season. In spring they can be replanted or moved back outdoors. You can also divide the plant during this time if necessary.

Planting Guide – Canna Lily Bulbs

Although not a true lily, Canna lilies come in a rainbow of colors and can add dramatic emphasis to your garden. With a huge selection of flower and leaf colors, there is sure to be a canna that will add pizzazz to your garden. While the flowers of some varieties of cannas are the show, in others it’s the huge, tropical-looking foliage, and in many modern varieties, it’s both. Canna leaves are usually large and broad, with a heavy rib down the center. They can be various shades of green, burgundy and red, often with splashes of white or yellow or stripes of color following the leaf veins. Depending on variety, cannas grow from 16 inches to 10 feet in height.

      Canna Lilies in Your Garden

      While typically grown as annuals in cooler regions, canna lilies can color the garden year after year in zones that support consistent higher temperatures. Canna lilies are low maintenance and easy to grow, giving any garden that wonderfully tropical feel.

      When & How to Plant Canna Lily Bulbs

      In the North, start your Canna bulbs (rhizomes) indoors about six weeks before your last frost in pots of good, rich potting soil. The pots should be in a warm, sunny area and kept well-watered. The Canna bulbs may also be planted directly in the ground after the last frost when the ground is warm, but they may be slow to start growth and late to bloom. In frost-free areas, the bulbs can be planted at any time. While a frost may kill all the foliage in some areas cooler than zone 8, Canna bulbs will survive underground if protected with mulch.

      Growing Guide

      Cannas will grow almost anywhere, as a perennial in the South and a summer flowering plant whose bulbs can be easily lifted and stored in the North. Choose a spot in your garden that receives full sunlight. Although considered tropical plants, cannas actually do well in more temperate climates that receive at least six hours of sunlight per day in the summertime. The Canna bulbs should be planted in a location where the soil drains well. Unlike most bulbs, cannas can thrive in moist soils but will not tolerate standing in water puddles.

      For outdoor planting, dig holes that are 4 to 6 inches deep, and 2 feet apart for tall varieties and 1 foot for the others smaller cultivars. Then dig in a little peat moss and perlite. For planting in pots, fill a large pot to within 6 inches of the top with a well-draining potting mix into which you have added a little peat moss and perlite. Place one bulb into each hole. Technically, canna bulbs do not have a top or a bottom. Plant the bulb, or rhizome, horizontally with the eyes facing up. If your pot is large, you can plant two or three canna bulbs in each pot. Backfill your pot or hole with additional soil until the bulb and roots are well covered. Gently pat down the dirt around the base. Water your new plant well and expect it to begin sending out new leaves and, when the weather is warm, flowers.

      Enjoy!

      Once established, cannas need to be kept moist. Fertilizing monthly with a fertilizer high in phosphate will aid in continued blooms.

    • Preparing Canna Lillies for Next Season

      In climates that are warm year round, Cannas can remain in the ground and given a dose of fertilizer in the spring to start the growing process over again. Frost will kill them during the cooler months, but if you mulch with straw, old leaves or other organic matter in the fall, your cannas should come back with vibrant new foliage and flowers the following spring. In climates where the ground freezes hard in the winter, you may dig up your plants in the fall. After the first frost, let them air dry for a few days and try storing your bulbs in a cool dry place (in a paper bag or a box filled with peat moss). You may get lucky and manage to preserve the bulbs for next spring planting.

Growing Canna Lilies

Canna Lilies are not Lilies!

These fabulous wildly exotic plants are kissing cousins to Bananas and Ginger plants.

Order: Zingiberales, Family: Cannaceae, Genus: Canna

Although Canna Lilies originally came from the tropics, most of the cultivars have been developed in temperate areas. They will survive a wide range of conditions but I don’t know of any that will live through the winter.

Canna Lilies have many uses

Canna Lilies are multi-talented plants. They have been grown for their spectacular foliage which can be various shades of green, variegated or a fabulous bronze colour. If you plant them in a shady area you will be unlikely to get many flowers but the fabulous foliage fills many otherwise empty space.

Most Canna Lilies have lovely flowers and produce seeds. In my garden growing canna lilies provide me with exuberant exotic foliage with the addition of bright red flower spikes. The flowers actually come in a wide range of colours and textures. The leaves can be green or bronze, variegated white and green, and I’ve even seen one plant with pinkish leaves.

Do you need a short term privacy hedge? Canna lilies can grow to 6 or more feet in a season and provide lots of temporary privacy while your real hedge is growing. Not only do they grow quickly but they can be planted in quite shallow soil, as long as you feed them and water them enough.

Cannas are not only grown for their appearance, but also for their large starchy rhizomes.

These are used for human and animal food. The foliage is useful as fodder and the young shoots are eaten when they are tender. The inner core is crispy and mildly sweet and can be added to salads (I’ve tasted them and give them thumbs up.)

The hard seeds have been used as beads and inside rattles. They are also ground into tortillas but I’ve not tasted these.

Canna plants have also been used to produce paper.

I planted quite a lot of cannas this year at my new house and the flowers were attracting lots of hummingbirds.

Canna Lilies are a favourite of gardeners everywhere because of their good nature and reliable show. They are also safe around pets and children since they are not poisonous at all.

Given proper drainage they will thrive in most soils although I’ve had more success in lighter mixes. They don’t like wet feet. They can tolerate dry conditions better.

Cannas are fast growing plants and can reach 6 feet in good conditions.

Cannas are usually grown from tubers or root division. In the fall I dig up enough roots to plant in the spring and put them away carefully. Here is a link to my page on overwintering canna lilies.

It’s now mid April and it’s time to start the cannas. I’ve found some of my storage roots and and cleaned up a good large clump. I then cut it in convenient sizes cutting out any rotten piece. You want a couple of eyes on each piece if you can. That clump gave me enough chunks to plant 5 small pots. It’s good to let the cut dry in the sun for a short while, it helps prevent mold. I had a bit of rot this year because my tubers did not get a good chance to dry out before being put away. Fall was a hectic time and putting the canna roots away was low on the list.

I plant cannas in small pots 8-12 inches for the plants I just want to get started early before putting them in the ground, and plant in larger pots for cannas that I want to grow in pots. They make a nice potted plant but need a lot of water.

The smaller varieties are less likely to outgrow their pots as the larger ones. They can break their pot if they get too root bound. This pot cracked under the pressure.

One advantage of growing in large pots is that come fall, you can let the plant dry out a bit cut the tops off and store them, pot and all. In the spring you will have to re pot the divided roots but if you’re in a hurry or the weather has been really too bad to dig up and dry the roots properly, you can store the pot with all the roots.

If you put the plants in a warm spot, I’m lucky, my pool enclosure is a plastic greenhouse, the plants will start coming up in a couple of weeks, depending on temperature of course. At this stage they don’t need light so you could put them in a warm basement or shed until the shoots come up. They will then need to be kept in good light and not be allowed to freeze. You can see some shoots coming up in the larger pots.

When there is no more frost I’ll plant them out.

You can wait till the chance of frost is past and plant your rhizomes directly in the ground. It will take a bit longer to get flowers though.

Canna lilies quickly grow into an attractive central plant. Here they anchor a new flowerbed before the more permanent plants have grown to size.

Garden store will often sell the young plants in the spring, looking innocent in smallish pots. As soon as you give them a bit more space they take off and grow at a surprising rate in good conditions. The Variegated types are slower. There are also “dwarf” varieties.

Canna lilies do very well in pots. I’ve grown them for years in my little Toronto back garden using 12-14 pots.

Plastic pots are better, Cannas can shatter a clay pot if the rhizome grow too big. I also have them in large garbage cans and they love this.

Canna Lilies like several hours of sun if they can get it. They will survive surprising amount of shade but flowers will not be as numerous. Plants on the left survive in mostly bright shade and camouflage the composter. Cats are often sleeping around the plant keeping an eye open for mice.

In the fall I dig up the rhizomes, let them dry a bit, then pack them up in rubbermaid containers filled with peat moss. I put them in the cool basement for the winter. They survive just fine.

Growing Canna Lilies from Seeds

Canna lilies can easily be grown from seed. Collect mature seeds in the fall and let them dry. They don’t need to be kept cold (stratification). In the spring you can start them inside and put them out when there is no more frost. Canna seeds are tough little blighters and will do much better if you sand off a bit of the hard coating. Sand on a plain area, till you can see the inside, but don’t damage it. Soak your seed overnight and plant. They like a little bottom heat and if you have a germinating mat you will get a better and quicker rate of germination. Keep watered but not soaking wet. The seedlings will come up in a couple of weeks (sometimes more, don’t give up). Baby canna lilies look very sweet and small but quickly grow into big strapping plants so don’t let them fool you into putting them in areas where they will crowd out their neighbours.

Here is my page on what seeds need to grow Some seeds can be quite tricky if you don’t know their requirements. Here is a link to Growing Canna Lilies from Seed.

Every year I find a few seedlings popping up in unexpected areas. Since the seeds are quite tough they can survive for a few years in the ground if it’s quite dry.

Pests and Diseases

Canna Lilies are hardy plants and are wonderfully free from problems.

Canna Lilies are delicious to Canna Leaf Rollers. These are little butterflies called skipper butterflies that produce a caterpillar that will shred a Canna Lily. They roll up the leaf and eat them. If you see the leaves getting gummed up with silk, you can open it up and remove the caterpillar. The leaf then gets a cleaning.

Last year I found a few very fuzzy caterpillars on my Cannas. They looked like the either Saltmarsh or Woolybear caterpillars. Probably Woolly bear, there are lots around here. This was the first time I saw them. They seemed to only eat the underside of the leaf.

There are insecticides that can control these bugs. I try to avoid them and between picking out the big bad guys by hand and letting the good bugs deal with the little bad guys, I don’t seem to have much trouble.

One day I had the visit from a few Japanese Beetles

I know gardeners everywhere despise them but they are very lovely insects with their bright copper bodies and iridescent head. They have little furry skirts of white hair tufts. I left them alone on their Canna and they ate a leaf to lace. One afternoon there was wild Japanese beetle romance and sex, then they disappeared. They are large insects and can be picked off by hand. This is what I do if there are more than just a couple.

A large infestation can strip a plant in a few hours so keep an eye out. After you’ve picked off the beetles, wash the leaves with a hose. Japanese beetles leave a pheromone that attracts their friends.

When you go to pick off the beetles put one hand under the beetle then try and catch them with the other hand. They often jump off the leaf when they are pursued. Hopefully they land in your hand. Squish them or put them in a jar of soapy water to drown them.

There are also some viruses which attack Canna lilies. I’ve never seen any. Here is the Wikipedia article on Canna Virus.

At the end of the season before big frosts occur, you can dig up the roots dry them a bit and store them in a cool frost free area for planting next spring. Before planting you can split the larger roots and get several plants going. Look for growing buds for each of the new pieces. Let the cut or snapped pieces dry a bit before planting.

Some cannas don’t really make rhizomes but rather have thick roots. In that case carefully dig up the plant, remove some of the soil and trim any long root and keep in moist peat over the winter. If the plant was in a small enough pot, just stop watering a few days before, cut off the tops and bring into a cool dark space for the winter. Don’t bring in sopping wet plants though, they will rot.

I try to be accurate and check my information, but mistakes happen.

email me if you find mistakes, I’ll fix them and we’ll all benefit: Christine

Containers For Canna Lily Plants: How To Plant Cannas In Pots

Flowering plants in containers give the gardener flexibility, the chance to change locations of blooms and move to different sun exposure as needed, and have a flowering presence while beds are being prepared.

Growing cannas in containers is a good way to guarantee summer blooms.

Cannas in Containers

Potting a canna lily is best done in a large container, as the plant needs room for the root system to develop. The larger the pot, the more bulbs you can plant, resulting in more blooms from the canna growing in pots.

Containers for canna lily plants can be made of ceramic material or clay — either glazed or unglazed. They can be a hardy, durable plastic or even half of a wooden barrel. Canna growing in pots can get quite tall, up to 5 feet (1.5 m.). They have large leaves, so choose a pot that is durable and will support the large roots and tall plant.

Plant complimentary blooms of other bulbs and flower seeds for an attractive mixed container to bloom at different times of the year. Experiment and have fun when learning how to plant cannas in a pot.

How to Plant Cannas in a Pot

Choose the container for your potted canna lily, making sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Add a layer of pebbles or driveway rock at the bottom of the pot to facilitate drainage in addition to the holes.

When potting a canna lily, use rich, organic soil. Fill pots to within an inch or two (2.5-5 cm.) of the top of the containers, then plant the canna tubers 4 to 5 inches (10-13 cm.) deep. Plant with the “eye” pointing upward.

Caring for Cannas in Containers

Keep the soil moist until plants are established. As a somewhat tropical specimen, cannas in containers like high humidity and full, hot sun.

Canna blooms add a tropical presence and bold color to the container arrangements. A mid to late summer bloom can last a few weeks. Deadhead spent blooms and keep soil moist, but not soggy.

Spreading rhizomes should be dug and stored for winter in zones lower than USDA zones 7 to 10, where they’re winter hardy. When storing the rhizomes, cut the tops off and place in a plastic storage bag, or move the entire container into a garage or building where temperatures remain between 45 and 60 degrees F. (17-16 C.).

Rhizomes of canna growing in pots multiply quickly and will need division. Thin the tubers in the early spring or before storing for winter. Slice tubers into pieces, if desired. As long as there in an “eye” in the portion of tuber, a bloom can be expected.

Canna lilies are one of the biggest attention getters in my gardens, and one of my favorite types of summer flower bulbs to grow. I’ve had canna flower bulbs in my garden for several years now, and I love them so much (The hummingbirds love the flowers too)! There are tons of different varieties of canna lilies, and I have a few different ones in my collection.

I love the tropical feeling that canna lilies add to my gardens, and they add a wonderful contrast of color and texture to my tropical garden. They have become a very popular flower bulb, and these days nurseries usually carry several different varieties.

Cannas are inexpensive enough to grow as an annual flower in cold climates, or the bulbs can be dug up and easily overwintered inside the house and regrown year after year.

Orange and yellow canna lily flowers

Canna Lilies Are Easy To Grow

Canna lilies are versatile and will grow just about anywhere, as long as they have enough water and full sun. Both the flowers and foliage come in a variety of colors and different combinations, which makes it super fun to mix and match the different varieties.

Gorgeous red canna foliage

The foliage alone on some cannas is enough to catch anyone’s attention, it’s like a piece of artwork. The contrast of the flowers against the foliage on some varieties is striking. Canna lilies are showy and bloom constantly throughout the growing season until frost.

Beautiful variegated canna foliage

Canna Lily Growing Tips

Canna lilies are easy to grow, and some varieties can even be grown in patio containers or in a pond or bog. But, like any plant, they do have ideal conditions that they prefer in order to grow their best.

Soil & Fertilizer

When it comes to soil, cannas aren’t super fussy, but they do prefer a rich, fertile soil. Cannas also prefer moist soil, but can survive pretty well during a short drought period.

You don’t need to fertilize cannas, but they will definitely benefit from being fed with an organic fertilizer now and then. Fish emulsion, compost tea or an organic granular fertilizer are all great options for feeding cannas.

Yellow canna lily flower

Light

Canna lilies grow their best in full sun (6 hours or more), but will tolerate partial shade (they just might not flower). Cannas love the heat, and thrive in hot humid environments.

If you live in a super hot climate, then plant your canna flower bulbs in an area that gets shade during the afternoon when the sun is at it’s strongest. Hot dry sun can fade the flowers – and in extreme cases, can burn the leaves.

Hummingbirds especially love the red canna lily flowers!

Water

Cannas love moist soil, and they’re perfect for planting in wet spots in the garden. Like I mentioned above, some canna lilies can even be grown in a shallow pond or bog. They will tolerate dry soil conditions as long as they are watered regularly.

Even though they prefer consistent watering, cannas aren’t super fussy. I don’t give my canna lilies any special treatment, and they have thrived through periods of drought just fine in my garden.

Orange canna lily flowers

How To Plant Canna Flower Bulbs

Canna lily flower bulbs can be planted into the garden once the soil has warmed up in the spring. You could get an early start if you live in a cold climate with a short growing season like mine by planting them in pots in late winter or early spring.

Canna lily flower bulb

Canna flower bulbs are very easy to plant. You could literally just dig a hole, dump the bulbs in, cover them with dirt, and most of them would grow just fine. But, you’re probably going to want to be a bit more intentional about it than that.

It’s best to plant canna flower bulbs 2-3 times deeper than the size of the bulb, and space them out so that they aren’t touching each other. Don’t plant the bulbs too deep or they may not grow. Lay the bulbs on their sides with the pointy tips up (if there are any pointy tips). But don’t worry, even if you don’t place them perfectly, they will figure out a way to grow.

Multi colored canna lily flowers

Storing Canna Flower Bulbs For The Winter

Since canna lilies are only hardy in tropical climates, they won’t survive the winter in the garden for most of us. Don’t worry though, because it’s super easy to save your canna flower bulbs over the winter, and plant them again year after year!

The bulbs will multiply during the summer too, so you can share with friends as your collection expands. Canna flower bulbs are super easy to overwinter. I pack mine into boxes and store them on the shelf in my basement. They can even be overwintered right in the pot if you have them growing in a container.

Frost damaged canna lily leaves

To overwinter them, I dig up my canna flower bulbs after the foliage has died back from our first hard freeze. Allowing frost to kill the foliage helps signal the plant that it’s time to go dormant. Simply dig the bulbs out of the garden and shake off the large clumps of dirt.

Cut the foliage and stems off of the bulbs and allow them to cure (dry out) for a few days. Then you can pack them into a box and store them on a shelf in the basement or garage (never allow them to freeze though) until spring. Easy peasy. For detailed instructions on how to overwinter summer flower bulbs, read this post… How To Store Bulbs For The Winter

Storing canna flower bulbs for winter

Collecting and Saving Canna Lily Seeds

You can trim the flowers off of your canna lily plant throughout the summer to encourage more blooms, but if you leave some of the flowers on the plant you might end up getting seeds. Cannas can be grown by seed, and many varieties will set seed after the flowers have faded. Then you can collect and save the seeds for next year.

Canna lily seed pods

Canna lily seeds are easy to collect, and they will form at the spot where the flower drops off the plant. The round seed pods will turn brown and split open when the seeds are ready to be collected. Canna lily seeds are easy to spot because they’re fairly large, about the size of peas.

Start the seeds indoors in the winter at the same time you start all of your other garden seeds. Canna lily seeds have a hard outer shell, so it’s best to nick them, and then soak the seeds before sowing. Canna lily seeds don’t store well, so it’s best to sow them within 6 months or so after you collect them.

Collecting canna lily seeds

Pest Control

Canna lilies don’t have many issues with pests, but there are a few to watch out for. Japanese beetles are the biggest pest in my garden, and they love canna lilies. Slugs and snails can also be a problem for canna lilies. Pest control methods for these garden pests include hand picking the pests from the plant, and using diatomaceous earth to kill the pests. Soapy water and horticultural sprays like neem oil also work well as organic pest control methods.

Japanese beetles on canna foliage

More posts about growing flower bulbs and plants

  • Overwintering Dahlias: How To Store Dahlia Tubers
  • Overwintering Tender Flower Bulbs
  • Flower Garden Bulb and Perennial Designs For Amazing Spring Gardens

Do you grow canna flower bulbs in your garden? Share your growing tips in the comments section below.

Canna ‘Durban’ – An outrageously colorful plant to 4-7 feet tall. The new foliage emerges with dark red stripes highlighted with pink, bronze, and pale yellow striping and ages to a bronze-green with yellow stripes. The large orange-red flowers are an added bonus. This plant is a show stopper. In England and Europe this plant is sometimes called ‘Red Durban’ to distinquish it from another plant that they call Durban, which, in the United States, goes by the name ‘Phasion’ and is a patented variety (Tropicanna PP10,569). We grew this plant from 1995 until 2005 when it was diagnosed as having canna yellow mottle virus (CaYMV). We only continued to grow Canna varieties that were determined to not be infected nor susceptible to this virus. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Canna ‘Durban’.

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Cannas seem to grow everywhere in the South of France. Even, often close to the drainage ditches at the sides of the roads , probably because they do like water. They also like sun and grow into very tall, tropical looking plants.

The more common varieties have large green leaves and tall flower spikes with red flowers growing up the spike. But the flower colours include yellow and a pale pink and orange.

One of the best is Canna Wyoming which has purple veined leaves and bright orange flowers. Canna Durban also has purplish leaves and bright orange flowers. For an interesting striped green leaf Canna Striata is very good, this too has orange flowers. For red flowers set against dark purple leaves Canna indica ‘Purpurea’ is a winner.

For a great show go to the Eden Project in Cornwall where there is a long border of orange cannas with bronze leaves and in front of this a mass of deep blue agapanthus. Stunning!

Growing Guide for Canna

Cannas like sun. They also like water and a rich soil. Water them often and you will be rewarded by a really lush clump of tropical looking leaves topped by stunning jewel-bright flowers. A regular feed will also help.

They are tender and it is recommended to lift the rhizomes and store them in dry compost in a frost-free place over winter. However I leave mine in the ground and cover with a thick mulch of straw and they always survive the cold winters here.

To propogate lift the rhizomes in the spring (or use those already lifted for the winter) and divide the rhizome into several pieces making sure each piece has at least one eye or shoot. Pot up the pieces and keep warm and moist until you have a small plant big enough to plant out.

Slugs and snails seem to like the leaves but tend not to do too much damage.

Cannas can be grown in pots but make sure they are watered very regularly and apply a fertiliser once a month in the growing season.

Companion plants for Cannas

Cannas are great in tropical style gardens grown alongside bananas, agapanthus and crocosmia.

Canna ‘Phasion’ (Canna ‘Phasion’)

Botanical name

Canna ‘Phasion’

Other names

Genus

Canna Canna

Variety or Cultivar

‘Phasion’ _ ‘Tropicana’ is an upright, rhizomatous perennial with large, banana-like, dark green, yellow and red-striped leaves and strong, erect stems bearing racemes of yellow-orange flowers from midsummer into early autumn.

Foliage

Deciduous

Habit

Clump-forming, Erect

Awards

RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit)

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Colour

Flower

Orange in Summer

Purple, Orange, Green, Striped, Red in Summer

How to care

Watch out for

Specific pests

Aphids , Caterpillars , Glasshouse red spider mite

Specific diseases

Canna viruses

General care

Propagation methods

Division

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Where to grow

Canna ‘Phasion’ (Canna ‘Phasion’) will reach a height of 1.8m and a spread of 1m after 2-5 years.

Suggested uses

City, Beds and borders, Containers, Sub-Tropical, Conservatory, Indoor

Cultivation

Plant in a sheltered, warm site and water often. In autumn, lift and store rhizomes in a frost-free place or, in mild gardens leave them in the ground but cover with dry mulch.

Soil type

Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy (will tolerate most soil types)

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral

Light

Full Sun

Aspect

South, West

Exposure

Sheltered

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Tender in frost (H3)

USDA zones

Zone 10, Zone 9, Zone 8, Zone 7

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Canna ‘Phasion’ (Canna ‘Phasion’)

Common pest name

Scientific pest name

Xiphinema californicum

Type

Nematode

Current status in UK

Absent

Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

EU regulated nematode pest with the potential to introduce non-European viruses. EU listing and regulations on soil/growing material associated with planting material help to mitigate the risk of entry.

Defra’s Risk register #2

Canna ‘Phasion’ (Canna ‘Phasion’)

Canna yellow mottle virus

Virus or Viroid

Present (Unknown Distribution)

Likelihood to spread in UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Previously recorded damage but no evidence to suggest it hasn’t been well controlled by industry practice.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/

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