Canna Lily Info & Care: How to Grow Canna Lilies

Are you interested in growing beautiful, low-maintenance flowers that can thrive in several climates under the right conditions? If so, the canna lily is the right pick for you. Although native to tropical areas, you can grow them annually in other climate zones if you care for them correctly.

Here is some insight about this beautiful plant, how you can keep it healthy, and how to make them thrive during winter.

What You Should Know About Canna Lilies

Canna lilies not to be confused with Calla lilies have broad petals that can be red, pink, orange, yellow, or cream. Their leaf colors range from purple to green.

Despite their namesake, canna lilies aren’t true lilies. Technically, they’re closely related to arrowroots, bananas, and birds of paradise. 

In locations with higher hardiness levels, you can grow canna lilies as perennials. However, in colder areas, they grow annually at the start of spring.

Depending on their environmental conditions, they can grow up to five feet tall, although some varieties might grow up to eight or ten feet tall.

In addition, cannas can self-pollinate and produce nectar that attracts bees, hummingbirds, and bats.

While some people grow canna for aesthetic cultivars, others grow them for the starch content found in their rhizomes. They also make ideal house plants because they aren’t toxic to cats and dogs.

Planting Canna Lilies

Canna Lily Seeds

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When planting a canna lily from seeds or rhizomes, place them three or four inches deep into the soil and 1.5 to three inches apart when placed in an outdoor garden. They won’t bloom if other plants surround them. 

If you decide on planting a canna lily in a container, make sure you choose a pot or container large enough to support its root development.

Consider using a pot with drainage holes or adding pebbles to help the water maneuver through the organic soil.

Caring for Your Canna Lily

Canna lilies can be easy to care for when taken care of properly but might be challenging to cultivate for novice gardeners. Here are a few points to consider when keeping them in top condition year-round.


While some canna lilies can tolerate partial sunlight when grown in shady areas, they thrive best when placed in direct sunlight. Ideally, they should receive about six to eight hours of direct sunlight during the summer.

When growing them with partial sunlight, give them one to two hours of direct sunlight before putting them back in their controlled environment. 

Soil Quality

Canna lilies prefer growing in moist, organic soil with excellent drainage. They can adapt to several soil types, such as clay or loamy soil, but prefer ones with pH levels around 6.5.

Garden compost or fertilizer can also enhance their growth in compatible soil. It would be best to replace your canna lily’s fertilizer every month. 


You can water a canna lily once every week. In places with harsher summer temperatures, you can water them twice a week, just enough to keep their soil moist. Oversaturating the soil can lead to rotting within the plant’s roots.

Temperature Tolerance

Due to their tropical nature, canna lily plants don’t tolerate frigid, below-freezing temperatures, and can get damaged by frost when left in the ground. However, they can thrive in environments with temperatures up to 90°F.

Canna lilies also grow well in places with dry and humid conditions.

Pruning and Propagating

A canna lily doesn’t need regular pruning but should be cut to the ground once it completes its growth cycle. Additionally, you should cut off any dead or dulled flowers to ensure they’ll bloom during the next growth cycle.  

It would be best to propagate your cannas during the spring. This process involves digging up your cannas and searching for the strongest-looking rhizomes to use for growing the next batch. Most people consider this method easier than planting a canna lily from seeds.

How to Prepare Canna Lilies for Winter

Curious about how to prepare canna lilies for winter? Although they can’t tolerate winter temperatures, you can still get a headstart in growing them.

When the first frost approaches during fall, dig up the canna lilies, extract their rhizomes, clean and let them air dry, and store them in bags in dry, cool areas indoors with temperatures of 40°F or above. 

During this period, occasionally spray the rhizomes with water to prevent them from drying out. Then, you can move them into pots and grow them for a month before moving them outdoors after the frost dissipates.

You can leave canna lilies in the soil during the winter if you live in places with warmer climates that don’t experience harsh winter temperatures.

Common Pests and Diseases

Although canna lilies are hardy plants, they can still encounter health issues. For example, if you see canna lily leaves turning brown, it could be a sign of overwatering, underwatering, or pests. Poorly drained soil can also rot their rhizomes. 

Cana Rust

Photo of Canna Rust

Canna lilies can become prone to fungal infections from Puccinia thaliae and develop canna rust. Yellow pustules develop on its leaves or stems and eventually turn brown and black as they dry out and fall off. It’s more prone to developing in places with high humidity and soil moisture.

Aster yellows and canna mosaic virus can also occur in them. When you find infected plants, you’ll need to remove them immediately to prevent them from spreading to the rest of your plants.

Pests that enjoy eating and damaging your canna’s leaves include snails, slugs, Japanese beetles, and the canna leaf roller. The canna leaf rollers leave sticky residues on the leaves and prevent them from unfurling. 

Final Thoughts: Canna Lily Info & Care

Canna lilies are one of the most colorful tropical plants you can add to your home and bloom during the summer when given enough care and attention.

Although rhizome extraction might seem more complicated than planting traditional seeds, keeping the most durable ones in top condition promises a plentiful growing season.

You can plant them indoors or outdoors and accommodate their growth by keeping them in ideal growing temperatures. They’re also hardy enough to withstand most naturally occurring botanical diseases.

Their fondness for moist soil and open sunlight makes them perfect specimens for growing near small ponds or wide garden spaces.

When you give them enough distance from other plants, they can grow to tower over the rest of your greenery.

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