Canna lilies are beautiful, easy-to-grow plants that can add a touch of tropical elegance to any garden. I grow Canna Lilies every year and love how they transform my suburban garden into a tropical oasis. They are relatively low maintenance and grow beautifully in pots and in ground. I am going to teach you how to grow your Cannas in both ground and in pots!
I have a short garden season and I like my Cannas big when it’s planting time. I start my Canna lilies in pots at the end of February till mid-March. Starting them early gives them a head start on growth as opposed to planting tubers in the ground after my first frost date which is in May. When I plant out my Cannas in May they are roughly 3ft tall.
Growing Canna Lilies in Ground is the most easiest way to start your tubers by far. Nature plays a big part in ensuring your tubers sprout and continue to grow beautifully. If you live in a warmer gardening zone then you may be able to plant your bulbs out early or rather earlier than us in colder zones. You may also be able to leave your Cannas out during the winter months.
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Here’s how to start your Canna Lily Bulbs directly in the garden
- Choose a location. Canna lilies need full sun to reach their flowering potential. They will also tolerate partial shade, but the flowers will not be as abundant. The soil should be rich and well-drained. If your soil is sandy, add some compost or peat moss to improve drainage.
- Plant the rhizomes. Canna rhizomes can be planted in the spring or fall depending on your growing zone. If you are planting in the spring, wait until the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant the rhizomes horizontally, with the eyes (the small bumps on the rhizome) facing up. The depth of planting will depend on the size of the rhizome. A good rule of thumb is to plant the rhizomes 2-3 inches deep.
- Water and fertilize. Canna lilies need regular watering, especially during hot, dry weather. Fertilize them every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer.
- Deadhead the flowers. Deadheading will encourage the plant to produce more flowers. Simply remove the spent blooms from the plant.
- Overwinter the rhizomes. In colder climates, the rhizomes will need to be dug up and overwintered in a cool, dry place. To do this, dig up the rhizomes after the first frost. Shake off the soil and store them in a container of peat moss or sand. Keep the container in a cool, dark place until the spring. A basement or an attached garage works perfectly for this.
To learn what gardening zone you live in read this post here!
How to Grow Canna Lilies In Containers:
I grow Canna Lilies in containers every year. I pull my Canna bulbs out of my basement in mid February. I let them sit in my dining room for a few days to get to room temp. Then I prepare to plant them.
Grow Canna Lilies in containers step by step:
- Gather large clean containers. I reuse 1-2 gallon plastic containers year after year to start my Canna Lily bulbs. Choose Containers that are at least an inch or two wider than your tuber is long.
- Prepare your soil. You can mix up your own soil but I like to use Promax soil for potting up bulbs. Fill your containers 3/4ths of the way full.
- Plant your Canna Bulbs. Press your Canna Lily Bulbs into the soil and cover them with more soil.
- Water your Bulbs. Water your container thoroughly until you see water come out of the drainage hole. Don’t water again until the pot has dried half way down.
- Placement. Place your container in a warm bright room.
- Fertilizing. When your Canna Lily Bulbs have pushed out their first leaves it’s time to start fertilizing. Fertilize every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer.
- Watering. Water your Canna Lilies when the first two inches of soil have dried.
- Lighting. When your Canna Lilies have started to push out more growth you will need to give them more light. If it is past your frost free date you can begin transitioning them outside into your garden. If not add a grow light or put them in the brightest light you have.
While your waiting for your first frost date continue caring for your Cannas as advised above. When it’s time to move them into the garden you will need to transition them gradually. One hour in sun the first day then two hours the second day until your plants are in eight hours of sun.
Canna Lily Seeds
If you love seed starting like I do then you should definitely save seed from your Canna Lilies. Cannas can be a bit difficult to start but they grow so big in one season from seed. It’s crazy!
Here’s how to get Canna Lily Seeds:
- Leave your flower stalks. Don’t cut off your spent flower stems. Leave them on to allow them to go to seed.
- Dried Pods. Do not harvest seeds until your seed pods have dried completly.
- Harvest. When your pods are completely dry cut them off and open the pods. You will find round black seeds.
- Store. Remove your Canna Lily seeds and store them in a cool dry place until your ready to start them. You need to put your seeds into a storage container within a container for the best survival of the seed.
When it’s time to start Canna Lily seeds you will first need to scar the seed. Then soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting in seed starting mix.
Here are some additional tips for growing canna lilies:
- Mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. If you live in a cooler zone you will want to mulch around your plants before winter sets in.
- Protect the plants from strong winds.
- Watch for pests and diseases, such as aphids, spider mites, and leaf spot.
Canna Lilies are one of my favorite tropical plants to grow in my garden year after year. They add that tropical feel to my sometimes blah suburban garden.