How To Grow And Care For Canna Lily Plants

Canna (KAN-uh), also known as Canna x generalis, is a beautiful perennial plant with many varieties, giving way to a range of bold colors.

The plant is part of the Cannaceae family and includes canna lilies and Indian shots. 

Growing Canna Lily PlantsPin

Canna is a diverse group of hybrids native to the New World’s subtropics and tropics, including Florida, India, and South America. 

The plant used to be much more prevalent during the Victorian era through the early 20th century.

Their popularity is currently on the rise after a post-World War II low. 

Quick Facts On Canna

  • Family: Cannaceae
  • Light: Full sun or part shade
  • Temperature: 60º degrees Fahrenheit or warmer
  • Water: Water at least once a week
  • Fertilizer: 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer 
  • Propagation: Dividing the rhizomes 
  • Common Problems: Leaf rollers, snails, slugs, aphids, Botrytis blight

Canna Plant Care 

How Big Do Canna Plants Grow?

Cannas have a strong tendency to grow upright.

Most cultivars reach 3′ to 5′ feet tall, while dwarf variants go as low as 2′ feet, and some get as high as 8′ feet.

When Do Cannas Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

Paddle-shaped leaves form ruffles that wrap around stems and taper to exquisite blooms.

From late spring to early summer, the buds expand into vibrant red, orange, yellow, and pink blooms that bloom until the first frost.

As a result, cannas flourish in the heat of late July and early August, when most flowers can’t.

Unfortunately, although cannas have beautiful blooms, they are not fragrant. 

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

As tropical plants, Cannas are happiest in full sun, but they are fine with part shade. 

Unfortunately, cannas do not flower well in the full shade. Although they will continue to develop, their blossoms will disappoint you.

However, they produce abundant flowers in full sun from July to August. Cannas are vulnerable to frost and cold temperatures.

However, it flourishes in temperatures as high as 90° degrees Fahrenheit.

How And When To Water And Fertilize Canna Plants?

Canna lily plants thrive in damp environments. Water them thoroughly, but ensure the roots are planted in well-drained soil. Soggy soil will quickly rot roots.

It’s ideal to start with a suitable organic matter covering because they want rich, nutrient-dense soil.

Next, add 2″ to 4″ inches (5-10 cm) of compost or other organic material to your flower bed or containers to establish a rich soil environment. 

Creating organic-rich soil is only the beginning. To remain growing and producing flowers, these plants require regular fertilization.

Use a fertilizer with a 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 ratio. The application rate for the former should be around 2 pounds per 100 square feet, whereas the latter should only be 1 pound per 100 square feet. 

It would be best to fertilize your cannas in the early spring and once a month after that. Apply your last fertilizer treatment about six weeks before the first frost.

This fertilization regimen will ensure that you have blooms throughout summer and into the fall.

In addition, giving your canna lilies enough nutrients will provide tall, vigorous plants that bloom regularly.

What Is The Best Soil For Cannas, And When Should You Transplant?

Canna lily plants require moist, well-drained soils with plenty of organic matter, but they will grow in various soils. They prefer a pH of 6.5 or above. 

Canna lilies can be transplanted and divided, and it is recommended that you do it every few years to avoid overcrowding, disease, and pests.

Canna lily plants should be divided and transplanted when they have completed blooming and the foliage begins to die back in zones 8 to 11, where they thrive as perennials.

Do Cannas Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

Cannas will flower all summer in planting zones 8 and up and all year in planting zones nine and above.

So there are three possibilities for everyone else:

  • Let them die off each fall and start fresh rhizomes in the spring, 
  • Pot the plants and bring them indoors to live as houseplants, 
  • Dig up and store the rhizomes for the winter (and replant them in spring).

Deadhead your plants when the blooms fade to keep them flowering throughout the season.

Cut back the flower stalks before they bloom if you only want to grow cannas for their leaves.

How To Propagate Canna Lilies?

Canna lilies are tough to grow from seed. Therefore, division is the most straightforward method of propagation. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • First, dig up the canna lily bulbs.
  • Shake off the excess dirt, and divide the rhizomes.
  • Look for robust, healthy shoots, as they are the ones that will create the new, lush growth.
  • Prepare the ground just before planting.

Canna Lilies prefer sweet soil, so add some dolomite and mix it before adding blood and bone.

Also, add some potassium sulfate because cannas require it. Cannas prefer lush, fertile soil with plenty of potassium sulfate.

Canna Lily Pests And Diseases 

  • Tuber Rot: In Canna cultivation, tuber rot is the most common problem during overwintering. Drying the tubers is essential. Gray mold can appear on the tubers if the storage location is too damp. If noticed in time, dip the tubers in a fungicide solution. Before storing them again, allow them to dry completely.
  • Red Spider Mites: Warm, dry indoor environments can cause red spider mites to attack plants. To treat severe attacks, use miticide or wipe the undersides of the leaves with a damp sponge.
  • Caterpillars and Japanese beetles also will feed on the leaves.

Is The Canna Plant Considered Toxic or Poisonous To People, Kids, Or Pets?

There are no known variations of cannas that are toxic to people, pets, or kids. 

Is The Canna Plant Considered Invasive?

Cannas are a genus of tropical and subtropical flowering plants that expand rapidly underground via rhizomes and require division every few years to keep the rhizomes under control.

While this may be a nuisance for some home gardeners, cannas are not considered invasive. 

Suggested Canna Uses 

Canna lilies are often used as a foundation plant along walls or structures to bring color and variety to a space.

In addition, cannas are great as a dramatic backdrop for smaller landscape plants, as a natural separator along property lines, or to divide yard sections.

Use their amazing size to hide an unpleasant view or define an outdoor space.

Cannas are often used to dress up a shed or soften the lines of a fence

 Do you wish your patio was a little more private? Cannas should surround it.

While cannas are beautiful, consider combining them with other bold plants like:

  • Elephant ears
  • Dahlias
  • Sunflowers
  • Amaranth
  • Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate