care for canna lily

How to Care for a Canna Lily

YAY! My cannas have just peeked from the soil and I am so excited! It seems a bit early, but I’m not complaining. Spring is here and in a month or so I’ll have that gorgeous color all over the yard.

Gardeners in areas with scorching hot summers often complain about keeping their summer flowers alive. When temperatures climb over 95 degrees, I agree – it can be a challenge. Some plants love the heat, though, and one of the prettiest of those is the canna lily.

Not actually a member of the lily family, the canna is closely related to the banana and ginger. In fact, canna’s foliage is very banana-like in shape but much more colorful. Cannas, depending on variety, grow from 1 to 10 feet in height. If you’re looking for something to screen away neighbors, choose one of the taller varieties and plant several in a clump. “Black Knight” is gorgeous, with bright red flowers and almost black foliage. A more traditional-looking variety, and one of my favorites, is “Robert Kemp.” Take a look at that RED!

Then, there are the flowers – tropical and vibrantly colored. Best of all, cannas, aside from their water requirements, are easy plants to have around.

How much to water a canna

Water is the most important aspect of caring for the canna. Especially during periods of hot weather, the soil should remain moist at all times. If it needs water, it’ll wilt, so keep an eye on it in the beginning to get a feel for how often you need to water.

Fertilize the canna

The ideal time to fertilize your canna is right before it produces its first flower of the season. Sprinkle 2 lbs. of 5-10-5 fertilizer for every 100 square feet of canna bed. Don’t place the fertilizer right at the base of the plants, but about 6 inches away. Water the soil until it’s saturated, to soak the product to the plants roots. Fertilize monthly while the canna is flowering.


Deadheading the canna not only promotes new blooms but makes it look more attractive as well. Unlike other flowering plants, though, cannas require careful deadheading. If you cut the stalk too far back you may destroy future blooms. Use very sharp snips and clip the flower off just beneath the head.


Not all of us will need to dig up our cannas in the winter — but those who live in areas with harsh winters will want to get them out of the ground and store them. After the blooming season, the canna’s foliage turns yellow. This is your cue to cut the foliage to within 1 inch of the soil.

Then, carefully dig the rhizome from the soil and place it in a cool, dry area for about three hours. After this, wrap the rhizome in peat moss, place it in a box (poke a few holes in the box to allow air to circulate) and leave it in an area where the temperature remains between 40 and 60 degrees F over the winter. Sprinkle a few drops of water over the peat moss once a month until spring when you can plant the rhizome out in the garden.

Want more? Divide the canna

Divide canna rhizomes when you pull them from storage in spring. It’s an easy job, just divide them so that each section has at least three “eyes.” Depending on the size of the rhizome, you can either break it apart by hand or use a hand saw or knife. I use my cheapy little EverSaw and it works like a charm.

I receive commissions from purchases made through links in this post. I have not, however, received any products for free — all of the ones I refer you to are those that I purchase and use in my own garden.


Photo Courtesy: Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia Commons