How To Care for a Canna Lily

Canna lilies are perennials that come in hues of red, orange and yellow.  They are vibrant flowers that attract attention in any garden.   Although called a lily, canna lilies are actually part of the ginger family.  They are big and buxom, and with proper care these tropical flowers can thrive in most climates.  


Canna lilies can be grown indoors as well as outdoors.  They look wonderful along fences and walls as well as by the pond or reflecting pool.  Plant them where they can receive at least 6 hours of sun per day.  Canna lilies should be planted in an area where the soil drains properly.  Otherwise, add compost, peat moss, or ground bark in order to raise the plant to about 2-3 inches high.  This will prevent the roots from being water logged.

As much as possible, the taller variety of canna lilies should be planted where the winds are not strong.  You can tie the stems to poles or stakes to protect them from the strong winds.

Canna lilies can be grown in pots or tubs filled with good quality potting mix.  It is important that the container has enough drainage holes so the roots do not rot.  Place the containers where they can receive full sun.


Cover the base of the canna lily with mulch (2 – 4 inches high) to keep the roots moist.  During the summer, make sure to water the plants often as canna lilies like moisture.  Indoor canna lily plants should be watered more often that the outdoor ones.


Cut the canna lily flowers to make an arrangement for your home.  Or just leave them to add color in your garden.  You can also cut the striped or deep colored leaves to for your floral arrangements.  When the flower begins to die, cut it off together with other yellowing or damaged leaves. 

Winter care

If you live in a warm climate, once the blooming season is over, simply remove any dead or dying flowers and leaves and water the canna lily as necessary.  But in colder places more work needs to be done to save your canna lilies for spring.  At the first sign of frost, cut the outdoor canna lilies to about 5 inches tall.  Transfer the whole root clump in a plastic or cardboard box with peat moss.  Make sure there are holes in the box for air to circulate.  This will prevent the roots from rotting.  Place the box in a dark area that is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, 60 at the most.  Before storing any rhizomes (thick roots), air dry them first for eventual replanting during the spring months.

Spring replanting

Divide any multi-eyed rhizome into individual eyes.  If there are any damaged or shriveled sections, cut these away before replanting.  Plant the rhizomes in 4”- 6” deep holes.  For dwarf and medium varieties, plant them 1 foot away from each other.  Taller canna lilies should be at least 2” away from each other.  Make sure the eyes of the rhizomes are facing upwards.  Soak the soil in water.
Canna lilies are great show-offs that you can place in your garden or in vases inside the home.  With the wide variety of colors, these beautiful flowers are a joy to grow.  Proper care of this specie of the ginger family will surely provide you with spectacular flowers for a long time.


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