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Germinating Canna Lily Seeds | Canna Indica

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Have you ever grown canna lily seeds? The brilliant red flowers and tropical foliage are a welcome addition to nearly any garden!

When we moved to our house, we discovered red cannas (Canna indica) growing in a sheltered corner next to our deck. It didn’t take long to notice these flowers producing dark canna lily seeds with hard seed coats from which we could grow more cannas!

Canna lily seeds on green canna foliage in the rain
Canna seeds on a wet canna leaf!

Even though our red canna lilies are perennials, it’s still fun to grow cannas from seed. I’ll share my favorite tips, but let’s answer a few questions first.

What Do Canna Seeds Look Like?

Canna seeds are dark spherical seeds with very hard seed coats. Also known as Indian shot, African arrowroot, purple arrowroot, and Sierra Leone arrowroot, the red canna seeds have papery seed pods that generally contain at least two or three seeds each.

My kids love collecting canna lily flower seed pods and popping the seeds out from the papery husks. Before they’re ripe for picking, the seeds develop inside rubbery looking spike balls where the flowers once were.

Canna seeds from red canna indian shot
These are canna seeds from our red cannas that came with the house. Still going after all these years!

Will Canna Seeds Produce Flowers the First Year?

Cannas planted from seed may take around 100 days to produce flowers. You can speed up this timeline by starting cannas from seed indoors prior to the last frost in your area.

Growing Canna from Seed

Canna tubers grow very well for years at a time. You can also split and divide them to other parts of the garden or share them with friends.

Still, the process of growing canna lilies from seed is rewarding to gardeners and especially to the youngest gardeners of the bunch.

The sight of that first tiny tropical leaf curling up out of the soil is well worth every moment you spend growing cannas from seed.

Canna Lily Seeds grow into beautiful tropical perennial flowers. Red Canna Indica by a window.

How to Grow Cannas from Seeds Indoors

Starting canna seeds indoors gives your plants a head-start to maturity for flowering. You can grow cannas from seed much like any other flower, except for one key detail.

Step 1: Germinating Canna Seeds

Starting cannas from seed is easier than you might expect, as long as you remember one important step. Canna lily seed germination works best when you scarify the seed.

Begin germinating canna lily seeds with these steps:

  1. Gather a flower pot, potting mix, canna seeds, water, and a file or a piece of sandpaper.
  2. Hold the first canna lily seed firmly in one hand.
  3. Rub the seed against a file or sandpaper to nick the canna’s hard seed coat, being careful not to cut too deeply. (You should be able to see the color change from purple to a lighter, almost white shade.)
  4. Plant the seed about a half inch deep in a small flower pot.
  5. Water the seed regularly and watch for growth.

TIP: If you are uncomfortable with the scarification of canna seeds, you can also try soaking them for 24 hours instead. I have not attempted this method but it’s worth a try.

I’ll be germinating canna seeds with my daughters this week and will update with more photos soon!

Step 2: Transplanting the Canna Seedlings

Once your baby canna lily grows a few leaves or grows more than six inches tall, consider transplanting. Two great choices would be potting up to a larger pot or transplanting cannas outside.

  1. Water the day before you plan to transplant.
  2. On transplant day, prepare the space where you will move your canna seedling. A shallow hole in your garden works great, although you may also be able to grow cannas in a pot.
  3. Loosen the dirt around the canna seedling.
  4. Gently scoop the canna out of the original pot and move it to its new location. If moving outside, be sure to harden off first.
  5. Water to help your canna acclimate to the new location.

Final Thoughts: Growing Canna Lilies from Seed

Did you know the red canna is actually an edible canna in the family Cannaceae? Even knowing this, I don’t have any desire to eat ours, but we sure do love growing them!

When planting cannas from seed, you can expect them to take about 100 days to produce their first blooms. They should also be developing a little rhizome or bulb to store energy for the next year’s growth.

Typically, at least where we live in zone 6b, you should probably dig up your canna bulbs to winter them over each year. Here we’ve been lucky, with our cannas coming back every year! (But I don’t want to jinx you!)

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Check out my post on How to Care for Canna Lily for more tips!

Now hot on my list of flower wishes are the hot pink cannas, yellow cannas, and orange canna lilies. It will be so exciting when our canna collection is complete.

Do you grow cannas? Have you ever grown cannas from seed? Let’s chat in the comments below!

10.03.22 – Updated to adjust spacing and add canna seed suggestions. Added new photos and resized existing to full size.

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  1. Hello Bunny! I also have large Red Cannas. I’m in SWFlorida zone 10A. We have been getting a LOT of rain this summer. My seed pods are dropping while still red. Is there anything I can do to bring these seeds to maturity? This is my first year trying to grow from seed. TIA

    1. Hi Lori! I bet your Cannas are gorgeous in Florida! Sorry to hear the pods are dropping. Is it all of them? Can you tell if it’s environmental or if the plant is doing it? I haven’t tried anything with immature pods yet as mine haven’t fallen off on their own, but it sounds like a good gardening experiment! It may depend on how mature the seeds are within the spiky pods. I know zinnia growers have had success planting green seeds, so maybe the same could be true for cannas. Perhaps some other pods would stay on the plant for you – fingers crossed! I’ve also heard some canna hybrids may not be fertile, but I am not sure how true that is. Please let us know how you make out!

      Happy Gardening!

  2. Thank You so much for getting back to me. I’m going to open the seed pods that have fallen and see if they have developed or dried out at all. They are beautiful and bloom all year long. I think the heavy rains and wind are knocking them off. Well I’m off to experiment, I will let you know how it goes. I really enjoy your blog and have learned a lot. Thanks again

    1. Hi Lori – My pleasure! I will be looking forward to hearing how your experiment goes – I hope you have some viable seeds in the pods. If not, hopefully some develop soon for you. Sorry to hear about your crazy weather! What a blessing to have a nice long growing season, though – I hope you get some better weather asap. Thanks so much for your kind words – it really means a lot to me. I love my blog but it means even more to know it’s enjoyable to others too. <3 Thanks again and good luck! Let us know what you find!
      - Kate (Bunny)

  3. Hi friend,
    Very valuable information, I have a lot seeds, I am thinking of selling them through Amazon
    Where I am a seller, from india,information form you are very valuable for me to guide my buyers.
    Thank U very much indeed

    1. Hi Backer ECA! Thanks so much for sharing this kind feedback. Good luck with selling your seeds – it sounds like a wonderful experience. Please feel free to link your buyers over to my site for any of our content that may be helpful to them. We always love helping others with gardening. Best wishes to you! – Kate

  4. Can you tell me how many shoots will sprout from a #1 canna rhizome. Can you assume that each eye will produce a shoot. Should there be more than one eye on a #1 rhizome

    1. Hi Bob! I agree with you that I would expect a healthy shoot from each week developed eye on the canna rhizome. When I planted cannas from seed, they grew one shoot the first season. The rhizomes created much larger and happier plants.

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