How to Care for Canna Lily | Cannas Bulbs Care

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Learning how to care for canna lily plants can improve your garden in many ways!

There’s just something about those glossy green leaves and the erect blooms that brighten your favorite corner of the garden.

Growing cannas at home gives you a taste of the tropical lifestyle, even if you live in boring old Pennsylvania.

(I can say that because I live here.)

But, I say it in jest. At least partly.

When we moved to our house as newlyweds, I couldn’t wait to see what sprouted up in the garden. I was delighted when pretty red cannas with tropical green leaves grew from the ground at the corner of our deck next to our house.

My husband just reminded me that the first year or so I would dig them up and bring them down to our basement for the winter. They even started growing on their own before spring!

Two kids later and I just don’t have the time!

Luckily, the house insulates that small canna lily patch. While we do lose some of the rhizomes to freezing temperatures every year, more than enough survive and fill in the gaps!

Anyway, I was delighted to have some gorgeous tropical flowers already here waiting for us! Did you ever get lucky with plants you inherited in a new home?

Canna lilies are wonderful to grow no matter if you inherit them or plant them yourself.

Now, let’s go through some tips on how to care for canna lily plants!

Canna Lily Care is easy - Canna growing near deck
Red Canna Lily next to our deck and foundation

How Fast Do Cannas Grow?

When planted from rhizomes (bulbs), cannas grow quickly. You can expect to enjoy blooms the first year when growing canna rhizomes. Canna lilies often bloom in July, at least here in Pennsylvania Zone 6b.

When planting canna lily seeds, you can also enjoy relatively fast growth. The monocot seedling pokes out with one twirled leaf first and grows beautifully to a larger size.

You may also get a bloom the first year growing from seed, depending how early you plant the canna seeds.

How Deep to Plant Canna Bulbs

Plant canna bulbs 4-6 inches deep in the soil. That being said, our canna rhizomes do just fine where we have them planted fairly close to the top of the soil.

The rhizomes are like an extension of the stem, where the stalks and leaves grow upward from the points.

With this in mind, you may still find success when you plant canna lily bulbs at surface level with just a bit of soil on top.

If conditions are right, you should see growth in just a few weeks!

Canna bud next to lush green foliage

What to Feed Cannas

Cannas are hardy and grow well even without fertilizer. Water soluble all-purpose plant food may benefit cannas in combination with your watering schedule.

I use Miracle Grow plant food that’s bright aqua blue and waters in nicely.

A 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer would be a good choice of what to feed cannas.

How to Plant Canna Lily Bulbs

Learn how to plant canna lily bulbs (rhizomes) for the best chances of a wonderful display of color all summer.

  1. Choose a spot to plant your cannas for high impact. A nice corner location makes a great statement. A central spot as a focal point would also work beautifully.
  2. Dig a hole 4-6 inches deep.
  3. Place the canna rhizome in a hole with the points facing upward.
  4. Space out the canna lily bulbs at least one foot apart so they have room to grow and spread.
  5. Gently fill in the hole and water. (The cannas may not need much more water until they start to push through the soil.
  6. Check back every few days to look for signs of growth!

Important: Avoid planting canna lilies in an area with standing water. They can tolerate some moisture but will likely rot if left with too much water.

Important Canna Care Tips

Growing cannas in the backyard garden is a true pleasure! It’s wonderful to enjoy that tropical vibe right off our back deck.

Here are some canna care tips to help you successfully grow these gorgeous tropical plants!

  • Overwatering – Avoid planting the cannas in a location where water sits. You don’t want the rhizome to rot.
  • Overwintering Cannas Inside – If you live in a zone with cooler winters, you will want to bring your canna rhizomes inside in the late fall before any major freezes occur. Lift cannas for overwintering!
  • Deadheading – Try canna lily deadheading to improve the vigor of your plants and increase more blooms. Cut the spent blooms after the flower dies back.
  • Saving Seeds to Share – If you want to save seeds with friends, it’s easy and fun to collect the seeds. Wait until the spiky balls resemble dried brown wrappers. The seeds will be inside.
Spiky Ball Canna Seed Heads
Spent canna lily flower going to seed – aren’t these spike balls pretty cool?!

Final Thoughts: How to Care for Canna Lily Plants

I joked in the beginning about living in boring old Pennsylvania, I do love it here.

One day I may prefer somewhere I can grow hibiscus all year long, but for now, PA Zone 6b it is.

I am looking forward to growing orange cannas and yellow canna lilies one day as well.

Right now, in my current garden setup, I don’t have another good location against a heated wall. That will be my plan eventually, though!

Learning how to care for canna lily plants is a great journey because it helps your plants grow so much more successfully. I am grateful to know as much as I do about growing cannas and look forward to learning even more as time goes on.

Do you love growing canna lilies, too? Is this your first time or are you a longtime canna grower?

Please share your favorite growing tips or any questions you may have in the comments below. We’d love to chat!

05.24.22 – Updated to resize photos and adjust spacing a bit.

08.02.23 – Updated to add link to deadheading canna post and overwintering. Also improved spacing and bolded headings.

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