How to Plant and Overwinter Canna Lily Bulbs
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Canna Lilies (Cana), not to be confused with Calla lilies, are tropical plants that are easy to grow and produce beautiful, dramatic, and colorful blooms. Although aptly named as lilies, they are not actually true lilies. In warmer climates, from USDA hardiness zone 8 and up, they can be grown perennially.
During the winter, they will die back and then come back the following year in the warmer season. In cooler regions below usda hardiness zone 8, canna lilies can be grown as annuals that are dug up when they die back in the winter and replanted the following season in the early Spring.
Canna lilies are fast growers sprouting from rhizomes and thrive in the warm weather of hot summer months.
Although most commonly referred to as flower bulbs, Canna lily bulbs are actually not true bulbs. This beautiful flower grows through a root system that develops as an offshoot from their rhizome.
As the Canna lily rhizome sprouts and grows, they produce beautiful foliage that can grow up to 8 feet tall although most tend to grow between 3 to 5 feet. There are dwarf canna varieties that have been bred to support growth in containers or smaller spaces.
Canna lilies are prolific bloomers from mid spring to late summer producing large, colorful flowers variegated with shades of pink, yellow, red, and more. Canna lilies primarily grow green foliage but their leaves can also vary in color. Although typically green, their lance-shaped leaves can vary in color from shades of maroon, bronze, and copper.
Canna lilies are typically used as edge plants, focal centerpieces, or accents on a patio or a garden. They can also be grown for cut flowers.
They grow well with ornamental grasses, zinnias, snapdragons, Alocasias (elephant ears), sage (salvia), tulips, hyacinths, dahlias, caladiums, and more.
They attract pollinators like butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees and make a great addition for a pollinator garden during the summer. Canna lilies are also considered to be relatively deer-resistant.
Canna Lily Varieties
Canna Lily ‘Tropicanna’: This tall Canna Lily variety is a gorgeous variety that produces variegated foliage with stripes of pink, gold, yellow, and green. In the summer, it blooms with large, bright orange flowers. When contrasted against the bold foliage, the Tropicanna is a showstopper for any home garden.
Canna Indica: This canna variety is also commonly known as African arrowroot, edible canna, or Sierra Leone arrowroot. It’s a tall canna producing emerald green foliage with red flowers. Canna Indica is a drought-tolerant evergreen perennial best grown in zones 8, 9, 10, and 11.
Dwarf Canna Cleopatra: this stunning dwarf canna lily variety produces a beautiful combination of red and yellow flowers that resemble the golden colors of fire. These dwarf cannas can grow upwards of 2 feet tall and are perfect size for a patio or as part of a cut flower garden.
When to Plant Canna Lily Bulbs
Cannas thrive best in warm weather and bright, full sunlight. You’ll do best in planting them after the danger of the last frost date has passed. You’ll need to wait until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
This will mean that you’ll likely need to plant mid to late spring depending on where you are located.
If you’re growing in a cold and short growing season zone such as zones 4 and 5, you can also opt in by starting your spring-planted Canna lily bulbs indoors and transplanting them in the garden once the weather is warm.
When mid-summer comes along, your spring planted bulbs will start to produce beautiful blooms.
How to Plant Canna Lilies
Once you’ve gotten a hold of authentic and reliable canna lily bulbs, you’ll want to select a spot (whether container or in-ground) in your garden that receives full sun for 6-8 hours everyday. Canna lilies can survive in shade, but they will bloom best in full sun.
You’ll want to plant your canna lilies in well-drained soils, amended with organic matter and peat moss for moisture retention.
How to Overwinter and Store Canna Bulbs
If you live below hardiness zone 8, you’ll need to overwinter your canna tubers once the temperature starts to drop. Below, we’ll cover appropriate winter storage for your canna rhizomes.
Once you canna lily foliage has died back, but before the first frost date has arrived, you’ll need to dig up your bulbs immediately. Make sure to do this before deep frost, otherwise, the rhizomes will be damaged.
Once you’ve dug up the rhizomes, remove any remaining foliage, wash, and remove the rest of the soil off the bulbs. Restrain from scrubbing the rhizomes which can damage the bulbs and make them susceptible to fungal diseases.
You’ll need to cure the bulbs before storing them by air drying them or letting them sit in a dry location for a week or two. Ensure that the location has proper air circulation to dry the outer skins of the bulb.
Once the bulbs are cured, store them in a container or plastic bag with some peat moss which will help absorb any moisture or humidity leaving your bulbs dry.
Once the danger of last frost has passed the next year, you are safe to replant your Canna lily bulbs.
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