Perfect Canna Lily Guide

18 Mar 2022

If you love bold and vibrant flowers then the canna lily is exactly what you need. This genus sprouts absolutely beautiful blooms and with the right care, you’ll be gifted with these flowers too.

Throughout this guide we will take an in-depth look at how you can care for, grow, and revive this houseplant.

Main Characteristics

The canna lily is native to tropical regions in South America, Central America, and the West Indies. It’s also found next to ponds and in wetlands. This perennial grows from rhizomes which can be propagated easily, and we’ll discuss how to do this later on.

This tropical-loving houseplant belongs to the Cannaceae family. It blooms striking flowers and long, green, bronze, or multi-colored leaves. These vibrant blossoms not only look amazing but they attract hummingbirds too.

It should be noted that although this houseplant is called the canna lily, it is in fact, not a true lily at all.

Fun fact: The canna lily symbolizes glory and power.


The canna lily genus is made up of 10 different species. They each blossom brightly colored flowers and show off uniquely colored foliage too.

We’ve touched on the five most common varieties below:

  • Canna ‘Cleopatra’: It blooms large, yellow flowers with red spots. This plant also produces lance-shaped, dark green leaves too.
  • Canna ‘tropicana black’: This variation produces dark brown foliage and bright, red flowers.
  • Canna ‘yellow king Humbert’: This type of canna has light green leaves that are accompanied by vibrant, yellow flowers that are decorated with red splotches.
  • Canna ‘apricot dream’: It sprouts gray-green leaves, as well as pale pink flowers with a deep pink throat.
  • Canna ‘Pretoria’: It’s also referred to as the canna ‘Bengal tiger’, and it blooms orange flowers with green and yellow striped leaves.

How Tall Do They Get?

A healthy canna will grow to be 3 to 8 feet (0.9 – 2.4m) tall and around 1 to 6 feet (0.3 – 1.8m) wide.

How Fast Do They Grow?

It is regarded as a fast-growing houseplant and will typically produce an extra 3 to 4 feet (0.9 – 1.2m) of growth a year.

How Long Do They Live?

When cared for well and winterized, you can expect the houseplant to survive for approximately 5 years.

Are They Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

Just like the polka dot plant, the canna lily is non-toxic. So you’ll be able to grow it anywhere in your home without worrying about poisoning your cat, dog, or child.

Canna Lily Care

The canna lily is simple to care for and we’ll guide you through watering it, maintaining its lush appearance, and we will discuss how to create the ideal environment for it.

How Often to Water It

It prospers in evenly moist soil, and this is especially important during its active growing seasons. It’s best to water it with room temperature water as cold water will shock its roots.

In the spring and summertime, you will need to water it once a week. It’s important to only water it sparingly during the winter so that the rhizomes don’t rot.

You will need to adjust the number of times you water the plant throughout the year. A general rule of thumb is that the warmer it is, the more water it requires.

You can either water the plant by placing the pot under a gentle stream of water, or you can position the container in a basin full of water. The roots will then soak up the water through the drainage holes.


Drainage is important when it comes to maintaining a potting mixture that is neither too dry nor soggy. The houseplant is susceptible to many fungal diseases which can be caused by saturated conditions.

You can ensure that excess water flows out of the soil by using a pot with drainage holes at the bottom. The potting mixture must also be quick draining too.

When and How to Trim It

The canna doesn’t require to be pruned often, and it’s only necessary to trim off unhealthy leaves and deadhead the blooms. It is preferable to prune it during the spring and summertime.

We’ve listed the steps below:

  1. Use a clean pair of shears and snip off the leaves at the base of the mother plant.
  2. You can deadhead the plant by cutting off the flower stalks at the base of the plant too.
  3. Finally, you should check whether the plant needs to be watered before positioning it back under full sunlight.


The canna lily can be transplanted in spring every 2 to 3 years. You will want to increase the size of the container if your plant has become rootbound or if it is top-heavy.

Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Remove it out of the container and clean away the dirt surrounding the rhizomes.
  2. Take out a new pot and fill it with fresh soil.
  3. Plant the rhizomes in the soil and water them well.
  4. Place the houseplant back where it was previously growing.

Winter Care

In the wintertime, the rhizomes need to be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place where the temperature never dips below 40°F (4.4°C).

First, you must cut the stems down to 1 inch (2.5cm) in length. You will then need to fill a pot with coconut coir, peat moss, and a potting mix. The rhizomes can then be planted in the soil and stored in a dark room.

You may need to spray the rhizomes once every 1 to 2 weeks so that they don’t completely dry out.

Environment Conditions

Does It Need Full Sun?

It flourishes under full and direct sunlight. It should receive at least 4 to 6 hours of direct light a day.

It can withstand filtered sunshine and partial shade, however, its growth will slow down and it won’t bloom.

Soil pH and Type

The perfect potting mixture is one that is high in organic matter, loose, well-draining, and airy. The soil must still be able to retain some moisture as well.

Just like the nerve plant, this houseplant prefers soil with a pH of 6.5. Furthermore, you can also mix in pumice and vermiculite to enhance the soil’s drainage and acidity level.

Below we’ve provided you with a great potting mix recipe:

  • 1 part all-purpose potting mixture
  • 2 parts perlite
  • 2 parts compost
  • 1 part peat moss

Fertilizer Schedule

You can feed the canna lily once a month during the spring and summertime, which is also ideal for the alocasia genus too. The liquid, water-soluble, and well-balanced fertilizer should have a ratio of 5-10-5 or 10-10-10.

Feeding the houseplant is a great way to provide it with all the nutrients it needs to flourish and flower.

Pot Size and Type

It will grow well in a pot that is about 2 to 4 inches (5 – 10cm) wider than the rootball. The exact size isn’t too important, however, the roots must have enough space to grow.

A plastic container with ample drainage holes will also suit this houseplant. This type of pot will ensure that any excess moisture drains out while not drying the soil completely.

Temperature Tolerance

The houseplant is sensitive to cool temperatures and cannot withstand a temperature below 50°F (10°C). The optimal temperature range is between 60 to 70°F (15.5 – 21.1°C).

Fun fact: It can even tolerate high temperatures around 90°F (32.2°C).

Humidity Level

The canna will flourish when the relative humidity is between 65 to 75 percent. It doesn’t do well when grown in a dry environment, and it may not produce any blooms either.

You can increase the humidity levels surrounding the plant by grouping it amongst other houseplants or by positioning a humidifier nearby.

Outdoors vs. Indoors

Just like the rubber plant, the canna genus can be grown both indoors and outdoors. It can be planted in your garden year-round if you live in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10.

It’ll produce faster growth when planted outside, which means that it will still need to be fed frequently. Additionally, it may require more water, especially during the summertime. The canna lily must still be placed in a humid area, and you will have to mist the foliage.

It will need to be grown under full sunlight and be kept warm at all times. The only issue is that during the winter it will need to be brought back inside. It should never be left outdoors if temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C).


The canna lily blooms red, orange, pink, white, and creamy colored flower spikes. Typically, these flowers form a cluster as a stem will produce 2 to 4 spikes.

When and How Often Does It Bloom?

These flowers will emerge during the summertime. If treated well then you can expect it to bloom once a year.

How Long Does Its Flowers Last?

The flower will usually last for about 3 to 5 days before beginning to fade. These are then replaced by new blooms, so the plant will flower throughout the summer.

How to Make It Bloom

There are several ways that you can encourage the canna to bloom. Firstly, you’ll need to deadhead the flowers once they begin to die. The houseplant will require enough nutrients and energy to produce these blooms, so it should be fertilized regularly. You can opt for a fertilizer with a ratio of 5-10-5.

The plant must also soak in plenty of full sunlight. It must also be watered well to maintain moist potting soil. Another aspect to keep in mind is the size of the container. The pot must be big enough to allow the roots space to grow without becoming pot-bound.

A final consideration is the care you give this houseplant in winter. It needs to be kept in a dry, dark, and warm area throughout the colder months.

Grow Guide

You can grow an entirely new canna lily by propagating it and planting its seeds. These are each great ways to expand your houseplant collection. We’ll explain these methods in more detail below.


The houseplant can be propagated in soil by either planting its bulbs or dividing the rootball. We’ve explained how to carry out each method below.

Growing It from Bulbs

You can plant the canna lily’s bulbs (rhizomes) in early spring. We’ll be exploring how to store the bulbs, how to plant them, and finally how to tell if they’re dead.

How to Store the Bulbs

Over the cool winter months, it’s a great idea to store the bulbs and then plant them in spring. Before you store the canna bulbs, they need to be cured. We’ll guide you through the entire process below.

  1. Wash the bulbs with tepid water and make sure to remove all of the dirt.
  2. Cure the bulbs by positioning them in a dry room for 3 days. This will toughen up the skin and prevent them from rotting.
  3. After they have cured, you’ll place them in a paper bag or wrap them in newspaper. The bulbs can then be stored in a cool, dry, and dark room.
  4. It’s important that you check on the bulbs at least once a month. If you notice any bulbs are starting to rot then simply remove these sections.
How to Plant the Bulbs

In this section, we’ll explain how to plant the canna bulbs in fresh soil.

  1. Soak the bulbs in tepid water for 12 to 24 hours.
  2. Prepare a new container with potting mixture and a handful of peat moss and perlite.
  3. Plant each bulb 4 to 6 inches (10 – 15.2cm) deep and water them well.
  4. Find a sunny home for the bulbs and monitor them for new growth.
  5. In about 4 to 6 weeks, you should notice new growth beginning to emerge.
  6. You can then treat them as you would a mature plant, and transplant them when necessary.
How to Tell if the Bulbs Are Dying

You will be able to determine whether the bulbs are dying by examining their appearance. If they have completely dried out or become rotten then they have unfortunately died.

You can also tell that the bulbs have died if they don’t produce any new growth two months after being planted in the soil.


You can propagate it in soil by dividing its rootball. You’ll have to separate the roots and then plant them in their own containers. You could also use this method whilst repotting it as you won’t need to increase the pot size, and instead, you’ll have more houseplants.

It’s best to do this in either spring or early autumn. Additionally, you should only propagate a healthy and mature plant.

Check out the following guide:

  1. Gently remove the plant out of its container and be careful to avoid damaging its roots.
  2. Trim the stems down so that only 1 inch (2.5cm) of growth would appear above the soil.
  3. Dust off the soil around the rhizomes and then use a sharp blade to slice along the rhizome joints. Each division must have at least 1 eye.
  4. Fill a new pot with fresh soil and plant each section about 4 to 6 inches (10 – 15.2cm) deep.
  5. You’ll need to water the divisions well and care for them as you previously did.

How to Grow It from Seed

This isn’t the easiest way to grow a canna lily, and you may need to try it out a few times before the seeds successfully germinate. Planting its seeds may be slightly tricky, however, it is definitely possible.

We’ll explain how to harvest the seeds, prep them for germination, and finally how to plant them.

Follow the step-by-step guide we’ve put together:

  1. Once the seed pods have dried out, you will need to open them up and squeeze the black seeds out.
  2. Soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours.
  3. Prepare a tray with moist potting soil and plant the seeds an inch (2.5cm) deep.
  4. Cover the tray with plastic wrap to lock in the warmth and humidity. Place the tray on a heating mat to maintain a consistent temperature between 70 to 75°F (21.1 – 23.8°C).
  5. In 1 to 2 weeks the seeds will germinate and then you can remove the plastic bag.
  6. After the seedlings produce 6 inches (15.2cm) of growth then they need to be transplanted into their own pots.

How to Revive It

The canna lily may start to look unhealthy when it isn’t grown in optimal conditions or if it isn’t cared for properly. There are a few potential health issues that may occur, however, each one can be remedied with the right care.

We’ll explain what may be wrong with the houseplant and what you can do to revive it.

Yellow Foliage

The houseplant may be suffering from root rot or another fungal disease called chlorosis.

Root rot is caused by overwatering the plant for a long period of time. The best way to deal with this issue is by repotting it in dry soil. You’ll also need to trim off any unhealthy roots and leaves.

Chlorosis is due to a lack of nutrients. The houseplant may be deficient in nutrients and minerals that are vital to produce and support healthy growth. You will need to feed it with a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.

Brown Leaves

The foliage becomes brown when it is overwatered, underwatered, or infected with a fungal disease.

Overwatering the houseplant can cause it to become waterlogged. You will need to allow the soil time to dry out before you water it again.

If the soil is completely dry then allow the plant to soak in room temperature water for 10 to 15 minutes.

Droopy Foliage

Limp foliage is caused by a fungal disease known as anthracnose, and it may be watered improperly.

You can revive the plant by repotting it in fresh soil.

The soil must be kept moist, however, it shouldn’t be soggy. You will need to tweak your watering schedule so that the soil is neither too wet nor too dry.

If the soil is wet then refrain from watering it until the top inch (2.5cm) of the soil has dried out slightly. When the soil is too dry then you’ll need to water it well.

Yellow or Tan Leaf Spots

Canna rust is a fungal infection that causes small yellow and tan spots to appear on the upper surface of the leaf. These pustules will then turn brown and black.

The only way to revive your plant is by snipping off the infected leaves.

Final Piece of Advice

The canna lily is favored by many houseplant enthusiasts for its bold blooms, and because it’s easy to care for. The houseplant isn’t too fussy either and will flourish when grown in optimal conditions. The major care aspect to keep in mind is that it must be watered adequately, fed well, and winterized.

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