Year-round care for canna lilies

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canna lily
Canna lily (Katie Woods photo)

Canna lilies are tropical-looking perennials.

Canna lilies come in a variety of colors, including red, orange, yellow pink, and cream, as well as some striped and spotted colors. Regular varieties range in height from 3 to 5 feet, while dwarf varieties grow to about 2 feet tall.

Iowa State University Extension offers a list of canna lily varieties and descriptions of each.

Related: How to plant bulbs this fall

In the winter

You can start canna lilies indoors in pots, planted four inches deep, before the last frost.

In the spring

Transplant canna lilies that were started indoors over winter, or plant canna lilies in the ground or in large containers. Plant rhizomes several inches deep and about two feet apart, according to Clemson University Extension. Make sure you plant the rhizome with the eyes facing up.

Canna lilies should be planted in full sun, but they can tolerate partial shade if necessary. Canna lilies grow best in moist, richly organic soil that drains well.

Iowa State University Extension recommends 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring.

In the summer

During the summer months, water flowers thoroughly. Fertilize again in mid-summer.

Watch for symptoms of viruses, like canna yellow mottle virus and bean yellow mosaic virus: streaking or mottling of foliage, stunting or poor flowering. Iowa State University Extension explains that canna lilies cannot be cured of these viruses.

canna lily in pot
Canna lily (Katie Woods photo)

In the fall

After fall frost has blackened the foliage, canna lily rhizomes must be dug up and stored indoors until spring, unless planted in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 10.

Dig around the plant’s stem, about a foot out. Lift the clump out of the ground by the stem, wash the roots off with water and cut off the tops of the plant, leaving just a few inches of stem.

Place rhizomes in brown paper grocery bags and store in an attic, basement or crawlspace where the temperature will remain between 45 and 60 degrees F until spring, according to Penn State University Extension.

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