Order: Zingiberales
Family: Cannaceae
Genus: Canna


Canna lilies are arguably the darlings of mid-to-late summer flowering plants. Native to tropical and subtropical America, the exotic foliage and outrageously coloured flowers means that there is little else to compete with them - especially in northern European climate gardens.


No one can deny that canna lilies can bring a genuine, tropical feel to the garden, but as exotic as they look they are extremely easy to grow. The only work you have to put in is watering and a certain amount of preparation for overwintering. However in the more milder climates of temperate Europe, such as the southernmost parts of England, cannas can be left where they are with just a decent layer of straw to keep the worst of the cold off. Just make sure that the soil is free draining enough that they do not become waterlogged during the worst of the weather.

Cannas are usually purchased as pot-grown plants in the early summer or as pre-packed fleshy rhizomes from February onwards. Plant the rhizomes near the surface in pots or boxes as soon as they are available using a good quality, peaty compost. Place them in a frost-free greenhouse or cool room in the house at a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius. If more than one shoot appears on a rhizome, divide the rhizome into sections - each with a shoot and some new roots. Pot each of these sections on into 4-5 inch pots, again using a rich, peaty compost. Gently water all newly plant stock and then just keep on the most side. 

In April, pot on either individually into 6-7 inch pots, or as a small group in a container, and grow on at a slightly reduced temperature of between 13-16 degrees Celsius.  With containers or large pots, fill with a John Innes No. 3 loam-based compost and add a controlled-release fertiliser. 

In May, all pots and containers can be hardened off with a view to be places outside in a sunny position by the end of the month - just so long as there is no threat of late frosts. Increase watering as the foliage develops.

Alternatively pot-grown plants can be planted directly into the ground, again only once the threat of late frosts have passed. Choose a sheltered, sunny position in a well-drained soil that has been previously improved by digging in well-rotted farm manure or garden compost. It is also worth adding a general purpose fertilizer, such as growmore, at a rate of 70g per sq metre.

Water freely in dry spells and feed with a liquid soluble fertiliser once every couple of weeks over the summer.Deadhead to encourage further flowers and when a flower spike has no more buds, prune it down to the next side shoot where a secondary flower spike should develop.

How to Grow Canna Lilies  MADONNA LILY - Lilium candidum   The Turks Cap Lily  The Foxtail Lily  The Japanese Cobra Lily  The Giant Himalayan Lily 

The Japanese Cobra Lily  The Stargazer Lily  The Hardy Spider Lily     The Golden Foxtail lily - Eremurus bungei


About the Author

The 'Seeds of Eaden' website is the brainchild of professional horticulturist and multi-award winning gardener Simon Eade. After six years of study; two years 'Retail Horticulture' at Hadlow College, then four years Commercial Horticulture at Greenwich University, Simon has worked in a number of 'fields' within the industry for over twenty years. Most notably, managing the prestigious Alexandra Palace garden centre in London. Since then he has become an internationally published writer, and author of the popular 'Garden of Eaden' blog.

Simon Eade is also a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society's Banksian medal

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