Canna lilies (Canna x generalis), also called cannas, are large, tropical plants but are not true lilies. Cannas grow from underground root stems called cannas, which are tender in cold climates. For cannas to grow again in the spring, they may need special care during the cold winter months.
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Canna lilies are hardy down to U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 8. Some plants have been known to tolerate down to Zone 7, especially if protected with mulch or planted in a warmer location, such as near the house.
Zones 7 and Cooler
In Zones 7 and cooler, dig up your canna lily rhizomes in the fall after the tops of the plants die back. Clip the foliage to about 2 or 3 inches with a pair of clean pruning shears and dig up the rhizomes, which are planted about 3 to 4 inches deep. Brush off the soil and allow the rhizomes to dry indoors out of the sunlight for one to three days. Then, store the rhizomes in a box in an area, such as a basement or garage, which is between 40 to 50 degrees until spring. In zone 7, you can chance keeping the rhizomes outdoors in the ground with several inches of mulch, such as leaves or straw, but some may die.
Zones 8 and Warmer
In Zones 8 and warmer, canna lily rhizomes are safe outdoors in the winter. In tropical climates, cannas keep growing and blooming throughout the winter. Continue watering and fertilising them, as you do during the other season of the year. In climates with frosts, cannas die back to the ground. Cut the foliage down to about 2 to 3 inches and wait until they grow again in the spring. No other care is needed.
Growing in Containers
Canna lilies can grow in containers. Bring outdoor containers indoors or to a greenhouse for the winter, unless you live in a tropical climate. Harden off plants when your first bring them indoors so they can get used to their new environment, which should be in a warm, sunny place away from drafts. To harden off your cannas, place them indoors in their new spot for a few hours the first day and every day for about a week, leave them there a couple hours longer. Keep watering and fertilising as normal and your potted canna lilies will thrive.
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- University of Nebraska Lincoln: Tender Summer "Bulbs"- Canna, Gladiola & Dahlia
- University of Minnesota Extention; Calla and Canna Lilies; Beth R. Jarvis; February 1999
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System; Canna Lilies for Alabama Gardens; J. Raymond Kessler
- University of Arkansas; Garden Canna, Canna Lily; Gerald Klingaman; July 30, 1999
- University of Minnesota Extension; Storing Tender Bulbs and Bulblike Structures; Mary H. Meyer, 2011