winterize canna lilies

Winterize Canna Lilies? (Here’s When & How to Do It!)

Prune off the stems and roots of Canna lilies when the first frost hits. Store the cut Canna rhizomes in a container between the layers of Peat moss & Perlite. Check to make sure the Peat moss is damp enough. Plant them in new planters in April.

Canna lilies are grown for their beautiful flowers. An amateur gardener can grow Canna lilies with ease. It doesn’t need much attention.

You need to take some precautions if there’s winter around. Overwintering your Canna lilies is crucial to keep them alive.

Overwintering, in general, is essential if you want your Canna plants to keep blooming. In this article, we will see why you need to overwinter your Canna lilies and how to do it.

Can Canna lilies survive winter?

Yes, Canna lilies can survive winter if you take good care of them. Canna lily will survive the winter only if you winterize the plant. Canna lilies that grow in the USDA zones 8-11 don’t need to be overwintered.

Canna lilies can be overwintered without much hassle. They are probably one of the few tropical plants which can be dealt with easily in the winter.

You don’t need to winterize Canna lilies that grow in the USDA zones 8 or more. This is because these zones are warm and suitable for Canna lilies.

You’d need to dig the Canna lilies up if you grow them in USDA zones 6 or less. If you live in USDA zone 7, observe the plant.

Can you leave Canna lilies in the ground over winter?

Yes, you can leave your Canna lilies in the ground if it grows in USDA zones 8 or higher. These zones are warm enough for the plant to survive.

Did it lose all the leaves after the first severe frost? If it did, you need to winterize the plant. If not, lay 6-12 inches of mulch layer around Canna lilies.

How cold can Cannas tolerate?

Cannas can tolerate air temperatures up to 28°F. You need to winterize the rhizomes if the temperature goes below that. Cannas are generally hardy where the soil doesn’t freeze.

Canna plants lose all their leaves when they can’t take the low temperature.

When should you winterize Cannas?

You need to winterize your Cannas when the first frost hits i.e., the temperature falls below 30°F. You need to dig the rhizomes up in the fall.

You need to bring the rhizome indoors and winterize it to save it from the biting frost. You can replant it in the spring if you want.

When should I cut down my Cannas for the winter?

You need to cut down your Cannas in the fall just before the winter hits. Ideally, you need to cut the roots and stems of Cannas.

Do this once the first frost hits your region. Let the plant lose all its leaves, prepare the rhizomes for the winter.

Can you overwinter Canna lilies indoors?

Yes, you can overwinter your Canna lilies indoors. You don’t need to put your Canna lilies in a greenhouse to help them through winter.

You can keep your Canna rhizomes in Garages, Cellars, Basements, Deep cold frames, or Crawl spaces. Rhizomes do well in cold and dark places.

How do you prune Canna lilies for winter?

Trim the Canna stems 2-3 inches above the rhizome. Remove as much soil as possible and trim the roots off the Canna rhizome.

Most of the rhizomes are found in the top 10 inches of the soil. You may want to use a spade or garden fork to dig out the rhizomes.

Be careful while digging the rhizomes out as the last thing you’d want is to bruise your precious rhizomes.

How do you cut back Canna rhizomes for winter?

Leave 2-3 inches of stems above the rhizome when you prune them off. Clean the soil off the Canna rhizomes.

You may also want to cut off the roots. Let the rhizome dry out for a few hours. When pruning the stems, make sure you are using sterilized tools.

Don’t leave the rhizomes out in freezing temperatures. Don’t leave the rhizomes in the sun, it’ll hurt them too.

If the soil is quite wet, let the soil dry or you’ll risk your precious rhizomes.

If your Canna plant is in a pot, invert the pot and take the rhizomes out. It becomes easier to take the rhizomes out this way.

How do I dig Canna lilies for overwintering?

Use a digging fork or spade to gently lever the rhizome out of the pot/ground. Separate the rhizomes using your hands.

Be gentle but not too much. Cannas are shallow-rooted, so it should be easy to get the rhizomes out of the soil.

You don’t need to be too gentle about the roots as they will dry during the storage period anyway.

Take time to inspect the rhizomes. Discard the rhizomes which show even a slight sign of infection. Check also for any other kind of damage.

If the damaged rhizome is large enough, you can cut off the damaged part using a sterilized knife.

Tip: The rhizomes of different cultivars look the same when they’re stripped of the roots/shoots. Label the boxes properly.

Related: Here’s an article on What eats Canna lilies.

How do you winterize Canna lily rhizomes?

Place the Newspaper layer in a container. Place a layer of slightly moist peat moss and Perlite on top of this Newspaper layer. Place rhizomes on this layer and arrange another layer of peat moss/Perlite on it. Three such layers and you’re done with the winterizing process.

Preparing your Canna rhizomes for storage is probably the easiest part of the overwintering process. You just need to monitor them from time to time.

The goal of this whole process is to keep your Canna rhizomes away from freezing temperatures. You’d still want your rhizomes to be in a cool place.

At the same time, you don’t want to keep the rhizomes in a place where the temperatures fluctuate rapidly as high temperatures encourage sprouting.

Sprouting before the right time is harmful to the plant. Ideally, your rhizome should be moist adequately(a little bit) but not much.

Storing Canna bulbs in peat moss

Storing Canna rhizomes in peat moss is the most common way to store the rhizomes. Peat moss provides perfect conditions for the storage of rhizomes.

Take some empty containers. They can be made of plastic but wood boxes or Bushel baskets work the best.

You’d want containers that don’t have lids. Take a spacious container as it has to accommodate three layers of rhizomes.

You’ll need

  • Newspaper sheets
  • Peat moss
  • Perlite or Vermiculite

Below are the instructions to prepare the containers for storage.

  • Sprinkle some water on Peat moss and Perlite/Vermiculite to dampen it slightly.
  • Spread two or three sheets of Newspaper in the container.
  • Spread a layer of peat moss on these Newspaper sheets. Now, spread the rhizomes on this so that the rhizomes don’t touch each other.
  • Spread another layer of peat moss and Perlite over these rhizomes. You’d want to spread another layer of rhizomes on this peat moss/Perlite layer.
  • Do this until there are 3 layers of rhizomes in the container. Cover the last layer of rhizomes with Peat moss and perlite.
  • Don’t do more than 3 layers as it generates a lot of heat. Cover the container with two sheets of Newspapers.
  • Sprinkle water on the layer of peat moss if you feel it’s dry during the monthly checkup.

Tip: Check the rhizomes once per month for any signs of decay. Discard a rhizome if you see decay on it.

Where to store Canna rhizomes?

Canna rhizomes should be stored in a cool, dark place over the winter season. The place should stay above the freezing temperature but below 55°F.

You need to place the container where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate. Temperature fluctuations lead to untimely sprouting.

You can store them in Garages, Cellars, Basements, Deep cold frames, or Crawl spaces.

You don’t need any special heat lamps or lighting systems for the overwintering process. All you need is a cool, dark place.

Note: If the rhizomes are sprouting, the temperatures are higher than needed. Adjust the temperature accordingly.

How long can Canna rhizomes(bulbs) be stored?

Canna rhizomes are usually stored till late spring. One needs to plant their Canna rhizomes in the late spring or early summer.

They need to sprout in the summer to continue their usual lifecycle. Plant only when the soil temperature is 60°F or higher.

If you prepared the container well, the rhizomes should be fine even in the summer.

Canna lily bulbs dried out

Canna lily rhizomes dry out if there’s not enough moisture in the peat moss layer. The rhizomes shrivel and die. Canna bulbs also shrivel up if the humidity is too low.

Canna rhizomes need just enough moisture to stay healthy during the harsh winter. If there’s too much moisture, the rhizomes get rotten.

One just needs to sprinkle water on the peat moss layer. Check the peat moss layer once a month and see if it’s wet or not.

If there’s too much moisture, increase the ventilation. You may also wanna split your rhizomes later in the spring.

Let the big rhizomes stay like that for a while and split them in the spring. This is what I do.

You can check the viability of a rhizome by soaking it in a bucket of water for a few hours. If they perk up, they will grow wonderfully.

If they don’t, you probably need to let go of the shriveled ones.

How to tell if Canna bulbs are dead?

Canna rhizomes can be considered dead if they are completely dried out or rotten. If your Canna rhizomes don’t grow after 2 months of planting in the soil/pot, they probably won’t.

You can also do a quick test. Soak the rhizomes for a couple of hours in a bucket of water. If they absorb water well, then they’re fine.

Replanting Canna bulbs

One needs to replant the stored Canna rhizomes in the late spring to resume their lifecycle. One needs to replant the stored Canna rhizomes in April to encourage blooming.

Do not plant more than one rhizome in a single planter. If there is more than one rhizome in a planter, it becomes congested.

Inspect the rhizomes carefully and keep those away which got any kind of disease/rotting in them.

One needs to divide Canna bulbs before planting them. You can cut them into many pieces. Make sure each piece has a growing shoot(Watch the video below for reference).

The individual pieces don’t need to have roots. The roots will grow eventually from the cut rhizomes.

Take a pot that has abundant drain holes. Fill 2/3 of it with potting mix. Place the rhizome in there. Top it off with potting mix so that the rhizome sits 2 inches below the surface.

Water the rhizome thoroughly after your plant it. Provide an inch of water per week to your Canna for the best results.

How to wake up Canna bulbs?

Place your Canna bulbs in a warm, bright location for 4 to 6 weeks. Ideally, you should plant them 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost date.

Shift the growing bulbs to a large container when the temperatures go above 50°F. Keep them moist enough but don’t let the soil become soggy.

Do you soak Canna bulbs before planting?

No, you don’t need to soak Canna rhizomes before planting. You can soak them for 12-24 hours if you want them to break out of dormancy sooner.

You can also make a small nick in the seed coat prior to planting the rhizome in multipurpose compost.

How do you know if Canna bulbs are still good?

Check the Canna rhizomes carefully. Discard any rhizome which has a mushy/rotten appearance. Discard the rhizomes if you see any sign of disease.

Know that the rhizome is wasted if it’s completely dried out/rotten. If your rhizomes don’t grow after 2 months, they never will sprout.

How long for Canna bulbs to sprout?

Canna rhizomes might take three to five weeks to sprout. Canna rhizomes take their time to sprout.

Spring planted Canna rhizomes take a few weeks to sprout. The rule of thumb is to plant your Cannas just after Oak trees begin to leaf.

Will Cannas come back after a hard freeze?

Yes, Cannas will grow back if you winterize the rhizomes properly. Plant them in new planters in April and they should sprout.

Plant them in pots/ground and water them adequately. They’ll grow back the foliage and start blossoming in months!

What month do Canna lilies come back?

If you plant the rhizome in April, your Canna plants should start flowering by June. The blooms will last till October.

The plant will come back sooner if you plant the rhizomes 4 weeks prior to the last date of spring frost.

Alternative ways to store Canna rhizomes

Canna rhizomes can be stored in Newspapers alone. Canna rhizomes can also be layered in sawdust. They can also be placed in a paper bag with the soil intact.

Add some moist soil to the paper bag if needed. If you use other storage media, dampen it so that it doesn’t go completely dry.

I hope I answered all the common queries in this article.

Happy Gardening 🙂