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Canna Lily Winter Care

Canna lilies have tender tubers. In warm climates where winter temperatures rarely drop below 40 degrees F, mulching the flower bed would be sufficient to protect them frost and freezing. In most places, like here in Cincinnati where fall and winter temperatures will drop below freezing, canna lilies will need special care to survive cold temperatures.  You may also need to store your Dahlias, Gladiolus and other tender weather bulbs and tubers.  This technique works for every bulb I have ever stored over the cold winter months.


Before you dig up your tubers you need to think of where you will store them.  You can use a box, large bucket or heavy plastic garbage bag and fill it with damp sand, sphagnum peat moss, coarse sawdust or vermiculite particles.   I prefer to keep mine in 4′ frames with screen material stapled to the bottom.  I like this because it is easy to spray the bulbs and tubers to remove the remaining dirt and it allows air to circulate during storage.

Allow the first fall frost to blacken the foliage of the canna lilies.

You can dig them up as long as the soil is workable and snow or frost hasn’t crusted the soil surface.  Start digging  6 inches away from the base of the plant. Use the shovel to loosen the roots.  I lightly tap the tuber on the ground to remove any loose soil.

 I lay the tubers in my tray and move it into the garage and spray with a hose loosening and removing any additional soil.  I allow the tubers to rest and dry over 1-3 days.
Once the bulbs are dried I cover the tubers with peat moss and store them in a cool, dark but slightly moist condition, between 40 and 50 degrees F. I will check the tubers throughout the winter season and if moss is bone dry I will mist the moss lightly with water.
Make sure to label the container or the individual bulb with a permanent marker, you don’t want to be guessing what you are planting come spring time.

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36 comments on “Canna Lily Winter Care”

  1. Hi Amy!
    I’m from the south of England in the UK and this is the best canna overwintering advice I’ve seen yet!

    Last year I tried to keep them going in the house but unfortunately most rotted and I’ve had to start again.
    Winters here are normally around 0c (32f) but can be very wet – I’m looking to follow your advice and store them in my cellar this year after reading this.

    Some above were asking about overwintering in the ground, a good garden centre here recommends planting them on a good few inches of sand or grit so that there is less chance of rotting over the winter. You’d still need to mulch.

    There’s also a great grower here called Hart Canna that had lots of interesting info and plants, but not as concise as this.

    Best, Ian.

  2. Hey, Amy!
    I live in middle TN and planted calla and canna lilies in pots (cuz the soil is too dense…clayish??? I’m from Iowa where the black soil grows Anything). I left ’em out in the pots and the canna are mushy above soil-level. Will it be ok?? It’s a Tropicana so if not I’d like to get another one this spring. Any info is greatly appreciated! VKD

    1. Hi Val,
      You can’t judge what they are doing above soil. However, if it is super wet and your pots are not draining properly, they could rot. It might be good to pull them out and store them in some sand in the garage or basement.
      Good luck,

  3. Hi Amy,
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge to the world. I found this page after it is too late. I have always dreamt of planting Cannas but no luck as I never knew their name. Recently, I rented this beautiful house with cannas which I enjoyed for a short of time as last week all were suddenly brown and some are dry. I swear I cried as I wanted to do something to them but still no luck finding their names on the internet. Finally, tonight, I found your page after searching images under “ caring for outdoor plants in winter”. I live in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Is there any thing I can do to help them sprout in the summer or it is too late? Thank you

  4. Avatar photo
    vong hoa tang

    This is one of my favorite flowers. I like the beautiful colors of each flower, bring me the feeling of happiness of life. Thank you for your article.

  5. Hello,

    I realize this blog is several years old but I am hoping that you may still receive notifications about new posts.

    This past summer was my first summer raising flowers. I bought a variety… Petunia, Marigold, Mandeville (climbing & bush varieties), African Daisy, Sunflowers, Begonia, Bandana Lantana, Dahlia, Cana Lily and a few others.

    I’m starting to feel sad about it being the end of summer and having to say farewell to all the glorious slender these flowers have given. I would like to bring them in for the winter without letting them die and then digging up the tubers/bulbs.

    Some of the plants I put in a flower bed & the others in pots.

    My question is, can I dig up the Canna Lilys, Dahlias, and the Bandana Lantanas, (possibly others), and transfer them to pots, and then bring them in for the winter? Will they continue to grow? Or, will they go dormant or, die?

    Please pardon my ignorance but I do not know very much about flowers. I have been learning as I go. Some advice from an expert like yourself would be much appreciated.

    One last question. Apparently, some of my flowers (the Mandevilles) have caught rust. I have sprayed them but their new growth is coming in pale/light green and older leaves are yellowing (almost over night), and dropping off. Others have developed some sort of mold. Possibly gray mold. And my African Daisies have either rust or something that’s making their once dark green leaves look sickly with tiny spots and the leaves near the soil are wilting.

    Any ideas? If I cannot cure them are they worth saving?

    Sorry for all the questions! I sure would appreciate your time, advice, and effort to help me to help my beautiful babies get well and to make it through the winter one way or the other.


  6. I am new to cannas this year and live in Oklahoma. I have read several things on how to take care of them threw the winter but unsure what is my best option. We had our first freeze last night and now they look dead. Wonder when and how I need to take care of them.

  7. Can I put my large canna plants in very large pots in the unheated greenhouse over the winter before the frosts start? Then when the leaves grow brown cut them down and leave them there until they start to shot in spring?Carole from kent englandcarole

  8. Hey, Amy: I live in NYC and removed my Cannas in the Fall. I placed them in a cool spot in my basement, wrapped the roots in newspaper and placed them in plastic bags. I checked on them a few weeks later and saw that they had started to sprout. I moved them to a colder spot and the sprouts have continued to grow. Now I am not sure what to do. Your suggestions would be appreciated… thank you… CJ

    1. Hi CJ, I have had this happen to several bulbs and tubers. Since March is right around the corner, I would let them do what they will and just plant them up in the spring, letting their growth pop up. You will just have flowers earlier than the rest of us. 🙂

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