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Instructions for Planting Canna

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017

Canna lilies have multi-colored foliage and prolific flowers in a range of colors. Belonging to the Cannaceae plant family, cannas are not true lilies, but are just as attractive. They are well suited to growing in containers and look especially nice around swimming pools, where they add a tropical look. They also grow well in the garden with plenty of sun and water. Cannas are frost tender, so if you live where winter temperatures drop below freezing, dig up your cannas in the fall and store them in a cool, dark place.

Dig a generous amount of compost into your planting area after your final spring frost. For a planting area 2 feet by 6 feet, use a full five-gallon bucket of compost.

Plant your cannas in a large flowerpot if you prefer. Select a standard potting soil and mix a generous amount of compost into it before filling your pot.

Dig a hole 4 to 6 inches deep for each canna rhizome you plan to plant. Dig your holes 12 to 18 inches apart. If you’re planting in a container, one canna plant is usually all you will need. To help your cannas grow quickly, dig 1/3 cup of a 12-4-8 fertilizer into each planting hole.

Place one canna rhizome horizontally into each planting hole and then cover it with more soil/compost mixture.

Fertilize your cannas once every month starting in early spring with a plant food containing 5 percent nitrogen. Apply two pounds of this fertilizer for every 100 square feet of planting area, or calculate how much to use based on your total square footage.


Things You Will Need

  • Starter plants
  • Rich humus soil
  • Compost
  • Large flowerpot with drainage hole (optional)
  • Potting soil
  • Sunny location
  • Fertilizer


  • If you're planting your canna in a container, you can beat the season by planting it indoors one month before your final frost.
  • Fertilize container-grown plants using one-fourth the strength you would use on plants in the ground, but fertilize more often; biweekly feeding will give you good results.
  • Dig and separate canna rhizomes at least every other year.
  • Favor dwarf varieties of canna for container planting.


  • Control slugs and snails, which can eat the leaves and flowers and cause your cannas to not only look bad, but to decline in health.


About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.