Colorful Cannas Flowers Add Beauty to Any Garden

Cannas flowers, sometimes called canna lilies, are semi-tropical plants that grow from rhizomes. Gardeners love the bold flowers and foliage.

Canna Varieties

When we bought our home in Florida several years ago, we found several treasures in the otherwise bland backyard. As we dug up an area to create my native butterfly garden, we came across several large rhizomes, apparently dormant. We weren’t sure what they were, so for the time being, we popped them into a pot and waited to see what would happen. With a few months, our rhizomes had put on 5 feet of growth with giant leaves followed by brilliant pink blooms. We had found a treasure trove of cannas flowers!

Get expert calla lily care and growing tips.

Cannas Flower Care and Growing Tips

Bengal Tiger canna lily, foliage plantsBotanic World/Alamy Stock Photo
Bengal Tiger canna lily boasts bright orange flowers that stand on tall stalks above large striped green and yellow leaves.

Cannas flowers, sometimes called canna lilies, are semi-tropical plants that grow from rhizomes. They are native to the warmer areas of the Americas. Golden canna (Canna flaccida) is native in the southeast United States, but most cannas flowers you buy today are cultivars or hybrids of a variety other species. This has given us a wide range of colors and growth habits, including some that are only about 2 feet tall instead of 5 to 8 feet, like the native varieties. Plant cannas in the spring for summer blooms.

  • Canna
  • Zones 7 to 10
  • Full Sun
  • Moist, well-draining soil

Cannas need moist soil to perform well. They’re perfect for wet spots in the garden, such as an area where a downspout directs water. You can also plant taller varieties directly in water, up to about 2 feet deep. Choose a spot with full sun or partial shade, where these flowers can tolerate slightly drier soil in my experience.

Learn how to care for a peace lily plant.

Cannas Foliage

Toucan Yellow cannas flowersCourtesy of Proven Winners –
Toucan Yellow

While the flower spikes are impressive in their own right, these plants are beloved for their foliage. The large, boldly colored leaves create a tropical effect when combined with other bright, flowering plants. Some varieties have bronze or even striped foliage.

These water lily flower pictures will take your breath away.

Overwintering Cannas

South Pacific Orange canna gives a tropical glow to any backyard.All-America Selections
South Pacific Orange canna gives a tropical glow to any backyard.

Cannas grow from fleshy rhizomes. Dig them up in fall and overwinter in sawdust or peat moss in a cool, dry area. Replant the rhizomes next spring, after the threat of frost passes.

Most varieties are considered winter-hardy to zone 7. Gardeners in colder areas can grow them as annuals or in pots that are brought inside for the winter.

Do lily flowers have special meaning?

Pests on Cannas

Canna Skipper (Calpodes ethlius) caterpillars are transparent - the green you see is the food in its gut. They roll the leaves of Canna around them as they eat using silk.Jill Staake
Canna skipper caterpillars are transparent. The green you see is the food in its gut. They roll the leaves of canna around them as they eat using silk.

In their native areas, cannas can be afflicted by the leaf-rolling caterpillars of canna skippers (Calpodes ethlius). These little guys can do some real damage to the foliage if they’re not noticed right away, but usually won’t affect the flowering or overall health of the plant.

As soon as you notice signs of leaf-rolling, pull the leaf apart and remove the caterpillar inside. Drop it in in soapy water to kill it. You can also watch for eggs on the leaves and remove them first.

True lily vs daylily: what’s the difference?

Cannas Flower Varieties

hummingbird cannas flowers, canna lilyCourtesy Andrea Garvin
Female ruby throated hummingbird feeding on cannas flowers

Hundreds of varieties are available. Try the vigorous, heat-loving South Pacific, an All-America Selections Winner with glowing orange flowers. This variety is grown from seed instead of rhizomes. For gorgeous golden flowers, plant Toucan Yellow. Red varieties like ‘King Humbert’ will attract hummingbirds.

Next, learn how to grow Persian lily flowers for dark garden drama.

Jill Staake
Jill Staake's lifelong love of nature turned into a career during the years she spent working with native Florida butterflies, caterpillars, and other wildlife at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, Florida. During this time, she helped to maintain 30+ acres of gardens and backwoods, all carefully cultivated to support the more than 20 species of butterflies displayed indoors and out. She now writes for a variety of publications and sites on topics like gardening and birding, among others.