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Propagating Canna Lily Seeds | A Complete Guide to growing Canna Plants

Canna Lily propagation from seed is incredibly easy to do. A guide to growing, storing and transplanting these tropical flowering plants.

Canna Lillies

The majestic Canna Lily (aka Indian Shot) will add a hint of the tropics to any garden. Did you know that they are very easy to grow from seed? They are also non-toxic, and grow incredibly quickly from seed, so an interesting and safe project for children. The following guide will give you advice in propagating Canna Lily seeds.

Canna belongs to the banana, ginger and Strelitzia (Bird of paradise) family and grows upright, with Banana-palm-like leaves and flower spikes of pink, red, white or yellow.

Ready-grown potted Cannas can be expensive if you are planning on a large display. This is why growing them from seed makes more sense.

Canna seedlings will establish themselves amazingly quickly and may flower in the first year if sown in Autumn or mid-Winter. They will also produce plenty of seeds of their own for next year’s display!

Preparing and planting your Canna seed

You may have noticed that the seed of the Canna Lily is extremely hard and round. In the past, these dark brown/black seeds have been used in the making of jewelry. They are also reminiscent of the shot pellets, hence the name ‘Indian shot’.

Because the seeds are so tough, it’s a good idea to file down their outer shells in places. Do this until the surface becomes slightly lighter, as you reach the inner seed. The seeds will then need soaking for about 24 hours in lukewarm. After this, plant each seed on the surface of moist seed compost in pots or deep trays. Gently push each seed into the compost and place inside a tied plastic bag to conserve moisture.

You will then need to place your pots/trays in a dark place at around 20-25C. Check each day for signs of germination. As soon as germination takes place (usually about 10-20 days), remove your pot from the bag and remove to a bright, frost-free position. Maintain a temperature of 20-25C.

Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Harden off and plant out when all risk of frost has passed and space 30cm (12in) apart in full sun.

Growing canna plant seeds Summary

  • Sow seeds during October or February
  • File the seeds – Canna plant seeds have very hard shells
  • Soak for 24 hours in lukewarm water
  • Sow seeds in pot or tray – just pushing them into compost a little
  • Place in plastic bag
  • Exclude all light – temp. 20-25C and check daily
  • Move to bright position once seedlings appear
  • Plant Cannas out when risk of frost has passed

Diseases that affect Canna Lilies

Canna can be susceptible to ‘Canna Rust’, a disease that affects the leaves, has no effective cure and will eventually cause the death of a plant. The sure-fire way of avoiding the disappointment of losing your prized Cannas is to ‘backup’ your supply and grow from seed. Fortunately, the seed will not carry the virus and growing Cannas in this way is very rewarding.

Transplanting cannas

Perhaps you would like to move your Cannas from one spot in the garden to another? Or, you would like to divide them up? Or perhaps they are becoming over crowded and you want transplant Cannas around the garden and your neighbourhood? I suggest you divide your plants every 4 or 5 years for a better display. Cannas are pretty tough and can withstand such an upheaval.

Remove any foliage first and remove from the ground. This is best done while the Canna Lily is dormant during Autumn to early Spring. Don’t leave them out of the ground for long. Plant them within a day or so to ensure that they don’t dry out.

If you wish to divide them up to make more plants: During early Spring, cut each cleaned root with a sterile and sharp knife. Ensure that there is at least one eyelet per segment. Mix 1 part bleach with 10 parts water and dip each segment in the solution before planting into moist compost in single pots. Keep them in a bright, frost free place. Plant out once the risk of frost has passed and the roots have heathy growth.

Storing Canna Lilies in Winter

Wintering Cannas is not difficult and the roots won’t take up a lot of room:

  1. Lifting: Carefully lift them from the ground with a fork when the frost starts to kill the foliage. Take your time. Cannas lilies are grow very well and will have put out plenty of thick tubers during the Summer. So divide them up.
  2. Cleaning: Gently clean off dead foliage, removing it down to 2-3 inches from the base. Wash off the dirt from the roots and be careful not to break or scratch them as this can facilitate disease.
  3. Curing: Place your Canna roots in a cool, dry, frost free place in order to ‘cure’ them for several days. This will allow for the roots to toughen up, outside of the protection of the soil.
  4. Storing: Roll up each root into a sheet of news paper and return to a cool, dry place. Keep an eye on your Cannas during the Winter months to ensure that they are not at risk of rot.
  5. Replanting: Plant the roots in moist compost during April or May, 8cm deep. Protect from frost.

And don’t forget to enjoy your Canna Lily plants. They are my person favourite and I look forward each year, to seeing their lush leaves and showy flowers.

By James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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4 replies on “Propagating Canna Lily Seeds | A Complete Guide to growing Canna Plants”

Great information! I never considered growing canna from seeds, but now I’ll try it.

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