Overwinter canna lilies is easy and worth the effort to save these gorgeous tropical plants. In this post, I’ll discuss three possible methods, show you how to dig up and store the bulbs, and give you tons of winter care and replanting tips too.
I don’t know about you, but after watching them thrive all summer, it’s very difficult to see the flowers and foliage slowly die back once cold weather arrives in the fall.
The good news is that it is possible to overwinter canna lilies no matter where you live, or how cold it gets outside.
Below I share all my best tips on wintering cannas three different ways, so you can choose the one that works best for you and your climate.
Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed guide…
Will Canna Lilies Survive Winter?
Even if you live in a cold climate like I do here in MN, canna lilies will survive for years to come as long as you overwinter them properly.
Many types sold at the garden center as annuals are actually tender perennials that are hardy in zones 8 and above.
If the ground never freezes where you live, you can leave them in the garden. But the rest of us must dig up the bulbs (sometimes called tubers, but technically they’re rhizomes), and bring them indoors for winter.
Related Post: How To Overwinter Plants: The Complete Guide
3 Methods Of Overwintering Canna Bulbs
There are three simple ways to overwinter canna lily bulbs. Here’s a quick list of your options, which I’ll describe in much more detail below.
- Leave canna lilies in the ground
- Overwinter cannas in pots
- Dig up and store canna bulbs for winter
How To Overwinter Canna Lily Bulbs
Choosing the best method for overwintering canna lilies depends on where you live and how you planted them.
1. Leaving Canna Lilies In The Ground
Anyone who lives in the warmer zones of 8+ can leave their canna bulbs in the ground over winter, as long as the soil doesn’t freeze.
If you live on the cooler side of their hardiness zone, you can mulch them to give them extra warmth. This added protection will help them survive short cold spells.
Keep in mind that freezing temps will kill the foliage. So if that happens, just cut it back to the ground, and the rhizomes will regrow once it gets warmer in the spring.
2. Overwintering Cannas In Pots
If your cannas are in a pot, there’s no need to pull them out, you can overwinter them right in the container.
The easiest way to do this is to let them go dormant. Cool fall temps naturally trigger dormancy, so leave them outside until frost kill the foliage.
Once that happens, cut them back to the soil level, and move the container inside before it gets below freezing.
3. Digging & Storing Canna Bulbs For Winter
By far the most popular method of overwintering canna lilies is to dig up and store the bulbs. This is a must if they are planted in the garden.
The nice thing about it is that there’s no rush to dig them up. You can leave them in the ground even after a hard freeze kills the plant. As long as you lift them before the ground freezes, they will survive.
Preparing Canna Lilies For Winter Storage
If your canna lilies are in the ground, then you’ll need to dig up the rhizomes and store them for winter. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult. Follow these tips to properly lift them and prepare them for storage.
When To Dig Up Canna Lily Bulbs
The best time to dig up canna lily bulbs is after the cold has killed the foliage in the fall. Freezing temps trigger dormancy, which is what we need in order to successfully store them.
You’ll have plenty of time to dig them up, so you don’t have to rush. As long as you get them out before the ground freezes or the snow flies, they’ll be fine.
How To Dig Up Canna Bulbs For Winter
Before digging them up, cut the foliage back to the ground, or leave 2-3” of the stem intact to use as a handle when you pull them out.
Start digging at least a foot away from where the stems are poking out of the ground, so you don’t accidentally cut or damage the bulbs.
When you have the clump completely out, use your hands to gently shake or brush away the largest clumps of soil.
How To Cure Canna Bulbs Before Storing
It’s important to cure (dry) canna bulbs before you overwinter them to prevent rot and mold. Remove the remaining foliage and stems beforehand. Then set them out in a warm, dry place for a week or so.
I spread mine out on newspaper on the floor or a shelf in my garage or basement, and space them so they aren’t touching each other.
How To Store Canna Bulbs For Winter
In this section, I’ll show you how to properly pack and store canna bulbs for the winter. You can skip the part about packing them if yours are in a pot.
Packing Canna Lily Bulbs For Storage
Though some people have success just wrapping the rhizomes in paper, I have trouble with the smaller ones drying out too much.
Place individual bulbs or clumps into the box so they aren’t touching each other, then fill in around them with the packing medium. If it’s big enough, you can put several layers into one box.
If you don’t have a cardboard box, you could use a similar storage container. But don’t use something made out of plastic, or it could cause mold or rot.
Where To Store Canna Bulbs Over Winter
The best place to store canna bulbs for winter is in a cool, dry place where it stays above freezing. A basement, cellar, or heated garage are all fantastic choices.
Ideally the temperature range should stay between 40-60° F. If it gets too warm, they could start to sprout prematurely or rot. Learn more about storing bulbs here.
Canna Lily Winter Care Tips
Check on your canna lily bulbs monthly during winter storage to make sure they aren’t rotting, molding, or drying out too much.
Remove any that are rotting or have mold on them immediately so it doesn’t spread to the others.
If they’re getting too dry, then lightly spritz them with water to keep them hydrated. But don’t wet them down too much.
Replanting Canna Bulbs After Overwintering
Now that you know how to overwinter canna lilies, here are some tips that will help you successfully replant them in the spring.
When To Plant Canna Lily Bulbs
You can safely replant your overwintered canna bulbs outside in the spring after all chance of frost has passed.
As long as the soil temperature is above 60° F, you can put them back in the ground. Use a soil thermometer to check it.
If you kept them in the pot, you can move them back outside once the air temperature stays above freezing.
How To Prepare Canna Lily Bulbs For Planting
There’s nothing special you need to do to prepare canna lily bulbs for planting. But, if you want to try to break their dormancy faster, you can soak them in warm water for 12-24 hours beforehand.
I like to use a compost tea solution for soaking mine to give them an extra boost, but this step is completely optional.
Starting Canna Bulbs Indoors
Another option for getting them to wake up faster is to start the bulbs indoors 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date.
FAQs About Overwintering Canna Lilies
Here are some questions people often ask about overwintering canna lilies. If you can’t find an answer here, ask yours in the comments below.
Can canna lilies grow indoors over winter?
While it is possible for canna lilies to grow indoors over winter, it’s very difficult to keep them alive. They need a lot of light, and are extremely susceptible to bugs. Managing the perfect balance of water, moisture, and sun inside the house can be a huge challenge.
Do you have to dig up canna bulbs in the fall?
You have to dig up canna bulbs in the fall if you live in a cold climate where the ground freezes. Otherwise, you don’t need to lift them, you can leave them in the garden all winter.
Can you overwinter cannas in pots?
Yes, you can overwinter cannas in pots. Cut the foliage back to the soil level before moving them indoors. Stop watering, and keep them in a cool and dry location that doesn’t fall below 40°F.
Can you leave canna lilies in the ground over winter?
You can leave canna lilies in the ground over winter if the soil does’t freeze where you live. If you are in zone 7 or lower, then it’s too cold for them to survive outdoors.
How long can you store canna bulbs?
You can store canna bulbs for several months without any issues. But for best results you should plant them every year, even if you don’t get to it until later in the summer. If you try storing them too long, eventually they will dry out and die.
How can you tell if canna bulbs are dead?
You can tell canna bulbs are dead if they are completely dried out or rotted through. If you aren’t sure, try planting them. If they don’t start to grow after about 2 months, then they are dead.
Since they are so easy to overwinter, you don’t have to live in a tropical climate to enjoy canna lilies year after year. Just follow these simple tips to extend their life and beauty for a long time.
If you’re tired of watching your plants struggle and die during the darkest, driest months of the year, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is exactly what you need. It will show you how to keep indoor plants thriving all year. Download your copy today.
More About Overwintering Plants
- How To Overwinter Plumeria (Frangipani) Plants Indoors
- How To Overwinter Tropical Hibiscus Plants Indoors
Share your tips for overwintering canna lilies in the comments section below.