Growing Cannas in Containers

Orange Canna LilyCannas, also called canna lilies, are a beautiful, showy, tropical flower. They are typically planted in bunches throughout traditional landscaping, however, they can also be an interesting centerpiece for large container arrangements. The height, foliage and flowers make cannas ideal for being a focal point in a large patio planter.


While cannas are native to the tropics they can be grown in a great variety of climates. Wikipedia states that cannas can survive anywhere, even the arctic, as long as they get six to eight hours of sunlight a day. They grow very quickly so even the shortest growing season can produce a beautiful flower. Cannas are susceptible to frost, however, and should be brought indoors at the first hint of a cold night. Cannas can also be dug from the ground and the rhizomes can be stored and replanted in the spring.  Cannas multiply fast, so a gardener can have a vast collection of rhizomes after only a few years. If you live in zone 7 or warmer, cannas can be left outside year round.


Cannas can be started indoors a few weeks before the frost free date. Then they will be ready, as soon as it is warm enough, to anchor your container. Container Gardening recommends planting cannas 4 inches deep in a 15 inch or larger pot.  Use a loose potting mix that will not remain too soggy. They like a lot of moisture so provide water frequently. Cannas will thrive if a slow release fertilizer is also added to the soil.


Cannas grow several feet tall and have broad leaves that vary in color. They can come in bright greens, reds, purples and variegated with several different color pairings. Flowers come in warm solid colors including red, pink, yellow, salmon and orange. Some cultivars also have speckled flowers in combinations of the above. Different cultivars also have different shapes and sizes of flowers. Some are small and narrow while others are larger with broader petals.

Choose the cultivar that best fits you decor. Consider highlighting a canna that has interesting foliage in your patio planter. Because most cannas grow several feet tall, place them cannas in the middle of the container or back middle to avoid blocking the lower growing plants. Be sure to pair cannas with other plants that tolerate full sun. Better Homes and Gardens suggests pairing cannas with lantana, coleus, vinca, sweet potato vine and maiden grass. Petunias can also add colorful mounding flowers and tolerate sun well.


Very few pests hinder canna’s growth. Japanese beetles, which eat canna foliage and canna leaf rollers is one. According to Horticulture Magazine, canna leaf rollers can be managed with applications of Bt and making sure the previous year’s foliage is removed from the growing site. Japanese beetles are very difficult to control, but can be removed by hand at the first sign of an adult beetle.

Cannas are grow quickly and easily with lots of sun. Their height and showy foliage make them ideal for a container arrangement. If you have a sunny spot on your porch or patio be sure to feature a canna! Do you have a favorite container recipe that includes cannas?

Photo “Orange Cana Lily” courtesy of Newtown Grafiti

Fiberglass Planters

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