Do Canna Lilies Spread? Are They Invasive?

By Paul Smart •  Updated: 03/11/22 •  6 min read

Do Canna Lilies Spread? Are They Invasive? Canna lilies are a popular plant that is used widely in ornamental gardens because it gives that tropical feel due to the lush foliage and bright coloured flowers. However, if you put canna lilies in will they spread and are they invasive?

Canna lilies do spread gradually over time however this rate of spread is generally extremely slow which means that they will generally remain in the same place that they are planted. Canna lilies generally spread through the growth of their rhizomes which is quite slow, they do also produce seed that can result in spreading. However, in my experience, this has not been a significant issue.

The rhizomes that canna lilies produce will periodically need to be divided as the plant can become crowded over time which can affect the health of the plant and the degree to which it produces foliage and flowers.

The easiest way to divide the canna lilies is to dig up the entire plant and then use a spade to split apart the rhizome into smaller clumps. Typically I like to have two to three shoots coming out of each and every clump to ensure that the plant will survive over a period of time.

Do Canna Lilies Need To Be Brought Inside In Winter

Whether you need to bring Canna Lilies inside or not during the winter will depend greatly upon the climate in which you live. As a general rule if it is cold enough for the rhizomes to freeze you need to bring the plants inside. In the region that I live in which is Zone 10, the plants can survive outside even though there is the odd day that does get below freezing for short periods of time in mid-winter.

If it is necessary to bring the Canna Lilies inside it is generally a good idea to dig them up in late Autumn around the time that the first frost is appearing. If you have a relatively large clump it is a good idea to divide it and then place individual clumps of the Canna Lilies into an area that typically doesn’t get lower than about 40°F (4°C) as this will ensure that the plant is not exposed to frost.

It is generally recommended when storing Canna Lilies to wrap them in newspaper to prevent them from drying out and place them in a moderately well-ventilated area. During the winter period, you may need to check up on these plants once or twice and if they do look particularly dry you may want to give them a drink. However, this usually only needs to be done very occasionally.

Once the weather starts to improve in early spring you can start to think about planting the Canna Lilies back out into the garden. This should generally occur around the same time as the last frost of the season.

Canna Lily Golden Lucifer” by Kirt Edblom is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Are There Many Different Types Of Canna Lilies?

There are numerous different varieties of Canna Lilies that are available on the market. The vast majority of these canna lilies have flowers that are either yellow bright, red, orange or pink. However, there are some varieties that have a very pale coloured colour that is approaching white such as “The Ambassadour” variety.

Aside from their different flowers, there is also a range of different foliage colours that can also be obtained. The most common varieties have green foliage but there are also ones that have variegated foliage and also dark chocolate coloured foliage which is quite striking. One example of this is the “Tropicana” variety which has dark foliage with bright orange flowers which means that it is Prized for its foliage as much as its flowers.

To see a list of canna lily plants that are available try visiting as they contain a list of over 20 different varieties that will give you a good idea of the kinds of Canna Lilies that are commercially available.

Caring For Canna Lily Plants

Canna Lily plants are generally quite easy to look after and require relatively little maintenance. If you are purchasing canna lilies for the first time it is ideal to select a rhizome that has between 3 and 5 eyes on it to ensure that you have a good clump of foliage appearing in the first year.

Once the plant itself has been selected the next important step is to select a site that is suitable to grow it. Canna Lilies generally prefer a sunny location that has rich moist and free-drained soil with plenty of nutrients. If your soil is lacking nutrients it is recommended that you dig in a bag of compost before planting it.

The rhizomes should be planted at a depth of approximately 4 inches and then backfilled with soil and a thick layer of mulch should be applied. 

Canna lily ‘Tropicana’” by Shotaku is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Once the plant is in position, generally the only maintenance required is to water the plant regularly to ensure that it has sufficient moisture. The plant will typically produce lush foliage over the following few months before flowering in late summer and autumn.

However, as winter approaches it is advisable to cut the foliage and flower Heads to the ground ready for next season. This will also make it easier to bring the plant inside if you live in a region that is relatively cold. However, before doing so it is advisable to complete a division of the plants if required to ensure that it remains vigorous.

I hope you found this article useful and have great success with your Canna Lilies if you have any additional questions or comments please leave them in the section below.

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Paul Smart