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How to Prune Canna Lilies

Pruning canna lilies, or Indian Shot as they are sometimes called, is an essential skill for any dedicated gardener. Properly timed and executed pruning can rejuvenate your canna plants, promote healthier growth, and enhance their overall beauty. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the art of pruning canna lilies, ensuring your garden flourishes with vibrant and thriving blooms.

I have a cluster of dark bronze canna lilies with deep red blooms growing right at the corner of my house. Their foliage and bright flowers are a real eye catcher when you pass my house, so I like to keep them pruned and looking good.

If you have canna lilies in your garden, you’re fully aware of their beauty and tropical features. The bright flowers and huge banana tree-like leaves can create a lush jungle feel around your yard or poolside.

canna lily

If you have canna lilies in your garden, you are probably also aware that they can become ugly really quick!

Infestations of canna lily leaf rollers are a threat in many areas of the southeast or wherever you grow canna lilies. Canna lilies can easily be beaten by the wind leaving their leaves in shreds.

If you’d like to learn how to get rid of or prevent canna lily leaf rollers, I have a great guide for growing lilies and treating this problem.

How to get Rid of Canna Leaf Rollers

Then there’s always that tall flower stalk that falls over and breaks just as it’s reaching its peak bloom.

Plant Them Close together

First off, if you haven’t, I want to recommend planting your canna lilies in a tight bunch. That way they can “lean on” each other as they grow and keep the bed looking fuller.

Just my opinion but it seems to work a lot better than spreading them out. You can always divide them later as they get bigger for more flowers.

Pruning Your Canna Lilies

If you’ve never tried pruning canna lilies, now is the time. Pruning canna lilies is a great way to keep your plants looking awesome throughout the entire growing season.

Proper canna lily pruning can easily extend your blooming season for months. Pruning your canna lilies can also reduce the weight of the stems, thereby resulting in less of your tall stalks falling over ruining the overall look of the plant.

 If you’re more into videos, I have a short How to Deadhead Canna Lilies video. Click the link below.

How to Prune Canna Lilies Video.

Use a Sharp Shear

Using clean, sharp shears is best. Even a slightly dull shear will result in just smushing the tender leaves of the canna lily, damaging your plant further.

When pruning your canna lilies, the first thing you want to look for is damaged leaves or stems. This type of damage can be from insects or being beaten by the wind or ripped along their veins. When your canna leaves are turning brown, it may be because it’s just the end of the season and they are about to die back for winter. You can prune this brown canna foliage off any time of the year.

canna lily

Canna lilies are prone to insect attack because of their tender leaves always growing. To clean this part up, simply cut the damaged leaves off the plant as close as you can next to the stem.

If the leaves are too damaged overall, it is best to go ahead and cut the stalk all the way down to about 2 inches from the ground. This will encourage new growth.

Depending on the time of year, your canna lily will have plenty of time to grow an entire new stalk.

You can do this type of pruning anytime throughout the year.


The other type of pruning to clean up your canna lilies is deadheading. This is the technique of removing spent flowers. Feel free to cut these off as soon as they start to wilt.

Deadheading Canna lilies can help reduce the weight of the plant as it gets taller, helping to reduce their collapse during rainstorms or a windy afternoon.

How To Deadhead A Canna Lily

To deadhead a canna lily, simply cut below the spent flower. Be careful as the canna lily will continue to bloom on the same stalk as it grows up.

You should see a new bud coming out of a point just above the previous bloom. Deadheading the older flower will result in a fuller brighter new bloom.

Deadheading old wilted blooms will promote a longer bloom season and a more beautiful plant!

As you deadhead the spent blooms, you will get to a point where the canna lily will quit blooming altogether. If the leaves are not damaged and look good, you can just cut your last flower off and leave it.

If there’s any damage at all, feel free to cut these spent stalks all the way to about two or three inches above the ground.

That’s really all there is to pruning these beautiful flowers and keeping them looking their best throughout the season.

Canna Lilies are Very Hardy

As winter comes around or a hard frost burns them up, don’t be afraid to cut the stems all the way to the ground. Canna lilies are one of those plants that’s bounds back to a full- grown plant come Spring, given the fact you are growing them in their proper zone, and they aren’t frozen to death.

In my zone 8b, I have Canna lilies that have been coming back every year even after the big snow a couple years ago. They are a tough plant and bring lots of joy throughout the years.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Angela McCirmack

    Thank you, I have canna lilies and elephant ear bulbs. They are supposed to be removed in the fall but seem to be thriving. I will cut them back and dig them up for next year

    1. ErickDStyron

      thanks for checking out the website!

  2. Sage

    thank you! of all the sites that I’ve visited yours is the most detailed and helpful. We just moved into a new home in SC Lowcountry where the previous owner planted beautiful canna lilies (red-orange) all around the home. I’m new to gardening but I’m determined to restore them back to full beauty. Many fell victim to the caterpillars, you mentioned…but some are 8ft tall. We dont get too cold in the Lowcountry but we hit the 30’s with highs in the 70’s this week and all of my lilies turned brown and possibly died. I cut them down like you said and covered with mulch…..praying i did it right and they will come back in spring.

    1. ErickDStyron

      thank YOU for the kind comment! now is also a good time to transplant if you need to, we had two consecutive below freezing nights so mine are done for the season as well. The particular ones I have are from my grandmother’s home, and have literally been coming back every year since around 1945. They are very resilient! this is in Alabama btw so our freezes are probably not near as severe as yours though

  3. Melanie

    I put my canna in the shed before the frosts…. I did not cut it down to ground level. It seems to be budding. What is the best thing to do now??

    1. ErickDStyron

      If it’s in a pot, you can cover the new growth with mulch. the cold should slow the growth but if it continues to grow and gets damaged, you’d be safe just to cut it back again in Spring and start over. In 8B, mine are shooting up, I just let them go because the ground never hard freezes. Trim back damaged leaves in the Spring and they’ll be fine

      1. BigRed

        I’ve been using cannas around the pool forever.
        I’m in zone 9, and don’t remove them for winter. I just let them die down , and re pot in spring.
        Because they’re fast growers, and multiply quickly underground, especially in warm climates, take care not to plant them too close to irrigation pipes that may get damaged. For that reason I’ve restricted my cannas to tall self watering pots. And even at that, I must empty the pots every spring, to divide and conquer before they leap into growing season, and damage the pots. This is a great time to share and trade with friends! I’ve learned to use zipper bags and LABEL EACH COLOR directly on the bag w a grease pencil, because one year I ended up with absolutely zero Tropicanas , my favorites!
        There are so many colors, and varieties: some short , some tall, red foliage, bronze foliage, and striped, also. They look great all mixed in, but sometimes I like to know which combos I’m potting up. You know how it is, some years the garden is more stunning than others.

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  5. Kay

    I have great luck with potted cannas but when I try to grow one from the a bulb they always rot. Haven’t had one success after 6 tries so end up buying a growing plant. What am I doing wrong?

    1. ErickDStyron

      Drainage! if they sit in wet, they’ll rot. my soil is really sandy so stays damp but no setting water. try to keep them dry and barely under the surface. I’ve had bare ones bloom in a bucket

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