Growing Canna Lilies from Seed
Canna Lilies are beautiful, tropical foliage plants that can be very costly. Growing Canna Lilies from seed is a great way to save money and see the rewards for your own labor.
Canna Lilies are very easy to grow from seed if done properly and require scarification before they can germinate. Below you will find everything you need to know to grow Canna Lilies from seed including proper scarification, harvesting and planting instructions.
Where to Find Canna Lily Seeds
Seeds can be gathered from any healthy Canna Lily and either stored or planted almost immediately. You can gather seed from your own plants or from plants of friends, family and neighbors.
Canna Lily seeds can also be purchased online at various sites such as seed companies, garden centers, Amazon.com and eBay.com. You can also find them in mail order catalogs, though bulbs are more common.
How to Harvest Canna Lily Seeds
Harvesting Canna Lily seeds is quite simple. After the flowers fade allow the pods to turn brown. As they dry they will begin to crack open. As soon as they start to crack open you can harvest the seed by cutting the pod off and either storing the whole pod or immediately separating the seeds from the pod.
Once you have harvested your Canna Lily seeds discard any and all non-viable seeds. These can easily be identified visually. Healthy, mature Canna Lily seeds will be a dark, brownish black color and round or slightly oval shaped. Any seeds that are cracked, misshapen or not the right color need to be thrown out immediately.
Some species are hybrid and may not produce seed. One thing to remember when harvesting seeds from any type of plant, especially a hybrid plant, is that the seeds may not be true to the parent plant. This means that even though you harvested seeds from a red Canna Lily you may get white, yellow, red, black or even a mixed of different colors. This is due to all the cross breeding that has taken place in order to produce the parent plant. It's call hybridizing. Either way, regardless of the parent, you are sure to get beautiful Canna Lilies from the seeds you produce. You may even produce a new strain or color which could mean many wonderful things including a new variety that you could patent. This is how all new flowers are brought to life.
Canna Lily Seed Pod that Has Not Dried Out Yet
Step 1: Scarifying Canna Lily Seeds
Growing Canna Lilies from seed is very easy! The first and most important step is to scarify each seeds.
Canna Lilies have a very hard shell which needs to be penetrated so that the embryo can erupt from the seed. This can be accomplished by several different methods. I have found that the easiest and quickest method is using a pair of nail clippers.
Holding the seed with one hand, use the corners of the clippers to nick the seed. Nick it just enough that you can see small portion of the white interior. A simple slice that is just big enough to see the white area is fine. The nick does not have to be big or deep. It can be anywhere on the seed and does not require anything special. If you go a little deeper don't worry, it won't hurt anything. I have actually cut the tip of the embryo before and it still sprouted out just fine.
Step 2: Soaking Canna Lily Seeds
Once you have nicked your Canna Lily seeds give them a head start by soaking them in water for 2-5 days. While this is not a requirement this greatly speeds the process by softening the coat of the seed and exposing the embryo to water much sooner. Use a resealable bag, covered container or dish and cover the nicked seeds with water and allow them to soak for a day or two.
After 1-2 days you should notice a white nodule poking through the end of the seed. By the next day it is obvious that a taproot has formed. I usually wait till my seeds have sprouted to 3-5 milometers or until I have time to plant them.
You can see in the picture to the right that some of the seeds have a bigger tap root that others. Some of this is due to the fact that I was going through a few hundred seeds and would drop in a few more each day. Also notice the nicks on each seed. This nick was much smaller prior to the seeds soaking and swelling.
Step 3: Planting Canna Lily Seeds
Once your Canna Lilies have germinated you are ready to plant them. Using a good potting mix, prepare pots, trays or flower beds by evening the soil, watering thoroughly and allowing the water to drain.
Once your pots (or growing area) are prepared create a hole about 1 inch deep. Place a seed in each whole with the root pointing down (or close to it). Cover the hole with soil and water thoroughly to help set the seeds.
Place your seed pots in a well lit location indoors or out. Be sure to protect for freezing temperatures, excess rains and extreme heat. Keep the soil moist but do not allow it to dry out.
Your new Canna Lily seeds should sprout with in 5-7 days. When the seeds emerge you wil see a tiny, light green shoot beginning to break the soil. As it gets bigger, it will start to 'unfold' and you will be able to see the first signs of your new Canna Lily leaves.
A Great Book for Growing Canna Lilies
Step 4: Planting Canna Lily Seedlings
Once your Canna Lily seedling are well established and have a 2-3 true leaves on them you can re-pot them using a larger pot or plant them directly in the ground. Just be sure to wait till all danger of frost has passed before planting outside. Plant them about 8-12 inches apart.
Keep your new Canna Lilies watered well and insure the soil is moist but not soggy. Fertilize regularly using a general purpose fertilizer.
Canna Lilies started from seed will take 2-3 years to become prolific bloomers. Though you may see blooms sooner if well maintained.
Canna Lilies grow well in pots as a single specimen or do great in flower beds as borders, to create height or by mass planting such as the picture to the right. Canna Lilies will multiply themselves by rhizomes each year. They can be divided and transplanted as desired.
Canna Lilies Grow Great in Containers
Canna Lily Seeds on Amazon
Lovely Peach Canna Lily
Beautiful Pink Canna Lily
Stunning Yellow Canna Lily
Your thoughts and ideas on Canna Lilies
Mildred Burgos on February 13, 2020:
I just love Canna Lillies. I grow them in my garden each year In Memory of My Beloved Son Eric and Husband Ralph. They are such a beautiful healing flower.
Stephanie (author) from DeFuniak Springs on December 12, 2016:
You cancdo either way. Store or plant now.
Stephanie (author) from DeFuniak Springs on December 12, 2016:
Im not sure what the exact storage time would be but I have had 95%+ success rate with seeds over 3 years old!
Julie Taran on October 07, 2016:
Do the bulbs of canna lilies always have to be dug up in the fall? Or is there a way to cover them properly and keep them in the ground through winter?
Heather on November 01, 2015:
If I harvest the seeds in the fall, should I store them until spring before I follow the above process? Help!
Stephanie on September 02, 2015:
i just collected a good amount of cannas seeds but I'm not ready to plant them yet. Can I store them, and for how long?
M on March 15, 2015:
I followed your advice and my baby canna lilies are growing beautifully!
Thanks so much for this great article!
hernjackie on September 29, 2013:
I have had Cannas for years and never knew I could save the seeds. A 5 year old told me about them ,and did a little research! Thanks , can't wait to plant my seeds next year:)
anonymous on September 06, 2013:
Hi there are some cannas plants near me and the seed pods fall off around this time of year. Can i still harvest these for sowing? They are usually a deep red colour. I took some home and they just dried up.
GardenIdeasHub LM on November 10, 2012:
Great tips about growing canna lilies from seed. I think it will really help me.
Fay Favored from USA on May 19, 2012:
This would be great if I had the seeds to start. I like the way you used them in containers.
Stephanie (author) from DeFuniak Springs on March 29, 2012:
Great Pawpaw! It's SUPER Easy. I would have never thought it would be.
pawpaw911 on March 28, 2012:
I love Cannas. I might give this a try. Well done.
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on March 24, 2012:
Excellent information and tips! They certainly are beautiful flowers!
RinchenChodron on March 24, 2012:
Boy, I'd LOVE to have some PINK seeds! Out in Colorado all you ever see is red, orange, rarely yellow. Could you send me some pink seeds? Very educational lens. I had no idea they were expensive to buy in pots.