How To Deadhead Cannas And Why You Should!

Cannas (Canna spp.) are cherished for their vibrant flower color and lush foliage as they add a vibrant pop to the garden beds and other landscapes. 

The Canna lily (although they aren’t true lilies, despite the name) is a tropical perennial genus in the Cannaceae family.

beautiful canna lily flowers at Disney World, Orlando Florida
Flowering Canna Lilies – Disney World, Orlando, Florida | Image: PlantCareToday.com

The Canna plants grow about 10’ feet high and generally produce white, orange, salmon, pink, yellow, or red flowers. 

These plants prefer to grow in full sun, and the USDA hardiness zone of these flowering plants is 7 to 10.

The botanical name of this plant is Canna × generalis, and its common names and varieties include:

  • Cana Lily Wyoming
  • Canna Glauca
  • Aquatic Canna Lily
  • Canna Tropicanna Black

These plants bloom in the summer season. 

These plants grow and bloom from rhizomes, which means, it is not required to let the flowers wilt. 

You may enjoy additional blooms by deadheading the spent flowers. 

Deadheading cannas not only prolong the blooming period but give your garden a neat and lush look.

What Is Deadheading?

Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers to encourage the plants to produce additional blooms.

Gardeners remove old flowers before the seeds are produced to encourage the plant to bloom longer and maintain a vibrant garden or landscape.

Why Should You Deadhead Cannas?

All the flowering plants bloom not just to brighten up your gardens with a spectacular display of colors but also for other purposes too. 

The pollen and nectar of the flowers offer forage for birds, beetles, butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators.

Many plants also become a safe habitat and sanctuary for wildlife. 

After the flowers fade, they produce nuts, berries, and fruits to feed humans and wildlife. 

However, the primary purpose of blooming is for the plant to propagate.

The plants bloom to produce seeds in order to ensure the survival of its specie. 

Once the seed has been produced, the plant stops putting energy in producing more blooms.   

This is also a significant process for humans to produce crops and other resources.

However, many plants are grown to add beauty to the garden and landscape, including Cannas plants.  

These plants require primary plant care even though they are low maintenance. 

Aside from watering and feeding the plant, pruning and deadheading spent flowers is also necessary to encourage their optimal growth.  

Therefore, once their flowers have finish gracing your garden, you may deadhead them to encourage the plant to blossom once again. 

Another advantage of deadheading the cannas is to create a neat and tidy appearance.

Since both the foliage and flowers of these plants are used for ornamental purposes, deadheading this plant also enhances the look of its foliage.

The main goal of deadheading Canna plants is to stop the seed from setting as the plant uses all its energy to produce seeds.

A few of the Cana lily plants have black seed pods; the others create sterile seed pods. 

Therefore, if the seed pods aren’t developing, there might not be a need to deadhead the plant except to maintain its neat appearance.   

Things Needed To Deadhead Cannas

While deadheading the Canna plant will promote more blooms and enhance its appearance, the wrong tools will damage the plant. 

Make sure you have the right tools before you start the deadheading process.

You will need:

  • Pruning Shears – Must be sturdy and have sharp blades to make clean cuts we like Felco hand pruners
  • You must ensure the blades are rust-free
  • Sanitizing Solution – to disinfect the blades
  • Hot Water – to rinse the blades after disinfecting them to prevent any infections
  • Gloves – to protect your hands

Once you have the tools ready, you may begin to deadhead the Canna plant.

Felco F2 - Classic Manual Hand Pruner
Highly Recommended - We've been using the Felco 2 hand pruner for over 30 years!
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Steps to Deadhead Cannas

The deadheading process is not the same for every plant. 

The Cannas plant produces multiple blooms on each spike, and every flower lasts for several weeks. 

It is essential to cut each flower off after it starts fading without damaging the Canna rhizomes. 

Moreover, the stalk must also be cut off once all flowers have been removed.

Here are the steps to help you deadhead cannas properly:

Step 1: Observe the Plant

There is no need to worry about what time you should be deadheading the plant. 

This gardening chore must be done throughout the blooming and growing season. 

You should deadhead the Canna plant when the flowers start fading.

Keep a close watch for dying or wilting flowers on different stalks. 

While it is an easy task for plants producing a single flower on one stem, it is a bit tricky with Cannas as they produce multiple flowers on a single stem.

Deadhead the flowers when the majority of the flowers have faded. 

Make sure to locate the point from where new growth is emerging from the stalk to avoid cutting it off.

Step 2: Cleaning the Flowers

Before deadhead the flower, you must clean it up. 

Start by cutting off the leaves right underneath the flower. 

It is essential to prune at this level to encourage the growth of new flowers without sacrificing the health of the plant.

The pruning scissors or knife must be sharp, clean, and thin to avoid damaging the flower bud.

Step 3: Determining the Cutting Point

It is often confusing to find the right cutting point to deadhead the plant. 

Cutting too close underneath the bloom might leave you with an unattractive and dry stem. 

Moreover, cutting too close may also increase the chances of damaging the bud, which will prevent the bud from producing another flower.

It is best to follow the basic rule of thumb: deadhead the stem and flowers back to about ¼” inches above the bud, right under its calyx. 

This helps in encouraging healthy foliage and new blooms.

Step 4: Removing the Spent Flowers

Now comes the main part, deadheading the flowers.

  • Hold the stalk firmly in one hand and gently pull it to ensure you have a secure grip on it.
  • Using the sharp, sterile shears neatly snip off the spent flower at the cutting point you had determined. 
  • If the stalk has new buds on it, then cut it right under the calyx. 
  • This will allow the plant to send its nutrition and energy to the new buds instead of the dying blooms.
  • If there are no signs of new buds on the entire stalk, put your garden shears under the dying or fading canna flower near the base of the stem and cut it off.
  • Make sure to cut straight in one go, so the entire stalk falls on the ground.

It is essential to have sharp and sturdy shears as it helps in easily cutting through even the thick stalks, without causing any damage or bruising to the remaining stems.

Step 5: Removing Damaged Stems

Once you have deadhead the plant, you must also check for any damaged or broken stems. 

Use a sharp knife, or your garden shears do prune them off. 

You must monitor the plant regularly for damaged stems as it slows down the growth.

In case of a storm or heavy rain, cover the plants and inspect them later to remove any damaged stalk or flower.

Step 6: Cleaning Up

The next step is the cleanup process. 

After all, the aim of deadheading is to enhance the appeal of your garden and ensure the flower beds look stunning. 

Therefore, remove all the spent flowers and stalks after deadheading all the plants.

Use a big bucket to collect all of them and add them to the compost pile. 

Step 7: Fertilizing

Lastly, make sure the plant has sufficient nutrients to produce healthy new growth by adding a dose of fertilizer. 

If you already have a regular schedule for fertilizing the plant, then you may skip this step. 

However, add a layer of fertilizer if the plant is overdue for its feed. 

Use a water-soluble fertilizer to encourage healthy and continuous blooms.

If you deadhead the plant properly, you will notice new flowers emerging from the buds soon enough. 

In case you accidentally damage the bud or removed the entire stalk, don’t worry. 

The Canna plant quickly produces new stems and will soon bloom. 

However, it will take longer than usual, so you’ll have to be patient.

If you have accidentally cut off good buds or flowers during the pruning or deadheading process, don’t throw them away in the compost pile. 

Instead, create a bouquet and place them in a nice vase to display in your house!

Things to Keep in Mind

You have to provide the right growing conditions to the Canna plant to ensure it produces lush green leaves and continuous blooms. 

Here are a few things to bear in mind when growing and maintaining this plant:

  • The Canna flower grows in rhizomes and must be cut back to the ground once it stops growing actively.
  • It is essential to protect the Canna bulbs or tubers from the first frost by adding a layer of mulch, like peat moss, to the potting mix.
  • Make sure you know how to plant the Canna Lilly plants the right way and grow them in large pots for their optimal growth.
  • When the stems have been deadheaded multiple times and are not blooming further, cut the stem to the ground. 
  • This will ensure the foliage of the plant gets sufficient light. 
  • In some cases, doing this may produce one or two more flowers.
  • If you plant to propagate new plants from the seeds, you must leave behind two to three flowers on their stalks until the autumn season. 
  • The seeds must be gathered to propagate to produce.

These plants rarely experience severe pest or disease issues. 

However, some Cannas catch the viral infection when they are deadheaded with shears, which haven’t been disinfected. 

The most common disease include aster yellows and mosaic viruses.

Neither of these infections is curable and is extremely contagious. 

If you notice symptoms like stunted growth, browning or yellowing of leaves, discard the plant immediately. 

Don’t attempt to prune or deadhead the Cannas showing these symptoms as the infection might spread through the tools and affect other plants.

In case you have used any tools of infected Canna plant, soak all the tools in a disinfectant before using them on other plants.

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.