Storing Canna bulbs involves a few simple steps:
- Dig up the rhizomes without damaging them
- Cure them (let them dry to prevent rot)
- Wrap each rhizome in newspaper
- Store in a dry place.
Dig the bulbs after the first frost in late fall if you live in a harsh winter region (typically USDA Hardiness Zones 6 or colder). After the winter, if the bulbs are heavy and firm, they are likely ready to plant again.
How Do I Store My Canna Bulbs?
Canna bulbs, or canna lily bulbs, are striking tropical plants with big, veined, paddle-shaped leaves. Their flowers come in red, orange, yellow, and pink.
This flower is particularly striking when backlit by the sun. You will want to plant cannas outdoors in late spring and early summer, as this is when they will thrive.
Cannas don’t do well in particularly harsh winters, so if you live in a place that experiences intense winters, you will want to store canna bulbs in late fall after the first frost.
Digging Up Canna Bulbs for Storage
You will want to dig up your canna rhizomes in the fall if you live in a region that experiences harsh winters. What is considered a harsh winter, you ask? Well, generally, this means USDA Hardiness Zones 6 or colder.
While cannas don’t need to experience the season’s first frost, it is advisable. Most gardeners dig up canna bulbs immediately after the first light frost when the leaves die. You will know the leaves are dead when they turn yellow.
Use pruning shears to cut the canna leaves back to a couple of inches above the ground.
Then, dig up the roots at a 45° degree angle with any digging tool of your choice. A shovel or garden fork does the job best.
Make sure you are a foot away from the stem so that the rhizomes are not damaged. It’s crucial to keep the bulbs’ structures intact, so patience is vital in this step.
With your hands, gently loosen the soil, lift the canna out, and shake out the clumps of dirt. If it’s heavily caked on, you will want to wash the bulb with warm water.
Curing Canna Bulbs Before Storing
It is best to cure the bulbs in a warm, dry place for a week before storing them for the winter. Doing this toughens them up and helps them resist rot. You do not need a greenhouse. The garage is ideal for this. If you don’t have one, a closet works too.
Storing Canna Bulbs
After the bulbs have cured, bring them inside for storage. Wrap them individually in newspapers and accompany them with peat moss (a large absorbent moss). The moss will absorb any leftover moisture and further prevent rot.
Bulbs should not be touching each other, so wrap them individually. Keep them in your dry garage or storage area that doesn’t drop below 40°F or 4°C.
Keep an Eye on Your Stored Bulbs
As stated, storing canna bulbs is pretty straightforward. However, you may want to monitor them over the winter to make sure they are too dry or rotting. If you find rot, trim it away or discard the bulb, depending on how bad it is. Keep in mind that even if you do your best, some bulbs just won’t make it to spring, and that’s to be expected.
If you have canna bulbs in easily mobile pots, keep them indoors over the winter and move them back outside when spring comes and the ground has fully thawed. However, this method doesn’t always lead to success because tropical canna bulbs need a reasonably consistent temperature and moisture level.
You will know it’s time for your canna bulbs to go back outside when the nighttime temperature is consistently above 50°F or 10°C. You may also see tulips blooming around this time, another indicator that the timing is just right.
How To Tell If Canna Bulbs Are Dead
You’ve wintered your canna bulbs, and now it’s time to bring them back to life.
At first glance, they might look a bit sad. Keep in mind you’ve dried and wrapped them, so they may not look pretty. But they are not beyond repair and will come back with a little love and care and — of course — sunshine.
However, if your bulbs are thin, squishy, and soft, or dried out and hollow feeling with no shoots (the first rudiment of a young stem) visible, then maybe they didn’t make it.
Essentially, you are looking for bulbs that are heavy and firm. If you are in doubt, see if they float or sink in water (if they’re bad, they will float), or just plant them and see what happens.