How to Cut Back Canna Lilies for Winter | 11 Easy Steps

Canna lilies are great, long stemmed plants that grow from rhizomes under the ground. They die back over the cooler months and can be trimmed back ready for them to regrow in spring. Wait until the stems turn brown and then cut them back to within 5 inches of the soil.

Canna lilies can be surrounded with bark mulch to protect the stems over a cold winter. They will grow back long, strong stems in spring. Give them a handful of pelleted chicken manure in spring to help them to grow faster.

This article will explore the 11 easy stems to cut canna lilies back for winter. These steps will set your plant up for new growth in spring and loads of flowers.

11 Steps to cut back canna lilies for winter

Here are 11 easy steps to cut back your canna lilies for winter. Each of these steps will help you to grow great cannas in spring with lots of flowers and new stems.

1. Use sharp, clean secateurs

It is important to always use sharp, clean secateurs when trimming canna lilies. This will make sure that fungal or bacterial disease will not infect the cut stem.

I like to wipe my secateurs with eucalyptus oil or you can also use methylated spirits. Dry them with some paper towel or a clean rag to remove any excess oil.

I like to clean my secateurs with eucalyptus oil before pruning.

2. Cut back canna lilies when the weather cools in fall

Cut back canna lilies ready for winter when the weather has cooled in fall and the leaves start to dry out. Wait as long as you can for the stems to dry off and die back. This will allow the rhizome to absorb the nutrients back into the rhizome. This will give you a strong rhizome ready for next year’s growth.

Depending on your climate this could be closer to the start of fall or later in the season. I have waited until the start of winter to cut mine back.

There is a balance between allowing the stems to die back as much as possible but still keeping your yard neat. The leaves of my cannas tend to develop rust spots in late fall and winter.  I like to cut them off before the rust spreads too far.

Wait for canna lily stems to die back as much as possible before cutting them back.

3. Cut back cannas to around 5 inches from the top soil

Cut back the canna lily stems to around 5 inches from the ground. This will stop water and soil bacteria from spreading from the ground onto the stem cut. If you cut the stem back too early they can resprout in the fall and continue to grow new stems before spring.

Cut the canna lily stems back to 5 inches above the soil.

4. Cut the stems on an angle

When cutting the canna lily stems it is best to cut it at an angle. This will allow the water to run off the cut stems and stop fungus and bacteria from growing. If the stems are growing on an angle you can cut the stems straight so the rain still runs off.

5. Cut the stems into pieces to put it into your compost

Once you have removed the stems, cut them into small pieces. You can put them in your compost if they are not affected by rust.

If your canna lilies have rust, it is best to put them into your green bin to be industrially composted. Hot composting methods on a commercial scale will break down the rust so it won’t affect other plants.

Cut the canna lily stems into small pieces. If they are not covered with rust you can compost them at home.

7. Surround the plants with mulch

After cutting back the stems, surround the canna lilies with bark mulch. This will help to protect the rhizomes from cold weather and keep them protected over winter. You can also use straw mulch, sugar cane mulch or even dry fall leaves.

Cover the stems 3-4 inches if you get very cold winters. You can also dig the rhizomes up and store them in your garage. Surround them with damp mulch or coconut coir. You can then store them until spring and replant them in your yard.

8. Keep the rhizomes moist but not overwatered

It is important to keep canna lily rhizomes in the ground moist. Avoid adding too much water as the winter soil will stay wet for longer but equally don’t let the rhizomes dry out.

If you have dry winter like me, deep water the rhizomes around once per month.

9. Wait for the stems to grow back in spring

Canna lilies will grow back when the weather starts to warm up in spring. The rhizomes will stay dormant over the cooler months and grow rapidly in spring. My canna lily stems would grow 2-3 feet in around 3 weeks. Once they reach their maximum height, they can grow 2-3 flower stems.

You can prune off individual flower stems to allow the others to grow.  

10. Feed the stems with pelleted chicken manure in spring

Feed the canna lilies with pelleted chicken manure in spring to give them a nutrient boost. Pelleted chicken manure is full of organic matter and nitrogen which will help the stems to grow fast.

11. Dig the stems up and divide if they are becoming cramped

If your canna lilies are beginning to run out of space you can dig them up and separate them. Pull the rhizomes into pieces so there is a healthy eye on each one. You can cut them into pieces with clean secateurs or snip them into pieces.

This healthy stem was separated from a larger rhizome ready to grow a new plant.

How to Cut Back Canna Lilies for Winter | Summary

Cut back canna lilies in fall to get them ready for their spring growth. They will die back over the cooler months and then grow back. Let the canna lilies die back as much as possible so the rhizome can reabsorb the nutrients in the stem. This will give you strong rhizomes ready for new stems in spring.

Happy growing.