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How to Grow Canna Lilies From Seed

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Grow gorgeous canna lilies by harvesting and germinating the seeds yourself!

Grow gorgeous canna lilies by harvesting and germinating the seeds yourself!

Can You Harvest Canna Lily Seeds and Grow New Plants?

Canna lilies are beautiful, tropical foliage plants that can be very costly. It's possible to grow these lilies from seed, which is a great way to save money and see the rewards from your own labor.

Canna lilies are very easy to grow from seed, if done correctly. They require scarification before they can germinate. Below you will find everything you need to know to grow these lilies, including instructions for proper scarification, harvesting, and planting.

Where to Find the Seeds

Seeds can be gathered from any healthy canna lily and either stored or planted almost immediately. You can gather seeds from your own plants or ask if your friends, family, or neighbors have lilies you could check for seeds.

If there aren't any canna lily plants near you, you can purchase seeds online from various sites, such as seed companies, garden centers, Amazon, and eBay. You can also find them in mail-order catalogs, though the catalogs often sell bulbs (which are actually rhizomes) rather than seeds.

The larger photo shows green seed pods, and the inset photo shows a dried seed pod with seeds ready to harvest.

The larger photo shows green seed pods, and the inset photo shows a dried seed pod with seeds ready to harvest.

Step 1: Harvest the Seeds

Harvesting canna lily seeds is quite simple. You can't miss the seed pods—they are roundish and covered in tons of tiny bumps or spikes.

  1. After the flowers fade, allow the pods to turn brown.
  2. As they pods dry, they will begin to crack open. As soon as they start to crack, cut the pods off the plant.
  3. Now you have a choice: Either store the whole pod until you're ready or immediately remove the seeds from the pod.
  4. After removing the seeds from the pod, sort through the seeds and discard the non-viable ones. These are easy to identify. 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.

What About Hybrid Canna Lilies?

Some species are hybrids, and they may or may not produce seeds. When harvesting seeds from any type of plant, especially a hybrid plant, remember that the seeds may not be true to the parent plant. This means that even though you've harvested seeds from a red lily, you may get white, yellow, red, black, or multicolored flowers when you plant them. This is due to all the crossbreeding that has taken place in order to produce the parent plant.

Either way, regardless of the parent, you are sure to get beautiful lilies from the seeds you harvest. 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.

Step 2: Scarify the Seeds

Scarifying the seeds is the most important step in the process. Canna lilies have a very hard shell that needs to be penetrated so that the embryo can erupt from the seed. This can be accomplished via several different methods. I have found that the easiest and quickest method is using a pair of nail clippers.

How to Scarify a Seed With Nail Clippers

Holding the seed with one hand, use the corner of the clippers to nick the seed. Nick it just enough to reveal a small portion of the white interior. The nick does not have to be big or deep, and it can be placed anywhere on the seed.

If you cut a little deeper than you intended, don't worry; it won't hurt anything. I have actually cut off the tip of the embryo before, and it still sprouted just fine.

Step 3: Soak the Seeds

Once you have nicked all the seeds, give them a head start by soaking them in water for 2–5 days. While this is not a requirement, it greatly speeds up the process by softening the coat of the seed and giving the embryo early exposure to water.

  1. Get a resealable bag or a container with some kind of lid.
  2. Place the nicked seeds inside and cover them with water.
  3. Allow the seeds to soak for 1–2 days.
  4. After 1–2 days, you should notice a white nodule poking through the end of the seed. By the following day, it should be obvious that a taproot has formed. The nicked part of the seed will look a lot bigger than it did initially!
  5. Wait to remove the seeds from the bag/container until they have sprouted to 3–5 millimeters (or until you have time to plant them).

Why Are Some of the Taproots So Big?

Some of the seeds will likely have bigger taproots that others. This may be due to the timing of the soaking (for example, once I was preparing a few hundred seeds, so I would drop in a few more each day).

Step 4: Plant the Seeds

Once your seeds have germinated, you are ready to plant them.

  1. Using a good potting mix, prepare pots, trays, or flower beds by evening out the soil, watering thoroughly, and allowing the water to drain.
  2. Once your pots (or other containers) are prepared, create holes about 1 inch deep.
  3. Place a seed in each hole with the root pointing down (or close to it).
  4. Cover the hole with soil, then water thoroughly to help set the seeds.
  5. Place your seed pots in a well-lit location, indoors or out. Be sure to protect them against freezing temperatures, excess rains, and extreme heat. Keep the soil moist, but do not allow it to dry out.

How Long Do Canna Lily Seeds Take to Sprout?

The seeds should sprout within 5–7 days. When the seeds emerge, you will see tiny, light-green shoots beginning to break the soil. As they get bigger, they will start to "unfold," and you will see the first signs of your new plants' leaves!

Step 5: Plant the Seedlings

Once your seedlings are well-established and have 2–3 true leaves, you can re-pot them using a larger pot or plant them directly in the ground. Canna lilies grow well in pots as single specimens, but they also do great in flower beds as borders or to create height.

  1. First, be sure to wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting the seedlings outside!
  2. Plant them about 8–12 inches apart.
  3. Keep your new canna lilies watered well, and ensure the soil is moist but not soggy.
  4. Fertilize regularly using a general-purpose fertilizer.

How Long Will They Take to Bloom?

Canna lilies started from seed will take 2–3 years to become prolific bloomers, though you may see blooms sooner if your plants are well-maintained.

Enjoy Watching Your Seeds Turn Into Flowers!

Your canna lilies will multiply themselves by rhizomes each year. They can be divided and transplanted as desired. You can harvest more seeds from these new plants and expand your lily garden even more!

If you would like a reference book to help you care for your plants, I recommend The Gardener's Guide to Growing Cannas. Good luck growing and caring for these captivating flowers!

More About Growing Plants From Seed

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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:

Hi Stephanie,

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.