This is what Monty Don wants you to know about overwintering cannas

The gardening guru has spoken. And of course, we’re all ears

Canna lilies
(Image credit: Getty Images/Raththaphon Wanjit)

Cannas, also known as canna lilies, are beautiful and vibrant blooms adorning English flowerbeds with their exotic look. But the flowering season is coming to its end this month, if you want to preserve yours then we have dug up some of Monty Don's overwintering cannas tips to help you.

Overwintering canna lilies in pots or in garden borders is a key job to do in October according to Monty Don's gardening blog, the horticulture guru shares his tips on when and how to overwinter your canna lilies to make sure they survive the cold months and continue to thrive come next spring.

Monty Don overwintering cannas tips

Monty’s always got a genius garden idea up his sleeve and after years of presenting on gardeners world and writing his gardening column we’re sure to take in every word of what he has to say.

Monty Don portrait

(Image credit: Getty Images/Colin McPherson)

Similar to knowing how to overwinter dahlias and overwintering geraniums, overwintering cannas the right way ensures these tropical flowers stay healthy through the frost.

In his post about what to do in your garden this October, Monty wrote, ‘Bring tender plants in under cover before they need protection.’

He then continues to list examples of the plants perfect for overwintering this month, ‘In my garden this includes bananas, salvias, citrus, pomegranates, olives, pelargoniums, succulents, fuchsias, eucomis and hedychium.’

A close-up of a canna lily

(Image credit: Getty Images/Clive Nichols)

Then the plot twist came, ‘But NOT dahlias and cannas,’ he wrote. ‘Which can be left in situ until the first signs of frost damage have affected them.’ So if you wanted to start overwintering your cannas this month, Monty says to hold your horses and wait a while.

Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, agrees, ‘In the UK, you should start overwintering canna lilies in late autumn or early winter.’ But he would prefer you do so before the first frost arrives.

As for Monty’s and our experts’ advice on how to overwinter cannas once the time comes, here’s an easy-to-follow guide.

Canna lilies

(Image credit: Getty Images/Jacky Parker Photography)
Steve Chilton portrait
Steve Chilton

Steve Chilton is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field. As the director of LeisureBench, an industry-leading garden furniture company, Steve has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

What you’ll need

Guide to overwintering cannas

A close-up of a canna lily

(Image credit: Getty Images/Sergio Amiti)

‘They can be cut back, dug up and brought indoors to check over before storing in old potting compost in a cool, dark place where they will stay alive but not grow over winter,’ Monty writes.

Steve confirms this, ‘ When it comes to canna lilies, overwintering involves lifting their rhizomes (underground stems) out of the ground, and storing them in a cool, frost-free location until the following spring.’ 

That’s overwintering cannas in a nutshell. But let’s dive in a little deeper.

Start by digging up the plant. ‘Carefully dig up the rhizomes and shake off any excess soil,’ says Jack Sutcliffe, co-founder of shed manufacturer, Power Sheds. ‘It is best to then allow them to air dry for a few days in a cool, dry place and make sure they’re not touching each other. This process will help cure them and reduce the risk of rot during storage.’

Canna lilies

(Image credit: Getty Images/Bowonpat Sakaew)

Steve recommends leaving them to dry for about a week as rot is ‘one of the biggest problems when overwintering.’ During this stage, it is also important to check for any signs of disease or pests.

While Jack advises to place the overwintering cannas in storage containers or cardboard boxes with punched holes, Steve recommends wrapping them in a paper bag. 

Then keep them in a room that doesn’t get colder than 10°C, such as a basement or a garage, for the rest of the winter, checking in on them periodically. ‘Periodically check on the rhizomes throughout the winter to ensure they aren't rotting or too dry. If they appear shrivelled, lightly mist with water to provide moisture,’ Steve says.

Do you cut cannas back in winter UK?

Yes, you should cut back you cannas once the frost arrives as the plant goes dormant and will regrow once replanted in the spring.

Once you lift the bulb out of the ground, it's also recommended to 'cut off the foliage from the top of the rhizomes. You should make sure that you're leaving around 5cm of leaf,' Steve says. 

When should I lift my cannas for the winter?

You should lift your cannas from the ground and start overwintering with the arrival of the first frost. As we seem to be having a rather warm October on our hands, this probably won't be until next month or even later. 

All that’s left is to wait for spring, April or May, to replant your canna lilies to start a new growing season all over again.

Sara Hesikova
News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.