How Much and How Often Should You Water Canna Lilies?

If you've added canna lilies to your garden this season, you may still be learning the care needs for this beautiful flowering plant. One of the most important factors is watering frequency. In this article, gardening expert Paige Folely walks through how much water your canna lilies need, and how frequently you should be watering them!

A close up of a gardener watering a canna lily plant with pink flowers. They are watering a plant with a spray bottle with a green top.

Contents

Canna Lilies originated in hot and humid tropical regions such as South America, Central America and Asia. You would assume being a tropical plant, that they would need tons of water? Well, shockingly, Canna Lilies are very versatile and can thrive in wet boggy soils to shallow patio containers.

Understanding how much and how often to water your canna lilies will yield amazing results in both foliage and blooms. You also want to ensure you don’t over water, or under water, both of which can cause plant problems and disease.

This article reviews a number of topics related to watering canna lilies. For example, how much should we be watering them? And how often? Where in my garden or home should I plant canna lilies? Let’s take a look at the answers below.

The Short Answer

A good rule of thumb is to water your canna lilies with an inch of water per week to have beautiful blooms and dense foliage all summer long. They will require more frequent watering if they are recently transplanted. Once they are mature, they are fairly drought tolerant plants.

The Long Answer

A close up of a pink canna lily blooming in the sunshine. There are small drops of water on the light pink blooms, as well as the green foliage behind it.
It is recommended to water daily until they sprout, and then reduce watering to once a week.

Once you have planted your canna lilies it is best to water them every day until all shoots have emerged. Ideally, an inch or so of water until the canna lily spikes out of the ground.

Once the canna lily emerges, water once a week with about an inch of water. Check soil conditions weekly to determine if additional watering is needed.

This is the standard watering schedule and you can stretch the time between waters if necessary. In extreme heat, consider watering more frequently. Below are signs and symptoms of overwatering and underwatering to look for.

Overwatering Symptoms

  • Root rots
  • Disease increase from sitting water on leaves
  • Poor germination, rhizomes rot

Underwatering Symptoms

  • Cracked and tearing leaves
  • Leaves losing color
  • Leaves begin to fold in
  • Slow production of blooms

How Much Should I Water?

A red flowering plant with bright red blooms is the focus of the image. There are many petals on the flower that's fully bloomed with water beads on each of the leaf petals.
It is best to water early in the morning or late in the evening.

When planting in the spring, typically they are planted at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. When watering, it is best to soak the area where they are planted with an inch or more of water each day. This will allow the water to reach the rhizomes and ensure proper germination. Continue this method until all shoots have emerged.

Once your canna lilies emerge they require less water. For them to perform to perform their best, it is recommended to keep the first 6 to 8 inches of soil moisture for best results. This isn’t a hard and fast rule to follow. Pay attention to signs and symptoms of underwatering to prevent any plant stress.

Like most plants, it is best to water early in the morning or later in the evening to encourage water uptake and prevent water from sitting on the roots or leaves too long. I typically water in the evening and have no concerns with water intake.

How Often Should I Water?

Pink flowers in full bloom. There are several pink blooms in focus, with green foliage behind it. The blooms have water droplets on the flower petals.
The frequency of watering depends on the climate, location, the age of the plant and the amount of rainfall.

This is a tricky question because there are a number of factors that go into watering frequency. Climate plays a huge factor in how often to water, you can read more about this in the climate section of the article. Let’s start with how often they need water when first planted.

After they have been planted, you should be watering them deeply everyday until they emerge. Each shoot won’t all emerge at the same time and take upwards of two to three weeks to emerge. Continue to water everyday all plants have visibly emerged. You can skip watering if you’ve received at least half an inch of rain that day.

Once they have emerged, you can water less. Canna lilies should be watered once or twice a week depending on temperatures. This could be less if your soil retains moisture well or receives adequate rainfall. Check your soil regularly for moisture retention and watch for symptoms of over or under watering.

Soil Conditions

A gardener wearing a flannel shirt is holding soil in his hands. His hands are dirty from digging in the garden soil. The soil is brown and dry.
Canna lilies prefer rich soils with a pH level of 6.5.

Your soil type and conditions will make a difference in how often you need to water. They prefer rich soils with high organic matter but will tolerate other soil types. They prefer a soil pH of 6.5 but handle a wide range of acidic to basic soil pHs.

If you have sandy or clay soils in your garden, it’s recommended to incorporate compost, peat moss or any other organic matter you prefer. This will allow your sandy or clay soil to hold moisture and allow the water to properly drain through the soil.

The best way to determine if they need water is to check the soil. If the top appears dry, dig down a little and see if the soil is damp a few inches down. If there is no moisture a few inches down, it may be time to water.

Location

An orange canna lily blooming in the garden. There is light green foliage behind the flowers, and the petals on the blooms are bright orange, almost the color of the sun.
If your cannas are planted in a sunny area in the garden, they will need more frequent watering.

Location plays a key role in how much you should water they need. Since they are versatile in their planting location, you may have to water more frequently in one location than another.

Canna lilies can be grown in a variety of locations. If you choose to grow them in containers, this will require them to be watered more frequently. If grown in a container consider watering daily, possibly twice a day to promote proper growth. Plants grown indoors may require less water because ambient temperatures are typically cooler and more consistent. 

Canna lilies planted in direct sunlight for 8 hours or more will require more frequent watering. Location plays a major factor when it comes to watering needs. Be sure to consider all options when planting in the spring.

Climate and Rainfall

A close up of an orange flower with water droplets on each petal of the plant.
If you live in a cool and rainy climate, your cannas will need less watering.

Canna Lilies grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-11, depending on the variety. They can be grown perennially in zones 8-11, and overwintered as an annual in zones 3-7.

Climate will affect how much and how often you’ll need to water. Cooler, rainy climates would require less watering versus a hot, dry climate. Evaluate your USDA hardiness zone and annual rainfall to determine how often and how much you’ll need to water.

If your region receives consistent rain, continue to check soil conditions to ensure the rainfall received is enough. Typically, rainfall received isn’t enough for the week and additional watering may be necessary.

Mulch

A young plant blooming with pink flowers. There are many different flowers blooming from one stem. Underneath the plant is mulch around the base.
It is recommended to add mulch to retain moisture in the soil and prevent weed growth.

Adding mulch on top of canna lilies will be beneficial in many ways. Mulch retains soil moisture and helps prevent weed growth.

There are many choices for mulch. You can use grass clippings, leaves and wood chips. Your local greenhouse will have a number of options of mulch to purchase as well.

Growth Stage

A number of different stems with red blooms at the top of them blooming in full sun. The plants are young, and recently transplanted.
In the early stages of growth, they require daily watering, which can later be reduced as they mature.

Their growth stages will also contribute to the amount of water they need. The early stages of canna lilies growth will require the most water.

The rhizomes have sat all winter and once they are planted will need larger amounts of water to hydrate and germinate. Once the shoots have emerged, it’s best to continue to water every day until their first leaves unroll.

Once their first few leaves have been unrolled you can water them once or twice a week depending on rainfall. It takes a lot of energy to produce a bloom.

If you notice the plants are starting to flower, giving extra water will aid in the blooms growing and producing more vibrant colors. Consistent watering through the summer and fall will produce steady blooms and lush foliage.

Final Thoughts

If you want thriving, beautiful canna lilies making sure they get enough water is key. If you are out regularly watering your garden or containers, you are likely doing enough. But if you’re concerned, check your soil for moisture and watch for under or overwatering symptoms.

Canna lilies are tenacious plants and will continue you to grow under any circumstance. If your they are producing vibrant blooms and dense foliage, you are doing it right! Good luck and happy growing!

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