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8.11.10

How to Collect Canna Seeds

The popularity of the tropical plants commonly called cannas (sometimes called canna lily) is no surprise to anyone who has ever grown these plants. From gnarled perennial rhizomes (not canna bulbs) emerge large leaves similar to bananas and gingers (sometimes colorful or stripped) and beautiful blooms in a variety of colors. When we gardeners in northern climates plant cannas in our gardens we usually plant the rhizome in the spring and summer and then lift it in the winter and store indoors. Propagating cannas is easy because all you need is a piece of the rhizome, but you can also propagate cannas from seeds if you know how to collect canna seeds.
harvesting canna seeds from canna lily flowers


Your canna lily flower will looks something like this, although there will be some variation in bloom size and color. No matter what the flowers look like the seeds will develop in the same place.

Green canna lily seed pods

After the canna’s flowers have been pollinated the seed “pods” begin to develop along the stem. See the reddish pointy part that resembles a cone above the green orbs? That is where the flower petals where attached.  The spiky seed pods of the canna just look dangerous and touching them won’t hurt you in any way.

Ripe canna seeds ready for harvest

When canna lily seeds have matured the green husk of the pod turns brown, shrivels and opens up. At this point if you were to press a pod between your fingers you’d be able to feel the hard seed(s) inside.

Canna lily seeds

Inside each seed pod is at least two black, hard and shiny seeds. Seed pods that develop later in the gardening season may only have one canna seed per pod. These later developing seeds will also usually be smaller than the first seeds that ripen. I’ve not noticed that the smaller (or later) seeds germinate less or aren’t viable. The first thing you will probably notice in regards to these seeds is how hard the seed coat is; you could throw it against the concrete sidewalk and not cause a dent in the seed. Canna seed germination requires some kind of seed scarification to allow the embryo inside access to moisture.  Over the years I’ve seen gardeners go to great lengths to get the seeds to germinate, from rubbing them with nail files to drilling holes in them with electrical tools. The easiest method I’ve come across is to submerge them in boiling water for a few moments until you hear them pop open.

While collecting canna seeds is extremely easy, because you don’t need to pollinate the blooms to produce seeds, because they’re so large and noticeable. While the seed harvest is easy the germination isn’t, and may be frustrating. Most cannas you’ll come across in garden centers are hybrids and seeds from hybrid plants will not produce plants that look like their parent. Also, the seedling will have to grow for a couple of years before their old enough to A) produce a decent-sized rhizome and B) flower. Although, sometimes growing a plant, even if not true from seed, is even more rewarding.

If  you're new to seed saving check out the post "How To Save Seeds."

12 comments:

  1. What a gorgeous color! Am not a big fan of cannas, but love that one. Hope all is well in Chicago.

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  2. Now this is a Garden blog... I love what you are doing over here. You totally got my attention with the knock-out photography and the SEEDS!

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  3. Those seeds are enormous! Very cool.

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  4. I've always just grown cannas as passalongs. Here in Florida, though, I've not had as much luck with them as in Illinois. Strange, no? Apparently, they're more susceptible to insect and nematode damage here. And then there's the laziness factor. I'm not as inclined to dig them up even though we occasionally get some severely cold temps like last winter. My plants this year produced plenty of foliage but no flowers.

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  5. hmmm... very cool. i'll have to try it.

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  6. Anonymous12:44 AM

    Wow! I came across this article because I wasn't sure what was happening to my cannas, but now I'm going to try and harvest a few seeds. Excellent article!

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  7. Anonymous1:15 PM

    I have cannas that have dried I tried getting the seed out but they are nothing like your photos. Much smaller seeds or just dry powder comes out ? Are the plants too young ?

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    Replies
    1. Hi, your seeds could be smaller for any number of reasons. The growing conditions, fertilizer, pollination, the amount of moisture the seed gets when it is developing, etc. But if all you are finding is "powder" in your canna seed pods that is because no seed formed as the flowers were not pollinated. Don't worry too much about smaller seeds. As long as they are fully developed they should be fine.

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  8. I have Canna plants from bulbs that a friend of mine from work gave me. They have grown over 7' tall and they are seeding--the secret--soaking hoses. They water the roots directly and no waste of water. This fall/winter I'll be growing canna's from these seeds and see what happens. However, I plan on cutting these plants down and placing them in a plastic bin and storing in my crawlspace until next Spring. They will be my fence for next summer. I love this plant!! They're amazing.

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  9. I have Canna plants out front that a friend of mine gave me. They've grown over 7' and are amazing. I live in South Jersey - Egg Harbor Township, NJ so these plants are not as popular as Hostas, I figure because they're annuals.

    Anyhow, the secret to growing mine is a soaker hose. I didn't have to stand outside watering plants and didn't bother with sprinklers...the soaker hose give the plants the right amount of water with no waste. I'll be cutting down my canna's, pulling out the bulbs and storing them in a plastic bin in my crawl space and then come the end of March..they're going into the soil and will be my natural fence for next Summer!!

    Right now...as I sit here, I have over 35 close to 40 of those black hard seeds. I guess I will be boiling them and hoping they will pop so I can begin to plant them in egg cartons and begin to grow them for next season.

    I love these plants.

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  10. Anonymous12:35 PM

    I love cannas,my favorite, I never take them up! They are beauitful every year,a lady grew them,sadly she passed away,they grew from her yard to the highway, the highway maintenance cut down some, but it still left,cannis four feet wide, ten feet long,soo beauitful!

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  11. Hello all,
    I am new to growing anything. Last year i went to a garage sale that had these roots for sale and had no clue what they looked like or were. Kept them all winter and planted them and LOVE them. I went outside tonight to check on them and noticed they have the green pods on them, so i found this blog!! I have a couple questions i hope someone can help me with:
    1. Do i leave the pods on where the flower was alone until they turn brown and then take them off??
    2. When i do take the seeds out and boil them, should i save them with the roots and pot them up this spring in a pot when it warms up, take it outside, or can i pot the seeds this fall and leave them in a sunny window through winter and take the pot outside when it warms up??
    I am new to growing anything, but these were the prettiest flowers i have grown and would like to try and do something with the seeds. Any thoughts, or advice would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks :)

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Hi!

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