Do Canna Lilies Need Full Sun, Partial Shade, or Full Shade?

Are you looking to provide your canna lilies the right amount of sun to enjoy their beautiful blooms? Too much sun can cook your plants, and too little can stunt flowering. In this article, gardening expert Paige Folely examines if canna lilies thrive in full sun, partial shade, or full shade.

A picture of orange canna lilies blooming in the middle of a field in full sun conditions on a day with plenty of sunlight and clear skies.

Canna lilies are dramatic bloomers and will be the focal point of any garden or container. They bring height to lower garden beds and structure to large containers. Place them in the center of a patio container and surround with a beautiful cascading annual or as a border along a plain building. Canna lilies will produce a proud bloom on their tall stems from mid summer to late fall.

So, you’ve picked the perfect spot for your cannas but will they get enough sunlight? For being a tropical plant you would assume they would have intense light requirements. But because they are quite versatile this isn’t necessarily true. 

Choosing where to place these perennial favorites doesn’t have to be a headache, and understanding their light requirements will improve their overall growth. Let’s dig into everything you need to know about sunlight requirements for canna lilies.

The Short Answer

Canna lilies perform their best in at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. This doesn’t mean they wont grow in 6 hours or even 4 hours of sunlight. If you want peak foliage growth and flashy blooms, place them in full sun. Remember, these perennials are a tropical to subtropical plant, they need heat and sunshine.

The Long Answer

Known for their large leaves and vibrant blooms, cannas are sure to turn heads in any garden or container. Since these plants are native to tropical regions you may be wondering, will they grow in colder regions of the United States. Surprisingly, yes. With the ability to be grown in zones 3-11, these tropical giants are a great choice for beginner and experienced gardeners.

Their ability to withstand hot summer days makes them an excellent option for hot regions. Not many plants continue to bloom in the heat of summer but cannas will continue to bloom from July through the first frost. They enjoy excessive light and heat to reach great heights and maximum flowering.

This section will go more in-depth about different light requirements, climate, bloom and foliage growth, and partial shade varieties.

Sunlight Expedites Growth

A picture of red canna lilies in full bloom, with lush green foliage. The flowers are an orange to red color, almost coral looking. You can see three clusters of flower blooms in the picture.
These tropical perennials produce dazzling flowers and foliage in bright sunlight.

By planting in an area with a full 8 hours of sunlight they will soar above your garden or container. It’s proven that they will produce more luscious foliage and dazzling blooms if they have full sun. This doesn’t mean if you plant in 6 hours of sunlight you won’t have any blooms.

I currently have canna lilies planted along a storage shed and they receive about 5 hours of sunlight per day. They are still producing new shoots and bloom every week. But I believe they aren’t growing at their max potential. I believe they could use more sunlight to reach their full blooming and foliage production.

Next season, I will place them in the same location but consider planting more rhizomes in this location. Planting more rhizomes will make the space look fuller. I would only plant more rhizomes in shadier locations because they can spread and overcrowd each other in full sun.

How Much Sunlight is Enough?

A focus of a pink blooming flower. There is lush green foliage at the base and all around the flower. The flower is a light pink color, with a slightly darker pink rim around each petal.
They prefer full sun with at least 8 hours of sunlight per day to reach their full growth and flowering potential.

These tropical perennials thrive in areas that receive 8 hours or more of sunlight per day. But, they can grow under a range of sunlight requirements. If you want to reach full potential for growth, plant in locations that receive full sun.

Since they can grow under any sunlight requirements, 4 to 6 hours of sunlight will work in many climates. 4 hours of sunlight should be the absolute minimum for some type of bloom production. Too much shade will result in slow growth and a lack of bloom production.

They naturally love heat and humidity and also require moist soil conditions. If you plant in full sun, this dries the soil at a faster rate. This means you will need to water more frequently to prevent the soil from trying out too much.

Can They Grow in Partial Shade?

A close up of several flowers blooming in a garden. The flowers are a bright pink color with some darker green foliage around the base of the plant. You can see two clusters of flower blooms.
This plant can grow in partial shade but will need at least 4 hours of sunlight and will bloom more slowly.

Although they thrive in full sun, cannas will still grow in partial shade as well. Plants that have been placed in partial shade will require a minimum of 4 hours of sunlight. Bloom production will be slower.

If you want to plant in partial shade, I recommend planting double the rhizomes than you would in full sun. This will ensure the area you plant in looks full and has more blooms during the season.

What About Full Shade?

A close up of bright orange flowers in the middle of a field. You can see four flowers blooming, with a deep orange color. There is a bright yellow ring around the exterior edge of each flower petal.
Cannas planted in full shade may not bloom at all.

If you have an area that’s mostly shaded or completely shaded, there are plenty of other shade-friendly shrubs or shade-friendly perennial flowers you can grow with less sunlight.

If you plant them in shade, canna lilies will still send out shoots. The plants will most likely produce leaves but blooms will be far and few between. In fact, they may not even produce a single bloom.

Bloom and Foliage Growth

A flower blooming with light pink petals. There is also light green foliage at the base of the plant. There are water droplets on each flower petal.
These tropical natives prefer sunny and moist conditions to thrive, so regular watering is essential to improve their growth.

Since they are a tropical plant, Cannas thrive in sunny, moist conditions. If you live in northern or dry regions, you will have to help simulate these conditions. Outside of maximum sun exposure, watering is the number one factor that can improve growth. Be sure they have adequate water throughout the season.

Sunlight is harder to control but picking a full sun location is the best option to encourage bloom production. Sunlight is going to change how they produce foliage and blooms during the growing season.

Foliage will also be more abundant if they receive 8 hours of sunlight or more per day. This is also true for bloom production. If they are planted in partial shade or full shade, blooms will appear pale and thin.

Climate

A macro picture of several canna lilies blooming in a garden. At the base, there is dark green foliage. Through the tops, each canna has a blooming flower which is bright red to orange in nature.
Depending on the region, your cannas will have different lighting requirements.

To make things a little more complicated, climate can affect how much sunlight they need. Because they are native to North America, Central America, and South America, they thrive in hot, humid tropical conditions. That being said they will also thrive in colder climates if they are treated as an annual.

In warmer regions such as zones 8-11, cannas will still have amazing bloom production with only 4 to 6 hours of sunlight. The light in warmer regions is more intense and this is what they love.

In northern regions from zones 3-7, light requirements are more demanding. These regions have less intense sunlight and you’ll need to try and plant in a location with at least 8 hours per day if it’s possible. These recommendations are for maximum growing potential, and they will still grow with less sunlight in the northern regions – they just won’t look as full or colorful.

Partial Shade Varieties

A plant in the shade growing to the left of the image. There is mostly bright green foliage, with a few flower stems with coral colored flowers blooming from the tip of each stem.
This magnificent Stuttgart lily has large green foliage with white stripes and grows well in partial shade.

If you are looking for a few varieties that will tolerate partial shade take a look at the varieties below.

  • ‘Rosemont Cole’: An orange blooming variety with a golden yellow that bleeds from the edge.
  • ‘Stuttgart’: Produces foliage with white stripes with orange to yellow flower clusters.
  • ‘Firebird’: Produces beautiful fire red blooms atop large green leaves.

Keep in mind that all varieties shade tolerance is minimal and if possible should be planted in at least 6 hours of sunlight. All varieties are subject to decreased shoot and bloom production if planted in too little sunlight.

Final Thoughts

To ensure maximum growth potential of canna lilies, plant in full sun for 8 hours or more per day. This doesn’t mean if you have a partial shade location you can’t plant them at all. This is the greatest part about this plant, they will still grow in partial shade. Keep in mind that bloom and foliage production may decrease in shader areas. Happy planting!

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