How to Grow Canna Lilies in Minnesota

On the weekend before the first hard frost, cry a little as you chop down the strong, gorgeous stalks. Play Palm Sunday with the cat with the waxy leaves to make yourself feel better. Crumble the moist dirt in your hands as you dig out the bulbs.


The weekend after the first hard freeze frantically cut and discard the canna corpses. Dig out the surviving rhizomes before they melt into ectoplasmic goo, as if they did not really exist in the material world. Throw them into paper bags, dirt and all because it is too cold to wallow in the frost-filled mud.

Wrap the rhizomes in brown paper bags and store in the dry, cool dark. Languish in the loss of light, the baring branches, the field stubble, the impending drear.

Sigh at the wrinkled daylight with its white hair.

Several times, give up hope.

Recoil from cold windows.

When all seems lost, order seeds.

Spend an evening with the iris catalog. Turn your furnace up to 80 and wear something sexy.

In the days when the ground is bare again but not quite warm enough to work, clean your basement.

In the dark, dry corner, find the bag full of promise.

Trim the winter survivors and when the ice crystals melt into mud,

Plant 3–6” deep and approximately 1 foot apart. Congratulate yourself on the hope it takes to leave space enough for them to spread out. Plus feet come in different sizes. It’s ok if you don’t have enough trust to leave 12 inches between bulbs. The winter was long, and you don’t quite believe anything will grow again.


Poem by Sara Dovre Wudali

Sara Dovre Wudali is a writer and editor from Saint Paul. She grew up on the plains of southwest Minnesota, where the wind blows strong and box elder bugs rule the earth. Her poems and essays have been published in or are forthcoming in Hairstreak Butterfly, North Dakota Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction, Sweet, Streetlight Magazine, Saint Paul Almanac, and as part of a public art project in Mankato, Minnesota.