What Parts of the Canna Edulis Plant are edible?

Canna Edulis shoots

The Canna Edulis it is one of the many Canna lilies that are available and grown all over the world.

This plant is more commonly known as the Queensland Arrowroot and is our preferred variety as all of the parts of the Canna Edulis are edible, as are all Canna lilies. However, not all are as productive as our preferred variety.

The Canna Edulis is the variety of Canna Lilie that was grown during the mid 1800’s to produce Arrowroot starch, and was one of the first viable commercial crops grown in Queensland Australia.

It remained so until the mid 1900’s when most farms switched over to more mechanized and profitable crops. The arrowroot crops were labor intensive and were soon dropped.

Nowadays the Arrowroot plants are grown in gardens and back-yards, an are being admired for their foliage and flowers, however it is now being grown more often for its known food source production.

The main benefit is they can remain in the ground until ready to be eaten. No storage needed.

Below are 5 common questions we have answered about what parts are edible from the Canna Edulis (Queensland Arrowroot ) plant.

Can you eat the flowers of the Canna Edulis?

Yes you can eat the flowers of the Canna edulis (Queensland Arrowroot) as all canna flowers are edible. They however have much smaller flowers compared to other ornamental varieties of Canna lilies which have large, multi-colored and showy flowers.

We tend to leave them instead as a food source for the small bush bees as well as the local sun birds who feed on the nectar from these small red flowers.

Canna Edulis Leaves
All leaves of the Canna Edulis are edible.

Are the leaves of the Canna Edulis edible?

From the large billowy leaves all the way down to the smaller regrowth leaves, all leaves on the Canna Edulis plant are edible.

The smaller leaves can be used in common easy to cook meals like stir-fry, as well as being cooked in soups and stews.

It is quite easy to use the leaves as a substitute in meals that you would generally use Kale or thicker spinach types of leaves. It is so easy to interchange the greens you use generally into a variety of dishes that may be unavailable due to seasonality.

The larger leaves are of course much tougher. If they need to be eaten, you could cut them into smaller pieces so they don’t become “stringy”, and cook them over a slightly longer period. Slow-cooking will work here by adding them into stews or curries.

The much larger leaves we find have a much better use as a wrap for foods that will be oven or steam cooked. Very similar to the same way you would use banana leaves.

Can you eat Canna Edulis Rhizomes?

Yes, you certainly can eat the rhizomes of Canna edulis (Queensland arrowroot), and in a huge variety of ways.

The rhizomes of the Canna edulis can be eaten raw, enjoyed cooked as a whole food or processed for its starch content.

Canna Edulis
Freshly harvested Rhizomes of Canna Edulis

Eaten as a whole food means cooking and preparing it as you would most hard root vegetables similar to parsnips and turnips . We prefer to eat it in the same way you would the humble potato.

If you would like to read more about the process we use please free to have a look at our post on how Can Canna edulis be used as a potato substitute This is where we show how we process the rhizomes to enjoy as a kitchen staple.

When eaten raw it can have a taste and texture similar to bland water chestnuts. It does oxidize quickly after being peeled, so when sheading or grating the rhizome place in water until all the tuber has been processed.

If eating with salads, having an acidic dressing ready to coat the Canna edulis reduces the oxidation (browning)

Another way to process Canna edulis is to extract the starch from the rhizomes. This is what it was more commonly known for in the past. Nowadays it is known as and sold on supermarket shelves as “Arrowroot Powder”.

The Starch extraction process takes a bit of time to explain it here, so if you are interested in learning more on How to make Arrowroot Powder from Canna edulis please feel free to visit the post. It also has video if you would like to watch the process instead.

Can you eat the new shoots of the canna edulis?

When harvesting the rhizomes to process in the kitchen or even to replant, you should consider that the new shoots of the Canna edulis can be eaten.

These are generally sliced off, cooked in stir-fry meals or steamed. They can also be added into soups and stews. Treat them similar to what you would the shoots of bamboo.

This process is very similar to many gingers listed in 21 edible gingers and it shouldn’t surprise us because they are related after all.

In some countries they are eaten raw, however I find I have enough in my garden to eat and would rather let them grow into a new plant.

canna edulis shoots
Canna Edulis new shoots

Can you eat the seeds from the Canna Edulis plant?

From all I have read on this plant the general consensus seems to be Yes, you can eat the seeds of the Canna Lillie plants, however as we grow our plants not from seed but by splitting the rhizomes and replanting, I have never noticed seeds on our variety of Canna edulis (Queensland Arrowroot).

Due to centuries of breeding, a lot (if not most) of the commercial Canna plants are now sterile and don’t produce any seed. Our plant variety may fall into that category. Only those which are fairly close to the native species will produce viable seed. 

If you have one that does produce seeds, then apparently you can eat the immature seeds cooked. The mature seeds will need a lot of prep-work done to them to become palatable as they are very hard.


This plant has so many uses for us from being made into a shelf staple starch product, using the rhizomes as a healthy whole food and to be able to use all of the leaves in a variety of meals.

The Canna edulis (Queensland Arrowroot) is one of those surprising plants that has so many uses and is helping us to become more self reliant by becoming self sufficient in certain foods right here in our back yard.

This article was written by Tui Blanch. She is Co-owner of TheTropicalHomestead.com and has well over 20yrs experience in preserving and storing food.

{sources : plantdelights.com and Eat the weeds by Green Deane}