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Bananas are truly one of the most tropical looking plants. Wouldn’t you like to go to the tropics? Why not bring the tropics to you?
A lot of people like to have that tropical look in their gardens, whether it’s in a container or in the ground. There are two hardy species that you can grow in our colder climate: one is Musa basjoo, and the other is Musella lasiocarpa.
Both do great in containers or in the ground and are hardy to Zone 6. Winter protection should be given to them if you want them to grow really large the following year. To do this, most people just cut them back to about 2’ tall and mulch them with good-draining compost.
Others will securely wrap the trunks with a insulator such as a frost blanket and plastic to keep the trunk from freezing. If you choose to insulate the trunk then you banana will have a head start the next year.
With tropical bananas, you will either need to winter them over indoors as a house plant or you can put them in a frost proof place such as a garage or basement and allow them do go semi dormant until the chance of last frost is gone and then return them to the outdoors.
Musa basjoo - Japanese fiber banana
What a nice specimen for a tropical look in the garden! Very hardy to -20 degrees, this banana can grow 10’ tall in one season from ground level! If the trunks are well insulated in winter they can reach 15’ tall.
Leaves can reach to 6’ lengths. Otherwise cut the stalks down to about 2’ in late fall and mulch with leaves, straw or something that doesn’t hold to much moisture to prevent trunk rot. Each new year the will send up pips (new baby bananas) and your plant can easily become a grove. It should be planted in full to partial sun with moist, well drained soil. To increase fast growth, be generous with nitrogen. Use as recommended on manufactures label.
Musella lasiocarpa - Dwarf Chinese Banana
Native to the Yunnan province of China, this Banana is known for its showy lotus shaped yellow flowers.
Generally blooms during second year. Leaves are bluish green and narrow. This banana will mature at about 4-6’ tall and sometimes as wide. Hardy to Zone 6. Plant in full sun to part shade in moist, well drained fertile soil.
Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelli’ -
There is a classic, tropical appearance to this fast growing palm-like ornamental Banana. Rising from the single trunk, the leaves are very large; 6-8’ long and paddle shaped, bright green with a vibrant red lower midrib. Very striking, indeed!
Plant in full to partial sun and be sure to protect it from strong winds. Not winter hardy in the Pacific Northwest, so must be overwintered indoors.
Musa acuminata ‘Siam Ruby’ - Red Variegated Banana
This specimen is a rare red banana from New Guinea. Fast growing to 8’ tall, its leaves are the main attraction – a stunning red color with green flecks, this one is a real eye-catcher!
Plant in full to partial sun. Not hardy, must be overwintered indoors.
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Origin: Tropical region of Southeast Asia
Characteristics: Bananas are cultivated primarily for their fruit, and to a lesser extent for the production of fibre and as ornamental plants. As the banana plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy they are often mistaken for trees, but their main or upright stem is actually a pseudostem (literally "fake stem").
For some species this pseudostem can reach a height of up to 2–8 m, with leaves of up to 3.5 m in length. Each pseudostem can produce a bunch of green bananas which when ripened often turn yellow or sometimes red.
A variety was even recently discovered in a rainforest in Asia that turns purple. This then dies and is replaced by another pseudostem.
Foliage: Treated strictly as ornamentals, these types of bananas are grown for their foliage, not for fruit. Bananas can grow to 15 feet tall and can be quite dramatic with their large leaves. Use bananas in large containers or as specimen plants in landscape beds.