Thursday, July 8, 2010

Growing Hardy Bananas

Hardy banana (Musa basjoo) survives winters as far north as New England and Ontario, Canada (USDA Zones 5-10). It is a herbaceous perennial which grows to 6-14' tall. Its roots, when heavily mulched, survive winter temperatures of -10 degrees F. Grow hardy banana in compost rich, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Feed with a 3-6 month slow-release fertilizer supplied in early spring.

In the southern Appalachian region (USDA zones 6-7) hardy banana produces enormous 3-4 foot long leaves which gives any garden a tropical look. Give banana plants lots of space. By late summer, the large tropical leaves cast lots of cooling shade over a nearby patio or low deck . Fruit and off-white flowers are not formed because our growing period is not long enough.

If grown in containers, use a well-drained potting soil mix. Keep the container soil evenly moist, but never saturated. Reduce water and no fertilizer applications as winter approaches. In USDA Zones 5-8, store plant(s) and the container in a non-freezing area indoors over the winter months to protect the tender roots.

Plant roots become more aggressive over the years. Established plants produce numerous shoots, called “pups”. Older plants form large colonies, consuming more and more garden space each year.

Site your banana in a partially sheltered area away from high winds, which may tear the large leaves. Hardy banana has no serious insect or disease problems.

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