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Banana

March 17, 2018

Question

 About 8 years ago I bought a 4’ tall banana plant. The plant was simply labeled “Banana Plant” so I don’t know the variety.  I planted it in a large pot and it lives in a protected corner of our deck.  It’s never had any fruit or flowers. Each November, we haul it into the garage (I assumed freezing temps weren’t good for the plant) and then haul it back out at the end of February. This year when we wrangled it into the garage, we had to bend some of the leaves since the plant was scraping the 12’ ceiling!  I’ve read online you can cut potted banana plants down to 12 inches before spring but I’m hesitant to take a knife to it.  When and how should I trim this lush beauty to get it down to a more manageable size?


 

 Answer

There are numerous ways to store banana plants.  Some of them have actually been overwintering outdoors with a little extra protection, but not sure how they fared this winter.  The options you have include what you have been doing but you ca also cut it down before moving it in the garage. Others take them out of the ground and wrap them in an old bed sheet and store them in the crawl space of the house or in the garage. If you aren't concerned about flowering or setting fruit, it doesn't matter if they are cut back or not. I would cut back in the fall not the spring. You have already suffered through all winter with all the leaves. Next year cut it back when you move it.


 

January 27, 2018

QuestionAbout 8 years ago I bought a 4’ tall banana plant. The plant was simply labeled “Banana Plant” so I don’t know the variety.  I planted it in a large pot and it lives in a protected corner of our deck.  It’s never had any fruit or flowers. Each November, we haul it into the garage (I assumed freezing temps weren’t good for the plant) and then haul it back out at the end of February. This year when we wrangled it into the garage, we had to bend some of the leaves since the plant was scraping the 12’ ceiling!  I’ve read online you can cut potted banana plants down to 12 inches before spring but I’m hesitant to take a knife to it.  When and how should I trim this lush beauty to get it down to a more manageable size?


Answer

Many of the varieties of banana plants that are sold at local nurseries are now winter hardy, if planted in the ground, but they die back to the ground with a killing frost, and would benefit from a little extra mulch to cover them after a frost.  It would not survive outdoors in a container. That being said, this winter may give us different results!  Many gardeners do move their banana plants to a protected spot each winter.  While you can leave them tall, you can also cut them back to make room for them in storage when you move them inside. Another option is to take them out of the pot and roll them in an old bed sheet and store them under the house.   Banana plants that don't die back can bloom and set bananas, but they probably won't do so in a container, unless it is really large. They also need full sun to bloom and plenty of moisture and nutrition.  Once a banana plant bears fruit, the mother plant dies, but pups or daughter plants are produced in abundance usually--whether they bear fruit or not.  Again, that will be more common where there is room to spread and grow in the ground.  Your container may be limiting their spread.


 

October 21, 2017

QuestionTwo years ago, my wife ordered a “hardy” banana tree from a mail order nursery. It came as a small slip about 5” tall, so she planted it in a mid-size pot, and set it in semi-sheltered spot in the garden.  We overwintered it inside last winter, then planted it outside in a slightly protected bed this spring, when about 14” tall. It is presently about 5’ tall, with 2 side slips approx. 2’ tall. It seems to be growing well. My question, are these banana trees, labeled hardy, actually winter hardy in NW AR?  Is there any special mulching, or protection, necessary to carry them over the winter? Or was she led down the primrose path, when she read the catalog description?

 

  Answer

There are hardy banana plants that will survive in NW Arkansas, but they won't set bananas.  They die to the ground after a frost and then emerge in the spring after the soil warms up. My suggestion for a bit of added protection is to cut the foliage off after a frost and add an extra layer of mulch over the top.  Do this AFTER a frost, not before. We want the plants dormant before the extra mulch.  I suppose in a very unusually cold winter there may be some losses, but I have seen them in Fayetteville and Bentonville and they were several years old planted in the ground.  If you want a safety net, dig up one of the side slips and overwinter in your garage and replant next spring.


 

June 3, 2017

QuestionWe have a banana tree that is about two years old. Last year it had a bloom on it but didn't do anything this year it looks like it is actually growing bananas. If they actually develop into bananas are they safe to eat?

  

Answer

Banana trees do have a showy bloom and can set edible fruit.  The length of time for the fruit to mature is quite long, so we often lose them before they are fully mature to a frost.  Late in the year if they aren’t fully ripe, you can either bring the plant indoors or even cut the stalk with the bananas and put it in a sunny, warm room in a container with water and let them mature.  A banana plant takes about 9 months to produce a bunch of bananas and the mother plant dies after she bears fruit, but there will be many daughter plants at the base to perpetuate life.  


 

September 2016

Question My banana trees have grown so prolifically over the years that I now have upwards of fifty of them.  A few even have some fruit on them this year.  I normally pot them up and move them indoors, but I simply don’t have the space for that many.  A friend told me that I could mulch them heavily and leave them in the ground.  If that is true, it would be a God-send to me.  But wouldn’t that result in smaller plants next year?  What is your advice?

               Banana sprouting          Banana Tree

   AnswerWe have more and more folks leaving their banana trees outside, and with protection, they are coming back. It all depends on how cold the winter is, but most had success even in our two coldest winters.  If you decide to leave them outside and cut them back, the resulting plants will have to start from scratch each year, so they will not grow as large until late in the summer, and you will rarely see any fruit.  Why not do a combination. Dig up some and leave some in the ground.  Those that are bearing fruit, enjoy as long as possible, since the mother plant dies after it bears fruit.  Usually numerous pups are produced at the base.  


 

February 1, 2016

Question dug up my banana trees for the winter and they are in my garage.  They have been watered often, yet the leaves developed a brownish orange color and began to "split." The stalks have dark spots.  Is there anything that I can do to help the plants before I move them back outside in the spring?

 

AnswerWhen you are storing banana plants for the winter, the goal is to keep them from freezing, not actively growing.  I think you have probably been watering too much. I would not recommend any extra water until you move them back out. For now, let them dry out and wait until you replant before cutting off the damaged leaves. Hopefully they will bounce back once the temperatures warm up. 


December 2014

Question Cold weather came before I could dig up my banana trees. Is there any advice to save them after the cold, frosty weather visit?

 

Answer Occasionally banana plants have survived our winter in the ground—but not last year. You have two options. Dig them up now and store the crown and roots in your garage or somewhere protected.  Or, do a Hail Mary and cover it heavily with mulch for the rest of the winter and see what happens next spring.


 January 2010

QuestionWe see Sago Palms in yards where we live in Conway; will they over winter here? I have 2 in pots that I would love to plant in my flower beds. I see them in yards on the East side of homes and the South side. Also what about Banana Trees? I see bunches of them in yards and noticed yesterday that one yard had cut the trees to about two feet off the ground and had mulched them. They had a whole row of the trees. We always bring ours into the garage to over winter.

 AnswerThere are a lot of plants that we are now overwintering outdoors that were not possible ten years ago. This year may be a test for us--or at least it is looking like it up front! Sago palms can overwinter, but may not be in-tact when it is over. If they get frozen back they should re-sprout from the root system. They are considered hardy to around 15 degrees F, but leaves can get nipped if the temperatures are in the low 20's of if there is ice. If damage occurs, wait until late February to early March and cut off the damaged foliage. As long as the crown is firm and undamaged, it should re-sprout with spring growth. Bananas are similar. There are new varieties which are quite cold hardy--even in NW Arkansas, but even the older varieties have been overwintering with extra mulch. If you want large plants with the potential to bear fruit, then moving them in the garage each year is still the best bet. If you want a combination, leave half outside and move half in. Be sure to cut back the foliage after a killing frost and add several extra inches of mulch to protect the common varieties for the winter.


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