Grow Guide for Ornamental Banana Trees
Even if you live where Jack Frost comes to visit, you can still enjoy the summertime ambiance of a lush tropical plant with huge leaves and exotic flowers. Consider planting an ornamental banana plant. Bananas are not trees, but rather large herbaceous perennials (the largest of all, in fact). Bananas are monocots, more closely related to gingers and heliconias than to trees or sunflowers.
Perfect Plants offers three varieties of ornamental banana plants. These bananas do not produce edible fruits, but they do produce beautiful foliage and flowers, they survive freezing temperatures, and they make a bold, tropical statement in any landscape large enough to accommodate them.
Basjoo (Musa ‘Basjoo’) is a full sized banana plant, 12-15 feet tall, that is hardy all the way to Zone 4, surviving winter temperatures below 0°F, as long as the root mass is well mulched. Another full sized banana is the Bordelon (Musa ‘Bordelon’), which also gets 12-15 ft tall but is hardy only to zone 8. Both produce huge leaves and striking flowers. Golden Lotus (Musella lasiocarpa) gets just 5-6 feet tall. It is hardy to zone 7, where it dies to the ground in winter, and comes back the following spring. Golden Lotus begins flowering in mid-spring, and often continues to bloom until frost. This is a good variety for growing in a container on the patio.
Bananas, including the ornamental kinds, are very fast growing. They send up suckers from underground roots, creating little jungles of tropical foliage that enhance their visual appeal and provide strength-in-numbers protection for the plants. The banana grove helps to maintain humidity around the individual plants, as well as protecting them from temperature extremes and damaging winds. (The central, largest stalk dies after blooming, so never remove all of the suckers.)
Bananas do best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH around 5.5 – 6.5. Choose a planting site large enough to accommodate a smallgrove of mature banana plants. They require full sun to partial shade. You may need to provide supplemental irrigation during dry spells, so keep that in mind when selecting your banana’s location. The huge, broad leaves are easily torn in the wind, so a position protected from the strongest winds is advisable. Ornamental bananas will die back to the ground when it freezes, so select a position where they won’t be missed for several months of the year.
Dig a large hole for your new banana plant and enrich the site with organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost to get it off to a good, fast start.
Bananas should get 1-2 inches of water weekly and the soil should stay evenly moist, never soggy nor completely dried out. Bananas are fast growing plants that need lots of nutrients. You should fertilize your ornamental banana 2 or 3 times a year during the growing season. Apply a complete, slow-release fertilizer such as one with an N-P-K ratio of 6-6-12 (plus micronutrients), as per label directions. Bananas need lots of potassium (K).
When the first freeze comes, cut the banana plant down to 8-12 inches above ground level, and mulch the root zone heavily. The following spring it will start growing again and pop through the mulch.
If you grow your ornamental banana in a container (a 15 gallon pot or larger is recommended) it will need more frequent watering and fertilizing than plants grown in the ground. During the growing season, when your potted banana is outside, you will need to water it every day. In the winter you can move it inside where it won’t need fertilizer or very much water until it goes back outside again in the spring.
Divide banana plants every 2 or 3 years or so to prevent overcrowding. Use a sharp spade to cut the suckers off the rhizome. You can replant the suckers.
Enjoy the luscious designs and tropical vibes of our 3 varieties of Ornamental Banana Plants! Once they start growing you won’t even know you aren’t in the tropics :)