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Going Bananas

I have decided to embrace my tropical side. Every year I moan about the hot, humid summer; I lament the passing of spring; I fuss about heat stressed perennials. No more. I now realize that I live in the best of all climates. The fact is, I can have it all. 

Winter? Sure. Just a touch of arctic air, enough to justify a winter wardrobe, and once in a while snow, just enough for it to be a delight rather than a burden. Spring? Absolutely wonderful. Fall? The land glows with colors of the sunset as aging plants prepare for dormancy. Cooling temperatures, football! 

And summer. Summer here has a tropical edge. It is not for wimps. It is steamy and full of creatures that fly and slither and make strange noises all night. We are not quite in the tropics, but there is enough of the jungle flavor to give one a taste. Many exotic plants thrive in the heat and moist air. So I have had an attitude adjustment; I have gone bananas!

I recently planted the ornamental red banana plant, Ensete ventricosum 'Maurellii', beside my patio. The above photos show my new red banana plant, snuggling in amongst its non-tropical neighbors.This plant is fun to photograph! The back of the huge leaves are burgundy, and the tops are tinted in shades of red, green, and yellow.

There are many cultivars of red banana. Some will grow up to 25 feet tall and will produce delicious fruit in frost-free climates. In my climate I doubt mine will grow much larger than 8 feet, as it will stop growing when temperatures cool in the fall. It is not frost hardy. I could cut it back, then dig up the corm and store it inside till next year. But it will probably survive outdoors here if the stalk is cut to the ground and the plant is heavily mulched for the winter, and that is what I am planning to do.

All banana plants need heat and moisture. They should be planted in humus rich, well draining soil. They need to be watered several times a week and need to be fertilized every month with a high nitrogen, organic fertilizer. They do best in full sun, though some will grow in partial shade, especially in the hottest climates. Their beautiful leaves are subject to wind damage, so a sheltered location is best. 

The red banana plant is one of several tropical plants I have added to my garden, so I am saying a hearty welcome to summer. (But give me a fan and a tall glass of iced tea, please!)

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Reader Comments (25)

Sounds like a plan. For some reason it's hard for me to be joyous about this coming summer. I suppose I need a banana.

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreggo

It is truly beautiful! I am impressed that it will overwinter without digging up! I love tropicals. They are always so impressive and exotic. You have me thinking I might need a banana plant, too! ;)

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolleyGarden

I must admit, I quite like it! The foliage is stunning, and there's no denying it is very tropical in appearance. I think you have a good plan with cutting it back, and mulching heavily. Otherwise you'd have to pot it up, and drag the pot to a protected location, and the few times I've tried doing that, the pot has usually still been outside during a killing frost. I'm looking forward to seeing how tall your banana plant gets!

Hi Debs, welcome to the tropical side! That banana will love your summer heat and will grow so quick, looking even more beautiful in just a few weeks :)

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

I like how you have embraced the climate you garden in. Bananas look out of place up here, although many gardeners use them with some effect in containers. But I think they are just right for accenting a hot steamy summer garden in the south!

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Really beautiful plant with stunning colours, an asset to your garden, will we see more tropical plants being introduced. But all that feeding and watering, sorry, life is too short, my plants have to cope by themselves once they are 1 yr old !

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

we don't get frost, but I can't pretend to grow tropicals. We have Strelitzia nicolai, which I learnt to move to afternoon shade. They have managed to reach the top of the fence we want them to hide. But the leaves are simply green, not your glorious fanfare!!

Hi Deb
I enjoy hearing your happy, optimistic attitude! Gardeners should embrace the seasons and you do! Good luck with the banana plant. Save me some banana cream pie (which you are bound to make) - I'll be over before the snows fly! :) (just kidding)

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

Love to use bananas in summer containers- BIG ones!You can get some pretty creative combinations going. Great photos of the leaf unfurling!

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Chapman

My mum has a regular banana plant. She wraps the stem with stockings and bubble-wrap during the winter.

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

Wow! Going bananas was clearly the sensible thing to do! It's a gorgeous plant. What other tropicals are you trying?

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

I don't want to seem rude but I love your banana! Around here many people grows bananas, the green plain one, it dies back in winter and it doesn't produce any fruits even though it could flower. Nobody dig the corms up for winter, I see they just leave the dry leaves until spring and maybe they mulch. Getting to know what thrive in our gardens could be a difficult task somehow but then it's a satisfaction, isn't it?

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto

We have a gardener up here that gets the banana plant though the winter. I know it is recommended to lay them on their side and bury them in mulch, but this garden leaves them upright and wraps them. The plant is twelve feet tall too I hear. I never did see it, but was told of his gardening feat. You are right, it is a cool plant to shoot at every angle.

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

We have a banana that we grow outside in part shade through summer and fall. In the winter we pot it up and put it in the garage. I wonder if we could leave it outside.

Love the banana leaf colors. All I ever see is green, except for a purple one in Bangkok. Yours is a good looking addition to your garden.
Enjoy your summer Deb!

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBom

They are invasive here, not that I mind that much, but my one is now a 'stand of bananas'. The only thing I really don't like about them is that they look utterly horrible if left untended through the winters. Fortunately you can cut them to the ground with a butter knife.

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I have much banana trees in my garden.. it really useful, since me and my family like banana.. hehe..
anyway, it's quite easy to grow.. I don't need to water it everyday..

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergarden sheds

how wonderful Deb that you are taking advantage of your summer weather, I'm assuming you have more than a fan to keep you cool inside as I understand many people in the USA have air conditioning, I saw my first banana plant when on a recent holiday and loved the huge purple flower, I love your red banana plant, good wishes for your new venture, Frances

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIsland Threads

Is this banana ornamental or will it actually fruit? If you plant a mango and coconut trees you can have a smoothie garden! ;)

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

Your banana plant is a real stand out in the garden. Love the color and texture of the leaves..... It sure is getting hot in Alabama.....

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchris

I know what you mean Deb, I do the same, except in Summer I am always going on about it being too cold at times. When some days the temperature reaches 22c we feel like we are having a heatwave. Fabulous pictures of the banana plant, can you believe they sell them in our garden centres. We can leave them outdoors in a pot in Summer, of course it would need to come indoors in Autumn.

May 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair

Hi Deb, What a great idea to go tropical! It sounds like the perfect choice for your climate. I love your shots of the leaves. The burgundy accents are a nice bonus.

May 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Great Idea! I am a long-time lurker of your lovely blog, and found it because of the lovely woodland garden you've created.

I came to the US not by choice, and have been dying to get back to the tropics for years. For financial reasons, I finally accepted that's not going to happen, and am embracing the plants native to my area.

Luckily, there are a lot of plants which look "tropical" and are our legacy from when the East coast was the largest temperate rainforest in the world. My favorite tropical looking plants are magnolia tripetala and pawpaw. Anyway, thanks for another lovely post.

May 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSmidgeon

There are some tender yet hardy bananas that will grow up here... they do need winter protection, but I was amazed when I saw someone who had them all around an in-ground pool - in New England!! Her had them in pots and brought them in for the winter. I've never considered it before now, but these photos are awesome!

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathy and Steve

This is a new departure, I love those leaves and can understand your fascination in photographing them. Just stunning! Christina

June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina
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