Wild About Bananas

Wild About Bananas

Hey Midwest friends! Are you ready for an island escape in your own backyard? We’ve got the plant for you. It’s a hardy banana tree (Musa basjoo) that shows off in summer, dies back in fall, withstands sub-zero winter temperatures then fabulously returns each season.

At Groovy Ranch Plants, we’re wild about this tropical rockstar and think it’s one of the most fun and rewarding plants to grow in the landscape. While they may go dormant for months, they grow leaps and bounds once they get started in June. They eventually reach 6 to 14 feet tall. In fact, the giant clump here at the ranch explodes with new paddle-shaped leaves daily in summertime, and the leaves are so giant you can hide behind them. To take your backyard oasis to the next level pair your thriving bananas with the Ohio hardy elephant ear--Polar Green. These perennials add dramatic tropical vibes to your garden.

Jared may be the biggest fan and refers to the bananas as something like “giant vertical hostas on steroids.” Maybe, you’re thinking this fast growth means they’re invasive. Don’t sweat. Despite their summer surge, these tropical beauties don’t take over and won’t go to seed.

For best results, plant hardy bananas in full sun in the landscape. They prefer consistently moist but well-drained, organic soil. We find the richer the soil the better for the tree’s fleshy fibrous roots. To optimize growth, fertilize weekly with a ½ teaspoon of a balanced fertilizer per gallon of water. Pick up one of our Tropical Success Kits for easy success with these amazing plants. The only challenges are Japanese beetle and wind damage to the large leaves. Ideally, find a location with protection from strong winds.

Hardy bananas can also be grown in containers but won’t show quite as much growth as in the landscape. For containers, use a well-drained potting mix and keep soil consistently moist but not soggy.

Musa basjoo is native to the Ryuku Islands near Japan. In the U.S., these hardy bananas can be grown as evergreens outdoors year round in coastal regions of Florida, Texas, Louisiana and California. In northern areas as far as New England and Ontario, the plants can survive winters but die back to the crown after a frost. To overwinter hardy bananas in the landscape, use a machete or hand saw to cut back their foliage to 24 inches in late fall. Next, pile on a heavy layer of leaves, straw or mulch to protect the plant’s crown through the winter. We’ve found a heavier layer of mulch offers more insulation to the crown, minimizes dieback and increases the odds for a bigger, faster growing plant the next season. In spring, remember to remove the mulch layer once temperatures reach a consistent 40 degrees.

To overwinter container-grown banana trees, cut the tree to 24 inches and let the pot dry out a bit before storing it for the winter. You can keep the pot outdoors until late October, then move it to a frost-free garage or basement.

We hope you’ll give them a try and even build a whole collection of tropical plants like Colocasia, Alocasia, bird of paradise and Cordyline. Maybe even a little reggae music too. Who’s with us?

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How and when is the best way to transplant the little banana plants that sprout off from the main one?

Megan Parsons

I grew Japanese banana near Indianapolis go 20 years and then took them to St. Louis when we moved. I even had them flower. Here in St. Louis I have also been able to grow hardy orange trees (poncirus tr) and have had them fruit. I have also been able to grow needle palm.

Jeff bolinger

I am so excited to purchase and plant these banana plants this spring!!! I had no idea that I was able to plant them in Indiana due to winter frost. Cannot wait to start planting!


Would like to be put on the list for the banana plants please

Tammy Schoonyan

I absolutely love banana trees, but I am terrified to plant mine outdoors here in Indiana. This may have just convinced me to give it a shot next spring though. Thank you!


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