How to grow banana plants
All you need to know about growing Musa, in this detailed Grow Guide.
Musa is the most commonly grown banana plant in the UK. While grown for its dramatic, enormous leaves, you may be lucky to see fruits develop, although these are rarely edible in the UK – they need months of heat and sun to ripen. However, Musa looks fantastic in a bold border, with other strong foliage plants, such as the canna lily, or contrasting with finer leaved plants like bamboos.
How to grow bananas in the UK
Grow banana plants in full sun to partial shade in fertile, moist but well-drained soil, in a sheltered spot. Mulch the roots and protect the stem with horticultural fleece or a thick layer of straw in autumn so it doesn't succumb to winter frosts.
More on growing bananas:
- How to protect banana plants over winter
- How to check a banana for frost damage
- How to protect a tender banana
Where to plant bananas
Grow Musa in full sun to partial shade in fertile, moist but well-drained soil, in a sheltered spot. Or grow in a large container that you can move indoors during the winter months.
How to plant bananas
Dig a generous hole, adding plenty of rich compost.
In this clip from Gardeners' World, Monty Don makes a big new addition to his Jewel Garden at Longmeadow. Planting a large and spectacular Abyssinian banana plant or red banana plant (Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii') with beautiful plum-tinged foliage, he explains how to prepare the soil, what size hole to dig, and how to position it to best effect. He also explains how to look after banana plants over winter, and suggest a more hardy option (Musa basjoo) that you could use instead:
How to protect banana plants in winter
Cover the base of your Musa plant with a thick mulch in autumn to protect the roots from cold and wet over winter. You may also need to protect the leaves with horticultural fleece. Most plants will benefit from a spring trim, to tidy ravaged leaves.
The red Abyssinian banana (Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii') is a magnificent plant with huge red-tinged leaves, ideal as the centrepiece in a tropical-themed border. However, it won't survive any frost, so you need to take action in autumn to ensure it survives the winter. Find out how to dig it up in this short Gardeners' World video guide featuring Monty Don:
Having dug his banana up from the border and let it dry out, Monty explains how to store it so it goes dormant over winter:
Tender bananas that have been kept indoors over winter should be brought back into growth in mid-spring, so they're ready to plant out after the last frosts. In this clp from gardeners' World, Monty Don shows you how to gradually harden off a beautiful but tender banana plant:
How to propagate banana plants
Look for small, suckering shoots at the base of your banana plant. New plants can be grown from these – simply separate them from the parent plant in spring and pot them up to grow on under cover.
Growing banana plants: problem solving
If you're growing Musa in a conservatory or greenhouse, look out for mealybug and red spider mite. Outdoors, wind damage can tear the leaves and cold, wet weather can cause rot.
Types of banana plant to grow
- Musa basjoo - is the Japanese banana and is grown for its enormous leaves, that can measure up to 3m in length. In the right conditions, flowers appear in summer, and sometimes small fruits will follow, but these aren't edible. The RHS has given Musa basjoo the prestigious Award of Garden Merit
- Musa lasciocarpa - the chinese yellow banana has typical banana leaves, but the yellow flowers in summer are more striking than its Japanese cousin. The plant dies back after flowering, but new shoots will appear and can be grown on to replace the parent plant. This banana was believed to be extinct, but was rediscovered in the remote Himalayas. The RHS has given Musa lasciocarpa the Award of Garden Merit
- Musa × paradisiaca ‘Rajapuri’- a hardy cultivar that copes well with wind. With rich green leaves, it may also produce edible fruits in the right conditions. Height 2.4m (8ft)
- Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ - a smaller variety, growing to 2m, with large, slightly reddish leaves. RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Musa acuminata ‘Zebrina’ - a medium height cultivar that is good for containers, with highly ornamental, red-striped leaves. Another Award of Garden Merit holder
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