09 October 2008

Musa basjoo Japanese Fiber Banana - Hardy to 20-degrees Below Zero


It may look like a fragile plant, but Musa basjoo Japanese Fiber Banana is cold hardy to 20-degrees below zero. Musa is the most popular banana tree for landscapes as cold as zone 5 in Kansas and Pennsylvania.

In our zone 7, gardeners plant them in gardens permanently close to a building or fence and mulch them in the winter. By the end of the following summer they can grow to 15-feet tall.

Matthew Weatherbee, owner of Blossoms Garden Center in Muskogee, grows them at home and sells them at the nursery.

They really do survive the winter when planted in the ground, Weatherbee said. They will freeze down but come back from the roots bigger than the year before. They also multiply and one tree becomes a clump of trees. This is a great plant!

Park Seed is offering the plants this fall. Transplant mail order plants into larger pots and keep them inside for the winter while their roots expand.

If you have one outside in the ground, the roots will live even when temperatures dip to 20-below zero, but the leaves and trunk will die back to the ground.

To care for a plant in the ground, remove the dead leaves and prune the trunk to around 2-feet tall after the first killing frost. Mulch the trunk with six to 12-inches of straw, bark or pine needles. Avoid leaf mulch since it tends to stay wet and form a mat.

Some gardeners wrap the stem with burlap and top the plant with an upside down garbage can to protect it for the winter. One gardener wrapped the trunk with Christmas lights and turned them on at night to keep the trunk warm.

Each leaf frond grows up to 18 inches wide and 6-feet long. Healthy plants will make new pups around the base. Remove the pups, plant them in pots and over-winter them indoors. Or, leave them in place and let a colony develop.

Other than Japanese beetles, few insects or diseases bother Musa basjoo but it can be killed by under or over watering.

The roots are shallow so pay attention to how dry the soil surface is. Do not allow the roots to stand in water for long periods of time. When planting Musa in the garden, amend the soil with compost to improve drainage.

To move a potted Musa basjoo indoors in the fall, top it in October before freezing weather arrives. Make a clean cut with a sharp knife at the desired height. Leave it outside until a hard frost is predicted, spray with insecticidal soap such as Safer, and bring it in.

What appears to be the trunk of a Musa basjoo is a pseudostem, in this case, a group of tightly wrapped leaves.

Banana tree leaves are designed to shred in high winds as a survival mechanism in their native tropical habitats. Keep the leaves pretty by sheltering them from hard wind.

For more information: Park Seed http://www.parkseed.com/ and 800-213-0076. Also, Parks has online gardening help at www.successwithseed.org and http://www.theplantcoach.org/.



2 comments:

Martha said...

the link to the online newspaper article is

http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/features/local_story_303180821.html

Anonymous said...

Here is a link from Plant Delights Nursery that contains a list of great Musa cultivars plus an article on their history, and cultivation:
http://www.plantdelights.com/Catalog/Plants/Genus/Musa