Banana FAQ
05 July 2014 - by Lizzy Browne

Imagine chatting to fellow gardeners, who are after all, the nicest of  people, about your favourite subject, every day and earning a living at the same  time. Well thats what I do and constantly count my blessings. But some days I  do get a little bored answering the same question 80 TIMES A DAY!!!!!! And it  nearly always relates to a banana. Now I know every banana tree is some ones  baby and we all have to learn about its cultivation from somewhere and why  shouldnt it be from Urban Jungle, but Im catching myself reeling off the same  old spiel like an automaton. 
The time has come for a FAQ board at the  nursery and on our website and I intend to start one now before the great winter  lifting and wrapping operation. That way I can direct customers to it and retain  the will to live. 
So for Musa basjoo its going to go something like  this.

Q. What is Musa basjoo?
A. Musa basjoo is a herbaceous  perennial. Although we call it a banana tree, this refers to its tree-like  stature. It doesnt produce a woody trunk so technically it isnt a tree.

Q. Is it hardy?
A. Its root hardy. In an exceptionally severe  winter like 2009/10 it may be reduced to ground level if unprotected, but will  produce new stems from the base in spring/summer. However, if you take the time  to wrap it, this will usually offer enough protection to preserve the trunk  through the winter.

Q. How fast and how big will it grow?
A. Musa  basjoo is extremely fast growing. A small plant can reach 3m in as many years,  ultimately scraping the sky at 5m.

Q. Will it grow in a pot?
A. Almost  any plant can be grown successfully in a pot and provided it is supplied with  adequate food and water and re-potted when required, it makes a fantastic pot  plant. However, its size may be restricted in a pot.

Q. Does it need sun  or shade?
A. Either, although the leaves grow much bigger and are a darker  green in some shade.

Q. How much food and water should I give it?
A.  Plenty. Its a greedy plant and loves moist but not waterlogged conditions.  Yellow leaves are a sign that its hungry, and slow growth is often due to lack  of water during the growing season. Plants in the ground benefit from a liberal  dose of manure at planting time and annually thereafter. Plants in pots can be  fed weekly during the growing season with a high nitrogen feed. 

Q. Why  are the leaves on my newly purchased banana turning yellow?
A. When you first  take your Musa home from the nursery - where it has been grown under glass, and  place it in an open garden it understandably feels a little shocked and needs to  adjust to the change in light levels, temperature and wind. The new leaves, when  they appear, will be greener and stronger.

Q. Will it produce  bananas?
A. Theres a good chance that a specimen thats several years old  will produce a bunch of bananas - always a thrilling sight, but not very  palatable. However, Musas are monocarpic, meaning they die after producing  fruit. All is not lost though as a plant of this maturity will have produced  several good sized pups or offsets. Simply cut down the old stem after  flowering.

Q. How do I wrap it? 
A. After many years of experimenting with  different materials and techniques weve found the best way is to use  horticultural fleece and straw. Make a tube with the fleece by folding it and  fastening with staples. Place this over the stem and stuff with straw. Place a  plastic bag over the top to prevent rain getting into the stem.


Q. When do I wrap it?
A. Dont be in too much of a  hurry. The aim is to keep it under wraps for as little time as possible to  prevent rot. Wrap after the leaves have turned brown and limp in the first  frost. 

Q. When do I unwrap it? 
A. We unwrap at the beginning of  March. Frosts after this time will not be severe enough to damage the  stem.

Q. Do you think it will grow too big for my garden?
A. Oh dont  be ridiculous.

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