05 July 2014 - by Lizzy Browne

Our Ensete maurellii are growing magnificently in the Jungle Garden. We  planted out four fairly chunky hunks, along with some baby plants that came to  us as plugs in early spring. You would not believe how those little fellas have  caught up with their big brothers! They look so handsome and glossy in todays  rain. I think theyre the real showstoppers of the garden. Reminds me I have to  plough on, adding FAQs to our website. Heres one I prepared earlier.

Q. What are Ensetes?
A. They are very fast growing, evergreen, herbaceous  perennials with huge paddle shaped leaves. Essential in the jungle garden.  Ensete ventricosum has bright green leaves with a paler mid rib; Ensete  ventricosum Maurellii has massive red, green and black leaves. Ensetes are  related to bananas, and are a massively important food crop in parts of Africa,  but it is not their fruit that is eaten. Instead, the fermented roots are used  to make a flour in bread making.

Q.  Are they hardy?
A. Definitely not. They require a minimum of 5 degrees  centigrade in winter. They cannot be left in the garden, however much protection  they are given.

Q. How big and how fast will they grow?
A. In the UK,  if over wintered successfully they can reach 3.5m with an enormous fat trunk.  Growth rates are astonishing. Tiny plants can reach 1.5m in their first  season.

Q. Will they grow in pots?
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, they make fantastic pot plants. However, size may  be restricted in a pot.

Q. Whats the best position and soil type for  Ensete?
A. Full sun or partial shade in a deep, rich, moist soil.

Q.  How much food and water should I give them?
A. Plenty. Lots of feed during  the growing season and keep the soil moist. A liberal dose of well-rotted manure  is advisable.

Q. What do I do with them in the winter?
A. Before the  first frosts dig up. Reduce the roots and shake off excess soil. Remove most or  all of the leaves, especially if space is an issue. Lay the Ensete on the  greenhouse floor and leave till after Christmas, rotating occasionally. This  allows water to drain from between the leaf blades and will help to prevent rot.  In January stand the Ensete upright and place in a pot that snugly fits the root  ball. Backfill with compost and keep barely moist. Keep temperature at a minimum  of 5 degrees centigrade. Dont have a greenhouse? Spare bedroom, utility room  will do. Sadly shed or garage usually results in failure.

Q. Isnt that a  lot of trouble to go to?
A. Absolutely not. These plants give so much impact  to the garden that they are definitely worth the effort. You can of course treat  your Ensete as a superior form of bedding plant and leave it to perish along  with the petunias. It will have given you pleasure all summer long.

Q.  Why is the middle leaf distorted and not growing properly? / Why are the new  leaves getting smaller and smaller?
A. These disorders occasionally occur  after winter, a problem often referred to as strangles. To date nobody seems  to be sure of the cause. It could be a genetic mutation. Other theories suggest  simple slug damage to the growing point. Keep a watch for slugs and snails. If  your Ensete appears to be suffering from a case of the strangles in spring,  you will need to cut the trunk back severely. This will hopefully produce one of  two results. The growing point will begin to grow normally or the main stem will  perish but produce many offsets.

Q. When can I plant my Ensete  outside?
A. Your Ensete has made it through the winter congratulations!  Ensetes shouldnt be planted outdoors until all risk of frost has past usually  the beginning of June in England.

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