Originating from Far East
The Hardy Banana with its huge leaves and pendulous flowers and fruit is one the most iconic tropical plants we can grow in the UK. Forming clumps of multiple trunks, with the tallest reaching flowering maturity at about 3m and smaller stems at all sizes down to the new shoots emerging from the base, Musa basjoo makes a massive statement in any garden. The leaves can be 1.5m long, making the crown of just one plant potentially 3m wide, so the multiple crowns of a large clump need considerable space in a garden planting. When one of the trunks in a clump reaches maturity it produces a pendulous flowering structure known as an inflorescence, bearing numerous individual flowers. The inflorescence can be 70cm long and is covered in protective sheaths which open up in succession, from the tip of the flower back towards the trunk, revealing the flowers inside as the inflorescence matures. This process can take 6 or 8 weeks, and after the yellow flowers fade the green bananas start to form. In the UK the fruits only reach about 8 – 10cm long and have hardly any flesh inside them.
Musa basjoo is a tried and tested root hardy tropical banana plant. In mild winters the frost may only kill off the leaves, in milder parts of the UK. In colder areas or in more severe winter weather the trunk may be cut down to ground level, but the roots will remain intact. In our coldest recent winter in 2009 an unprotected clump took several months to send up new shoots, meaning that the roots may have sustained some damage – but were not killed off completely. A deep mulch over the base of the clump would have helped to protect the roots in this case. After average winters Musa basjoo roots send up suckers early the following spring and these grow vigorously, often producing plants over 2m tall in just one season.
If the trunks are insulated, by wrapping them, you ensure your chances of achieving a banana tree of majestic proportions in just a few seasons. Musa basjoo are gross feeders and only reach their full growth rate in very fertile, moisture-retentive soil in full sun or dappled shade. The best-looking plants of this species are grown in shelter from the wind, as the soft and fleshy leaves tear easily in strong or turbulent wind, although the plants are able to sustain this sort of superficial damage and grow healthily as the torn leaves remain green.
Height and spread after 2-3 years 2m x 1.5m
Mature height and spread after 6-10 years 4m x 4m