Banana plants add color, tropical flair to landscape
I’m getting more questions about growing bananas, which means Mississippi gardeners are interested in creating a tropical feeling in our landscapes. Good news: Bananas are one of the easiest plants to grow. But they’re not only for coastal Mississippi. There are selections that are hardy for all landscapes in Mississippi.
Japanese Fiber is widely considered to be the most cold-tolerant banana selection. The coarse-textured, bright-green leaves can be 6 feet long and arch out from the top of the thick trunk. In Mississippi’s coastal counties, this plant has the potential to reach up to 10 feet tall. Other locations can expect a 5-foot-tall plant. Even at 5 feet, this banana plant has a strong presence in the landscape.
Thai Black banana is one of fastest growing landscape bananas. It has a deep, dark purple coloration on the trunk. The midribs arising from the trunk carry this coloration and fade back to the dark green of the foliage. Be careful where you plant it because it needs a lot of space! Some specimens reach more than 15 feet tall in many landscapes across Mississippi.
In my opinion, any plants with red in the foliage are landscape winners, and I really like the various bananas with red leaves. I’m growing Siam Ruby, one of the prettiest selections. The stem’s rich burgundy color is stunning. The irregular variegation of bright green on the burgundy foliage seems to shimmer. Siam Ruby will probably reach 4 to 5 feet tall. It is more suited to zones 8 and 9 and will die back to the ground each winter.
Bordelon banana has leaves adorned with maroon splotches. The back is solid red, which is very visible as the new leaves begin to unfurl. Based on trial data, Bordelon may be the most cold-tolerant of the red-striped banana varieties. This plant was first discovered near Bordelon, Louisiana, as a sport mutation of a Sumatrana banana plant.
Red Abyssinian is another personal favorite of mine. The leaves are bright green with a red midrib. As new growth emerges, it is flushed with burgundy and almost appears to be hand-painted in shades of red, burgundy and green. Red Abyssinian is in the genus Ensete. Plants of this type do not produce offsets or pups; after flowering, they will die. That said, this is an outstanding banana to grow in a large container on the porch or patio.
The extra-large leaves of bananas look great but need protection from strong winds that can quickly cause them to shred. But even this is a matter of preference, because I think the shredding adds character and movement.
When growing bananas in containers, you need to use commercial container mixes. They are light weight and have good drainage. And don’t forget about the container itself. Choose one large enough to remain in proportion with the plant itself. Be sure to maintain consistent moisture in the dry weather we frequently experience in Mississippi. A heavy layer of mulch is critical in maintaining soil moisture for optimum growth. Bananas are heavy feeders, so use a balanced slow-release fertilizer, such as a 14-14-14, lightly scratched in around each plant. For containers, use water-soluble fertilizers on a weekly basis in the regular watering schedule.
The coarse-textured foliage is right at home in almost any garden setting, including yours.
For more information on growing bananas in your landscape see the Southern Gardening TV segment Cold Tolerant Bananas, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXBErev4hcc.