Garden

Banana


A banana tree in the garden


Bananas, the long sweet fruits that we are used to consuming throughout the year, grow on very particular plants: they quickly reach 2-3 meters in height, presenting themselves as trees, but in fact they are huge perennial grasses. From a full-bodied corm, a bulb-tuber, which often develops only semi-submerged from the earth, sprout long leaves with petiole, of enormous dimensions, gathered in tufts; in practice the petioles of the leaves, grouped together, give rise to a stem, which can be confused with the trunk of a tree, to whose top the enormous fronds are waved.
The leaves of banana they can be up to 4-5 meters long, and broad in the maximum portion up to 50-60 cm; they are bright light green, slightly leathery. The new leaves sprout from the center of the package formed by the old ones, then outside the head we will have only adult leaves, and in the center only young leaves. THE banana trees they produce very large inflorescences, consisting of a false flower similar to an enormous onion, consisting of appressate bracts, of a lively color, often red, at the base of which sprout flowers, both female and male.
The flowers of banana they are not particularly flashy, and the feminine ones have the inferior ovary, or petals and sepals develop above the ovary, and therefore when they wither remain on the upper apex of the long berry. Plants grown in Italy hardly produce edible fruits, especially if grown at home or in greenhouses, but there are dozens of varieties of banana in the world.
Some fruit varieties can produce sweet and fragrant fruits even in the hottest areas of Italy, others, purely decorative, produce fruits full of seeds, not edible, but of a bizarre color; other varieties are still grown only for their particular colored foliage, or for the very small dimensions, which make them excellent plants to be cultivated in pots.

Growing a banana tree



Before understanding how to grow a banana tree, it is good to remember that there are dozens of varieties of banana, which may present different climatic requirements, even if generally all of them banana trees have similar cultivation needs; therefore we remember that some species and varieties are purely houseplants, of dimensions that do not exceed two meters if cultivated in pots, other varieties live outdoors in the summer and then in greenhouses throughout the winter; very few varieties can withstand short frosts, and should still be placed in a sheltered area of ​​the garden, unless our house is in an area of ​​Italy where the winter climate is particularly forgiving, as happens in some areas of Puglia, Calabria or of Sicily.
Let us not forget that banana trees are perennial herbaceous plants, with fast and vigorous growth, as these can be grown leaving the aerial part lost during the winter, to reappear in spring; it often happens to see banana trees in decidedly non-tropical areas, such as the shores of Lake Garda.
Bananas are ruined, even a lot, by the cold winter wind, or from the intense frosts, from the snow, from the frost, this does not necessarily mean that the corms die in autumn, indeed, often large banana trees grow for years, with only a few leaves darkened by the cold or ruined by the wind, even in areas with climate inclement winter.
It also happens in Italy that some years follow each other with decidedly inflexible winters, and therefore it is not necessary for our garden in the Po valley to feel excluded from the possibility of cultivating an exotic and particular plant, which reminds us of the jungle.













































































THE BANANO IN BRIEF

Name, genus, species

Musaceae, gen. Muse
Type of plant Perennial herbaceous
Height From 60 cm to more than 5 meters
Foliage Persistent or semi-persistent
Foliage color Green, purple, dark brown
Flowers White, yellow or pink
fruits Yellow or pink; rarely edible
Maintenance From medium to high
irrigations Frequent, no water stagnation
humidity Alta; low in winter
Substrate 25% garden soil, 25% universal soil, 25% compost or mature manure, 25% coarse sand
fertilizing Granular or liquid for green plants
Growth From medium to fast
Resistance to cold Hardly rustic to medium rustic (depending on the species)
Exposure Full sun or light shade
Container At least 30 cm x 30
Propagation Picking suckers, cutting, sowing (difficult)
Pests and diseases Cochineal, red spider mite, virosis, root rot

Planting a banana tree


The best time to proceed is from April to June, depending on our geographical location.
The banana appreciates the deep and rich soils, but they must be well-drained at the same time.
To obtain the best results it is good to dig a large hole and place a draining layer of gravel or expanded clay on the bottom. We then spread a cloth of non-woven fabric to isolate that part from the upper substrate. We insert the plant and fill it with the following mixture: 25% of garden soil, 25% of universal soil, 25% compost or mature manure, 25% of coarse sand. We compact and irrigate abundantly.




































Composition of the vase



Small species and varieties are ideal for growing in pots and, especially in the North, they allow winter protection in greenhouses. We choose a container that is initially neither too large nor too small (ideally from 30 x 30 cm on the side and just as deep): the movements will be simpler and we will better control the onset of rot. Let's immediately place it on a platform with wheels. The ideal mixture is the one indicated above, but also a soil for citrus fruits which we will have added a bit of organic soil improver

Banana fertilization



Banana is very greedy for nourishment. In the middle of the earth it is good, at the end of the winter, to spread abundant granular slow release fertilizer in macroelements and rich in microelements. Repeat in early summer.
Towards November it is important to mulch the area with abundant organic soil flour, flour or pellets, to be subsequently incorporated into the ground with hoeing, but without disturbing the rather superficial root system.
In pots we can support the growth with fortnightly administration of a liquid fertilizer for green plants, from March to October.

Repotting



These plants in optimal conditions grow very fast, even if the insertion in the pot has its own influence on this aspect. In general it is necessary to repot at least every 2-3 years passing to a container that is at least 10 cm larger. An excellent and more comfortable alternative is to take numerous “carrots” of exhausted soil through a bulb plant and replace them with new soil.

Banana care



In any case, whether you choose a rustic variety or not, that you live in Enna or in Varese, if we want to cultivate a banana tree in the garden, first of all we ask the nurseryman a variety that has the right characteristics, warning him that we want to keep it in the garden, and then we place the plant in a bright, sunny area, well sheltered from the wind and the strongest weather, since the huge leaves can be completely destroyed by a strong summer storm (it also happens in the production areas).
We also keep in mind the fact that banana corms tend not to sink too much into the soil, so for their survival, in areas with harsh climate, a good layer of bark or straw to mulch the tuber-bulb can often work wonders.
Bananas are tropical plants, accustomed to a hot and humid climate, throughout the year; so let's remember to water regularly, always keeping the soil moist, when the temperature is above 10-12 ° C; so if we place our dwarf banana in the house or in a greenhouse, let's water it regularly throughout the year, if instead we have a banana tree in the garden, let's water it only from March-April to September-October.
Avoid leaving the roots immersed in stagnant water, and therefore we always wait for the soil to dry slightly between one watering and another. At the beginning of spring we spread around the plant a good dose of slow release granular fertilizer, and we remove the damaged leaves from the bad weather or from other causes, in order to stimulate the plant to produce new ones.

A plant with a long history



In the world bananas are grown throughout the tropical area, in Asia, in Africa and in South America; there are dozens of varieties, all originating from two species, Musa balbisiana and Musa acuminata. It is one of the first plants that man has ever cultivated, recent studies show that the first banana trees were cultivated in Asia, in New Guinea, about 4000 years ago; since then they have come a long way, given that from Asia they were brought to Africa, then to the shores of the Mediterranean and then, in 1500 the Portuguese began to cultivate them in South America.
Today the banana tree it is cultivated in most of the world, both the varieties that produce bananas, the long sweet and meaty berries, and the varieties that produce plane trees, or very large bananas, rich in starch, which are picked unripe and used as enormous potatoes.
The banana species not hybridized by man are small elongated berries, gathered in small compact helmets, which contain a little sugary pulp, rich in dark seeds; the banana species grown to be eaten have completely lost the seeds, of which only small dark spots remain inside the pulp, so they are completely sterile. All the bananas cultivated in the world nowadays come from clones produced in the laboratory, or often from basal suckers of old plants.
The varieties of banana that are grown in the banana plantations, to produce fruits to be spread in the world market, actually behave like perennials: that is, the corms produce the large leaves, therefore a great inflorescence, and the fruits ripen; then the plant dries up and suckers emerge from the corm, which will give rise to new plants; the banana pickers take the helmets full of fruits, then they break down the banana tree which originated and removed the suckers, which will be repositioned in a new field already prepared, to start the cycle again.
Since these plants are produced in areas with a particularly favorable climate, banana harvesting takes place throughout the year, several times a year. The result of this type of cultivation is very dangerous for the survival of the banana trees, as in each production area all twin plants are often cultivated, with little or almost no genetic variability; therefore it often happens that a parasite or a viral disease destroys whole crops, spread in huge areas, where the rural economy is completely destroyed.
If it were only bananas that we eat in the fruit salad, perhaps this problem could be marginal; unfortunately, it is also the cultivation of plane trees, which are one of the most important sources of starch for the populations of the most depressed areas of the planet.

Banana winter protection



As we have said for many varieties cultivation outside without any protection is possible only in the southern and coastal regions. Elsewhere it is necessary above all to protect the trunk from winter frost: what we need to fear is cold weather and at the same time excessive atmospheric humidity and at ground level.
In temperate climate areas it is generally sufficient to wrap the trunk with several layers of special fabric.
Elsewhere it is good to create a real barrier and properly prepare the plant. Here are some suggestions:
- We eliminate all the leaves (rotting they would become a vehicle of pathologies)
- We create a thick insulating layer around the stem: we can use peat mats or coconut fiber, straw and very dry leaves. We cover with non-woven fabric.
- At the end of winter we begin to discover the upper part to encourage the production of new leaves.

Species and varieties of banana


In the market you can find different types of banana: in recent years it is among the most requested plants to give an exotic touch to gardens and have become more widespread varieties resistant to cold and of different sizes, also suitable for growing in containers. It is therefore advisable, in this case more than in others, to find out about these aspects before purchasing and planting.
Here are the most common and interesting ones.

Banana Musa Basjoo


Musa Basjoo is a very pollen-like perennial formed by false thin stems, first green then brown. The leaves are up to 3 meters long and about 30 cm wide. It grows, in the right climatic conditions, even up to 5 meters high. At the end of summer it produces pendulous cream-colored flowers; then there is the production of yellowish-green fruits, very rich in very hard black seeds, up to 6 cm long. Their taste is not very pleasant.
Climate
It is one of the most frost-resistant banana trees and can be grown almost anywhere in Italy, but not in pots, given its final size. To achieve more vigorous growth it is advisable to protect the trunk in winter, to particularly cure the drainage and to place it in a position to the south so that the humidity is dried every day as soon as possible. The Sakhalin variety is even more rustic and has thicker, darker, wind-resistant leaves.

Banana Musa sikkemensis (or Musa hookeri)



Very interesting and recently introduced species, native to the Himalayan region It has leaves up to 2 meters long and 60 cm wide. They are extremely shiny and have a nice glossy green on the upper side; the younger ones have the lower page with strong shades of purple and sometimes chocolate-colored stripes that create a pleasant chromatic effect. The flowering, insignificant, occurs in mid-summer and is followed shortly after by the production of inedible fruits. It reaches 4 meters in height.
Climate
It easily withstands up to -7 ° C, but the winter protection of the head is always recommended in addition to the reduction of humidity in the area.

Banana Musella lasiocampa



Also called "blue banana" or "yellow flowering banana", it is a beautiful plant that does not exceed 1.50 m in height, therefore suitable for cultivation both in the open ground and in a container. The leaves are a nice light green up to 30 cm long. Another point in his favor is the production of a large, bright yellow, very durable inflorescence, even more than 7 months. The fruits that follow are not edible. Originally from China and Vietnam.
Climate
Suitable for the whole of Italy as it bears even -10 / 15 ° C (depending on the degree of humidity) and tolerates the wind.

Banana Musa velutina



Interesting species for the beautiful bright green foliage and the small size (never more than 1.50 m). It has an equally strong point in the pink bloom followed by abundant bright pink fruits and velvety skin (not edible).
Climate
It bears only short frosts if well protected. It can, however, be grown in pots and withdrawn in a cold or temperate greenhouse during the winter.

Musa bordelon



Also called purple banana. Beautiful species for the leaves with a bright purple back and with streaks in the same color on the upper page. It produces violet inflorescences, first erect, then decombent; the fruits are not edible. Rarely exceeds 2 meters in height and can therefore be kept both in the ground or in large vessels.
Climate tolerates light and not very lasting frosts.

Sharp Dwarf Cavendish Muse



Also called "dwarf banana of the Canaries": it has a beautiful dark green foliage with brown spots. It grows up to 2 meters and is therefore also suitable for large containers (there is also a dwarf variety that does not exceed 60 cm). It produces a large purple inflorescence followed by small fruits, very appreciated and sought after for their intense flavor (after at least 3 years from 'system).
Climate
Rather delicate, but in Italy it can be grown in the South and on the Islands with great satisfaction. Elsewhere it is better to keep it in a pot to repair it in a tempered greenhouse.

Musa itinerans



Slender, rhizomatous plant with beautiful blue-green leaves up to 3 meters long, with an often red underside. The plant grows up to 7 meters.
Climate
With the sheltered stem it can be implanted throughout the Center-South. It also bears shaded positions.

Fake banana trees


We also report some plants that are often sold as banana trees, but in reality they are only close relatives. In any case, they are beautiful essences that discreetly tolerate harsh climates and can be useful to give an exotic touch to our garden.

Ensete Ventricosum



Also called "false banana" or "Ethiopian banana" is native to East Africa. It can grow up to 4 meters with leaves up to 2 long. They are born with beautiful red shades that they then preserve only in the central vein, turning elsewhere to dark green. It produces beautiful white flower spikes, more than 1 meter long. It has very vigorous growth.
The 'Maurelii' cultivar is extremely ornamental thanks to the enormous leaves, sometimes red, others ruby ​​and others almost black. Suitable only for the South.
Climate withstands temperatures down to -10 ° C for a short time.

Ensete glaucum



Newly introduced essence originating from Northern China. It grows up to 5 meters and has glaucous leaves more than 2 meters long. The swollen base makes it even more interesting and scenic.
Climate the specimens on the market are not yet perfectly acclimatized and can be grown safely only in the South and on the coasts.
  • Muse plant



    The Musa ornata is a perennial herbaceous plant native to Asia; is the only species of banana that blooms and bears fruit at

    visit: plant muse



THE BANANO CALENDAR

plant

March may
repotting March-April (every 2 or 3 years)
Flowering summer
Fruiting November (specimens at least 3 years old)
Protection / withdrawal From October to March-April
Soil conditioner November
Granular fertilizer (full ground) March and June
Liquid fertilizer (pot) From March to October, every 15 days