Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A sad tale of three Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'

I thought about using the Goldilocks principle (one too big, one too small and one “just right”) to describe my three red bananas, but that comparison doesn’t work. Why? Because they are all too small!
For me it’s become a annual tradition to buy a red banana, even though they’re doomed to be annuals in zone 8. I love the color and the big leaves; they are one of the tropical must haves on the patio.
The last few years I’d made the purchase at the Hardy Plant Society Spring Plant Sale (mark your calendars….April 9 & 10, 2011), but there were none available this year. I chalked it up to our cool wet spring and bought one a month or so later at the Rare Plant Research Open House. It only took a week or two for it to start fading, before long it looked so sad there was no way it could stay in a container with a staring role. It was moved into the ground, where it has stayed alive, that’s about all I can say for it. Here is how it looked yesterday, Oct 25.
29” tall (measured from the base), with 4 leaves (hand for scale)
Enter banana number two, this one from Portland Nursery. Ditto for the performance, now granted it was probably more the lack of sun than anything (for both of them) but this one too took a quick nose-dive and was removed to a supporting role elsewhere. Here it is now.
31” tall (measured from the base), with 6 leaves
Number three came from Garden Fever, and remains in the container, mostly due to my laziness at this point. Although it did perform a little better and in fact it has recently started to look respectful, but nothing like the spectacular specimens I’ve enjoyed in prior years, and seen in others gardens this year (not mentioning any names like Megan, Patricia, Kim, or Grace).
44” tall (measured from the base), with 7 leaves
I figure each successive plant has done a little better than the one before because the weather had warmed and the sun was actually shining a bit more when they were planted. But the overall performance of all three was so dismal that I’d love to hear banana secrets from those of you that have experienced success. I also think I may try and over winter specimen #2, it’s in a small enough container that I can take it inside when the weather cools a little more, my mother managed to do this last year, maybe I can too! Any hints from the experts out there?


  1. Overwintering bananas is super easy. I still remember driving past a yard in Columbus Ohio (zone 5 or 6) and seeing 8 foot bananas with FRUIT! I stopped and asked them about it -- they just dig them up (you don't have to take hardly any soil -- the roots will regrow next year), cut back the leaves, and keep them cool and fairly dry in their basement. Another friend regularly overwinters Ensete the same way.

  2. do you cut back the leaves and leave the stalk (was that a pun?)

  3. Greensparrow, you remind me of something I saw in one of the gardens we visited in Canada. They were digging the banana, ginger, etc and took virtually no soil. Thank you! I'm going to try it! (maybe even on more than one)

    ninjascience, yes I do...on the Musa basjoo that I leave in the ground. Then I wrap the pseudo-stem. I did try doing the same with an Ensete years ago, I left it in the ground and it died. It just got too cold.

  4. My mom grows hers in pots and just moves the pots into the crawl space for the winter. No watering, no light, no attention till spring. She's had great success this way.

    I'm tempted to try the technique mentioned by Greensparrow. Growing bananas that produce fruit? That would be impressive here in New England!

  5. Thanks Diana, maybe since I have three of them I'll experiment with both your mom's way and Greensparrow's way. Report to follow in the spring.

  6. Two years ago I paid real money for an Ensete, dug it up after the season was over and stored it in the basement. Come spring it was toast, limp toast. I also coveted the Siam Ruby and although I was successful in over-wintering it, the performance from it this summer was disappointing, it hardly looks different than when I pulled it from the basement. However, good old reliable, hassle free basjoo has done just fine, I only wish it could be red.

    1. Do you remove the leaves, leaving only the psuedostem?

  7. Lot's of compost!!!on a 8 gallon pot.
    You can ask for a 8 gallon pot at a local nursery.
    Add container mix and compost.
    The first one I had grew to be at least 12 feet tall that same year.
    This year our weather in Connecticut was too dry but still grew to 9 feet tall. Good luck!!

  8. Hi, I'm reading your old post from 2010 ... in 2023. From what I've read, bananas need full sun, as well as LOTS of nitrogen and water to get big. Lawn fertilizer (the type without herbicides, obviously) is the most commonly available and affordable.


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