bananas, can't take cold

The weather has been pretty cooperative this fall, with tastes of freezing temps followed by warmer days. Perfect for getting the non-hardy plants to go dormant and to then get them stored for winter in the garage. Not that I've actually done any storing yet. I'm just saying that the weather has been perfect for it.


Take the bananas for instance. Their foliage has been toasted, while the pseudostems are still in good shape. Seems like a good place to start with some winterizing! (The other option is to start digging up dozens and dozens of elephant ears -- I'll postpone that as long as possible.)

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I've got one planting of a cold-hardy Musa basjoo:


This banana can reach heights of 12' (3.6m) or more in my climate with some winter protection. This was the first season in this spot, as last year I overwintered it in a temporary location.

The first step in getting this protected is to remove the dead leaves. Easily done with a swing of my knife:

Before
After
This seems drastic, but the top parts of the plant will freeze and turn to mush anyway, so might as well chop them off. By the way, I could have done this with loppers but it's much quicker and more fun with a knife or machete if you have one.

Banana sap will stain clothes, so dress appropriately:


There are a few elephant ear tubers around this basjoo that I need to remove now (shoot, I can't escape digging elephant ears!):



With those gone I prepare a cage:



Then I dump some leaves in, packing them down a bit for insulation:


The leaves will protect a couple of feet of the pseudostem, which is all that is needed for this species to come back bigger next year. The exposed tops don't matter:


If we have another mild winter they may not completely turn to mush, but it's the lower part of the pseudostem that needs to survive -- and it will be fine under the leaves.


Besides this cold-hardy banana and a few potted tropical oness I also have one large in-ground planting of an unknown tropical banana that cannot handle our winter weather:


This one needs to be dug up each winter and stored in the garage. I'll remove the leaves now but put off digging it up:



Those large stems are quite heavy, and I'm not much in the mood for heavy lifting right now. I'll have a chance to do this soon enough.

In fact today seems like my last chance, with tonight's low of 25ºF (-4ºC) or less possibly causing more damage to the pseudostems than I want.


It's going to be a long, fun day of digging and hauling! (And there goes my extra garage space for the next few months.)

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Gerhard Bock (Bamboo, Succulents and More)  – (November 23, 2012 at 11:57 AM)  

Isn't it amazing how easy it is to slice through a banana? 90+% of the plant has got to be water :-)

Your Musa basjoo should do some serious upsizing next year.

I only have two bananas left: A yellow lotus and a Cavendish. I leave both of them to their own devices and so far they've pulled through.

Steve Lau  – (November 24, 2012 at 3:39 AM)  

The leaves can't take any cold, but the pseudo-stems seem to be hardy down to around 25F for musa basjoo, and the corms are much hardier.

I actually have a few pups that weren't given away this year so it will be fun to see what those are capable of if they are separated, and planted in some random spots by the spring.


How deep did you plant them? My standard depth for planting is 1ft deep at the top of the corm, but I think it might be fine to plant them even deeper than that.

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