Putting Musa basjoo to sleep

It's that time of year when I, in 5 minutes, drastically change the look of my back garden.

Sadly, it is time to prepare the hardy bananas (Musa basjoo) for the winter.


First, let's take a quick look at these beauties, still contributing in a positive way even though their foliage has been fried by several nights below freezing:

I think they probably topped out at about 18' (5.4m) when the leaves were still upright. So big!

With low temperatures of about 16ºF (-9ºC) forecast for last week, I had to protect the pseudostems...

...which are so impressive this year!

There are so many of them too!

As much as I hate seeing these huge plants go, I have to admit that chopping them down is quite a bit of fun. Just a single swing with a machete and each pseudostem is sliced through.

Here's the result:

Dramatic difference!

The cut stems leak so much "water"...

...and quickly oxidize:

After hauling the heavy tops to the compost pile, I raked some leaves over the base of the stems. In past years I've heaped it up several feet deep inside a temporary fence, but I'm taking a more relaxed approach this year.

Then I moved several potted bamboos into the area...

...and put a plastic sheet over the whole thing:

I used a single pole to keep it up, creating a little "greenhouse" (I hope). This will keep the area dry and also provide some cold protection if all goes as expected. The bamboos were going to hold the plastic up, but I then decided that a pole would be best. I'm not sure exactly what the pots will contribute but I wasn't going to move them out again.

It just doesn't look as tropical, does it?

You know, it's quite amazing how much those plants push up out of the ground each year. Hauling it around the yard really drives that home.


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outlawgardener  – (December 13, 2016 at 9:01 AM)  

Sad to see that beautiful foliage go for another season. I haven't cut mine back yet as only the topmost leaves have been fried even though it was below freezing for a couple of days. Can it just be spring now?

Salty Pumpkin Studio  – (December 13, 2016 at 9:35 AM)  

Even after the frost, the plant has personality as well as beauty.

In that stage, it reminds me of the folklore characters, Namahage and Yamahage of Japan that I read about on the blog, An English Travel Writer, 12 December 2016.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 13, 2016 at 12:22 PM)  

More than anything, I continue to be amazed by the amount of top growth you get every year. The fact that St Louis is hot AND humid is a big factor, I'm sure. Here in Davis, bananas simply don't grow that fast, even given enough water, since our humidity is typically around 30% in the summer, or even less.

Hoover Boo  – (December 14, 2016 at 6:14 PM)  

Interesting how huge the Musa gets for you. They seem to thrive on your summer rain and humidity, rather than here where it is never very cold, but too dry. The tops compost pretty quick?

chavliness  – (December 15, 2016 at 1:06 PM)  

The oxidization of the cut stems is quite unusual and pretty. I can't believe you'll be staring at that white plastic all winter long...

Aaron  – (December 16, 2016 at 3:02 PM)  

I've thought about adding M. basjoo to my Tennessee garden, but I'm a little concerned over how much/fast it would spread. What's been your experience and anyway to curtain that spread beyond where you want it to go? Thanks!

Alan  – (December 19, 2016 at 1:51 PM)  

Aaron: I've had this for.. 5years now I think, and although it is spreading a bit, it would be super easy to contain it. Just cut down any "pups" that come up outside the area you want. It's not bamboo. :)

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