How to grow Musa lasiocarpa
Musa lasiocarpa is a highly unusual, yet extremely ornamental species of flowering banana, and a particular favourite amongst plant collectors. Native to the tropical region of the Yunnan province, China it is one of the cold hardiest of all banana species, a result of its natural habit which is high in the mountains up to an altitude of 2500 metres! Commonly called the Chinese dwarf banana Chinese yellow banana or golden lotus banana it is also a sacred plant of the Buddhist monks who live there,

Unfortunately there is some confusion regarding its genus. It was previously and perhaps best known as Musa lasiocarpa, but recently it has been transferred to the genus Ensete based on an analysis of DNA sequence evidence. However this conclusion has now been questioned and it is suggested that Musella lasiocarpa may indeed be the correct name. That being said, just how do you grow Musa lasiocarpa?

You can expect Musa lasiocarpa to reach  between 3-6 ft tall. Like other banana species it produces a conical, trunk-like pseudostem, with upright paddle-shaped, gray-green leaves. Each leave can be up to 2 ft long.

What make this particular plant interesting though is it distinctive lotus-like flower which usually appear in the plants second year of growth and then each year thereafter. The flower is a 8-12 inch long terminal panicle that  grows erect from the top of the pseudostem. It consists of a cluster of yellow tubular flowers subtended by broad, stiff, waxy, yellow bracts and resembles a lotus blossom just prior to flowering, hence the common name of golden lotus banana. As the plant mature they can produce up to three of these fascinating, and long lasting blooms. Surprisingly a single bloom can last up to 6 months although there have been some reports of them last almost an entire year! It will produce small edible bananas but not in cooler northern European climate.

Musa lasiocarpa will grow best in a rich, moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil and will benefit from having plenty of organic matter dug in beforehand. They will tolerate a position of full sun, but in warmer regions will benefit from a certain amount of shade during mid-day sun in the heat of the day. Keep the soil moist and fertilize plants regularly during the growing season. In exposed condition try to provide shelter against strong winds to protect the leaves from wind damage.

Although considered to be one of the hardiest of all ornamental bananas, but don't confuse cold hardy with frost hardy as  no banana species are able to tolerate a hard frost and survive intact. However Musa lasiocarpa is root hardy which means that while its foliage may well die back over the winter, fast growing shoots will reappear in the spring once the soil warms up. If you intend to overwinter Musa lasiocarpa in regions prone to hard frosts then keep the roots as well mulched and as covered as possible.

Main image credit - CC BY-SA 3.0,

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