THE RED ABYSSINIAN BANANA - Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’

he red Abyssinian banana -  Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'

While not a true banana, the red Abyssinian banana -  Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' is still a closely related genus and a spectacular addition to the exotic effect garden. It is a robust evergreen perennials with a short pseudostem, with large paddle-shaped leaves. It is arguably the most attractive of all ornamental bananas due to its fantastic maroon-red coloured leaves and reddish leaf axils.

Illustration of Abyssinian banana 1861

It doesn't grow as tall as many of the other popular species typically growing to 20 feet tall in tropical areas but  only 8-10’ tall in cooler European. However, it makes up for it in width by producing leaves up to 10 feet long.

Under the right conditions, and usually once the plants have had a chance to established for a few years white flowers are produce over the summer on mature plants. Plants that are grown in cooler climates and are cut back by the cold may never flower. Banana-like, 3 inch long fruits are produced but they are dry and inedible.

The red Abyssinian banana will require a sheltered position that receives as much sunshine as possible, although they will appreciate a certain amount of shade during the hottest part of the day in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Be aware that strong wind can quickly shred the leaves. In areas that experience winter temperatures of below 6 degrees Celsius, the red Abyssinian banana will be better off grown in a container so that it can be easily brought in for winter protection.

They will do best grown in a rich, well-drained soil that has has plenty of organic matter dug in beforehand. Water regularly over the growing period and do not allow to dry out. Apply a liquid soluble fertilizer weekly and again only during the growing season. Pot grown plants should be planted in a good quality, well-drained, soil-based compost. Again water freely over the growing period but do not allow the root system to become waterlogged.

In text image credit - English: Painting of Ensete ventricosum in an Abyssinian setting
Date 1861
Source Curtis's Botanical Magazine vol 087 (1861)
Author Walter Hood Fitch (1817 – 1892)

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