We are all familiar with bananas from the fresh produce isles in our local supermarkets. Of course, unlike apples and pears, bananas are a tropical fruit, the produce of tropical plants and wholly unsuitable for growing in countries with temperate climates.

How to overwinter Banana plants
However those of you with have a passion for the exotic may well be aware they there are a number of banana species and cultivars that are listed as 'hardy'. By being considerably tougher than the common edible banana plant it is possible to grow them quite successfully in cooler northern European climates. The secret to their hardiness is this. While they are indeed native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, they have evolved to survive in the higher altitudes of mountain ranges where there is less competition for light and nutrients.

That being said, there are no banana or related genera whose foliage will tolerate a hard frost. What makes them classed as hardy is the root system which for a number of species are cold hardy.

You have two choices when it comes to overwintering bananas and this will depend on the species grown and the climate it is being grown in.

How to overwinter Banana plants
1. The first choice is to grow it as container plant and submerge in the ground during the growing season. Species such as Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ and Musa sikkimensis will require this in climates cooler than the south of England.

2. The second choice is to plant your banana directly into the ground and provide winter protection in site. Species such as Musa basjoo, Ensete glaucum and Musa lasiocarpa should be fine in most temperate countries so long as they have a thick protective mulch..

Container grown plants will need to be lifted and brought in under protection in the autumn before the first frost and placed in a large sunny room over the winter period. Treat as you would any other houseplant by reducing both water and fertilization.

How to overwinter Banana plants
If your container grown banana plant is too large to bring inside then cut back the leaves to 6-8” in the autumn fall after first frost. Store in a cool, dark, frost-free position until the threat of late frosts have passed in the spring. Keep the compost just on the moist side, and avoid the compost from completely drying out. Do not over-water during this period as the roots will quickly succumb to rots.

Plants left in the ground can be treated in two ways. Either protect the pseudo-stem with a jacket of dry mulch such as straw or bracken, or allow the stem to succumb to the cold, remove and then give the root systems a thick layer of dry mulch. All winter protection can be removed once the threat of late frosts have passed.

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