A grove of mature How to grow Musa balbisiana 'Atia Black' bananas
How to grow Musa Balbisiana 'Atia Black'

The original species of what is commonly known as the Thai Black Banana - Musa balbisiana, is a species native to eastern South Asia, northern Southeast Asia, and southern China. It is considered to be an inedible form due to the large amount of seeds within its fruit, however it is generally believed to have been part of the diet of local inhabitants as (along with Musa acuminata) it was used in the cultivation of one of the ancestors of modern cultivated bananas. It was first described for western science in 1820 by the Italian botanist Luigi Aloysius Colla (1766 –  1848). So just how do you grow Musa balbisiana 'Atia Black'?

Musa Balbisiana 'Atia Black' is a clump forming cultivar which under favourable conditions can reach a height of 5 metres. It has an upright habit and is particularly noted for its very striking dark stems and dark-green paddle-shaped leaves. When exposed to direct sunlight the stems darken further to almost black! Where conditions are suitable you can expect red to maroon to emerge which once pollinated are followed by large, blue to green coloured fruits.

How to grow Musa balbisiana 'Atia Black'

When growing in the cooler climates of northern Europe plant in a sheltered position which will receive as much sunlight throughout the day as possible. It will perform best in a rich, moist, well-drained soil. Additional watering will be required during periods of drought and a liquid fertiliser can be applied every week or so. Surprisingly it is arguably one of the most cold-hardy banana cultivars capable of tolerating frosts. If winter protection in required, cut of all the leaves to the crown and wrap in a dry mulch (such as straw or hay) and secure with chicken wire. In fact there is anecdotal evidence that the root system of Musa Balbisiana 'Atia Black' can survive temperatures down to as low as -9 degrees Celsius.

In the milder climates a couple of layers of horticultural fleece will be suffice in all but the severest winters. Just remember that the leaves will still need to be removed to reduce the incidence of fungal rots taking hold.

To limit its size you can grow Musa Balbisiana 'Atia Black' as a container plant using as large a pot as you can effectively move with causing injury to yourself. Use a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No. 3', watering and fertilizing regularly over the growing period. As it is no longer in the ground the root system will be at a greater risk of freezing if left outside during harsh winters and so bring it in under protection until the risk of late frosts have passed.

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