CAN YOU GROW A BANANA TREE IN THE UK?

Hardy bananas growing in England

Who doesn't like bananas? Well of course some people don't. But if you do, have you ever wondered it it were possible to plant your own banana tree and then over time produce your very own fresh, organic fruits? Well if you live in the United Kingdom and not the tropics then no it wouldn't be possible, at least not left outside to its own devices. However with the benefit of modern technology you can grow a cavendish edible banana tree in the UK. You just need money, space and facilities. 

To be fair, the first pineapple (another tropical fruit) was grown at Dorney Court, Dorney in Buckinghamshire, England in the early 18th century so growing banana tree in the UK in the 20th century should be child's play. In fact a huge stove was designed and created at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1723 to specifically heat the soil in which the pineapple plants were being grown. 

Cavendish bananas
Furthermore, a shipment of bananas from Mauritius (courtesy of the chaplain of Alton Towers, then the seat of the Earls of Shrewsbury) arrived in England in around 1834 at the estate of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire. His head gardener and friend, Sir Joseph Paxton, cultivated them in the greenhouses of Chatsworth House. The plants were named as Musa cavendishii, after the Duke, and Paxton won a medal at the 1835 Royal Horticultural Society show. So we do in fact have a bit of a history in the UK of growing bananas.

So not to put too fine a point on it, all you need to grow a banana tree in the UK is a tall heated greenhouse with additional soil heating cables and supplemental solar lighting. Job done, questioned answered.

However if fancy controlled environments is not your thing then is there another option? Well yes there is. There are a number of banana varieties which can be grown outside in the UK without the need of a greenhouse. In the southern lands of England there are only two which I have managed to keep outside, albeit with winter protection. The first is the hardiest of the banana species - Musa basjoo, the second is the gorgeous Musa ensete 'Maurelii' - the Abyssinian Banana. For your information, Musa ensete 'Maurelii' will not produce any fruits in the UK and if id did they would not be edible fruits. It is the roots, which once processed are edible on Musa ensete. But it will indeed grow year after year. You just need to remove its leaves before winter and cover it with appropriate frost protection.

So we are back to one contender. Will Musa basjoo produce edible fruit in the UK? Again the answer is sadly no but only insofar as it produces edible fruits - which it does not. However it has been known to produce fruits in the UK on established specimens around the south coast when global warming provides us with a long and warm enough summer.

So for the question can you grow a banana tree in the UK? The answer is yes.

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