HOW TO OVERWINTER THE RED ABYSSINIAN BANANA - Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’

red Abyssinian banana -  Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’

The red Abyssinian banana -  Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’, is arguably the most eye-catching of all the cold-hardy, ornamental bananas - although I accept that Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger' does give it a good run for your money. Yes that's right, I said cold hardy and I stand by that as I have several growing in the garden. The largest being there for three seasons now, and is now about to go into its next winter! Do I bring them in? No of course not, each plant is left in place with some appropriate winter protection. However there is a little technique that you must employ first. I should also say that these specimens are kept in a sheltered, west-facing position on the south coast of England so what I can get away here with may not be the same for the north of England.

Leaves removed from Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’
But before we go there let's look at the two usual techniques for overwintering the red Abyssinian banana -  Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii. The first overwintering technique is pretty simple. Grow your banana in a large pot and then come late autumn, or when overnight temperatures drop to below 7 degrees Celsius, bring it in a protected environment such as a conservatory or a greenhouse with suitable heating to keep temperatures just above 7 degrees Celsius. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Also keep an eye out for fungal infections, although you may wish to systematically apply these as by the time you notice a fungal infection it may be too late to control.

The second  technique is to remove all of the leaves by cutting then off at the base of each leaf stalk and then dig your banana out of the ground trying not to damage or disturb the root system too much. Plant the root-ball into a suitably sized container and then bring in to a cool, reasonably bright but frost-free environment. Wrap a couple of layers of horticultural fleece around your banana for good measure. This is a technique that I myself have tried but to no avail as the root balls always failed for me. However it is the technique that TV gardener Monty Don recommends, so if you want to take winterizing advice from a qualified Jeweller then go right ahead.

Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ with frost protection
So this is the technique that I have been using with no losses to date. Leave your red Abyssinian banana -  Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ in place and do not disturb the root system. Remove all of the leaves by cutting them off at the base of the stalk. Next apply your frost protection, You can  wrap horticultural fleece around the truck but tend I to throw an empty aggregate bag over it as it is a lot easier. 

Come the spring, once the risk of late frosts have passed you can remove the bag and apply a good quality liquid fertiliser. Now if it looks like you may be hit by a late frost don't worry as it is very easy to replace the bag. And to be fair I have even done this without the frost protection bag and still have the new shoots grow through in the spring. The trunk will be dried up and dead looking but have faith as they have always grown back for me. Will this technique work further north in the country? I couldn't say although the risk of plant death will probably increase. So if you are not sure you still have the other two techniques to try. 

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HOW TO OVERWINTER THE RED ABYSSINIAN BANANA - Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’

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