How to grow Musa itinerans

Amongst banana growing aficionados, Musa Itinerans is a species that doesn't normally have its name bandied about in general conversation. However that should really change. Why? Well for two reasons, the first is that once established its hardiness is comparable to the bullet-proof Musa basjoo, and B because of the absolutely gorgeous colour of its juvenile fruits. 

Commonly known as the Burmese blue banana, its native habitat actually stretches from China to the assam region of India, including; Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. Its cold hardy prowess comes from its ecological niche of high altitude forests between 200 and up to 1800 meters above sea level. Known as an important staple for wild Asian elephants Musa itinerans is increasingly under threat due to its jungle habitat being cleared for commercial agriculture.

Musa itinerans 'Burmese Blue' fruits

Under favourable conditions the pseudo stems of Musa itinerans can reach a height of approximately 6 metres once mature with mid-green, paddle shaped leaves of approximately 2 metres long. Despite its tropical looks it is the small, purple blue bananas which are the real show stopper with this plant. t occasionally produces suckers 1-2 metres away from the parent plant unlike the typical tight cluster of suckers near to the base of the pseudo stem lie many other species.

So how do you grow Musa Itinerans? If planting outside choose a sheltered position in full sun in a moist free draining soil. Consider adding a humus rich and/or ericaceous compost to the ground before planting to help mimic the acidic conditions of its native woodland habitat. A handful or two of fish blood and bone (or something similar) wouldn't go amiss either. Just make sure it is well forked in before planting otherwise you can 'burn' the roots with a high concentration of fertiliser. water in well and then regularly during its first year, then only during periods of drough thereafter.

Musa itinerans is known for its frost hardiness but there is little anecdotal evidence on how it performs during a British winter. In the southern coastlines of the UK it will require little more than a dry mulch around the roots, the leaves removed back to the pseudostem and a wrapping of a couple of layers of horticultural fleece. Venture further north than Waltham forest and you may wish to consider growing your Musa as a container plant and bringing it under protection for the winter.Temperatures over 8 degrees Celsius should be suffice, just don't allow the compost to fully dry out.

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