With its enormous arching leaves, a banana "tree" adds a tropical flavor to your backyard. Banana plants are actually not trees at all, but large shrub-like herbs with succulent, very juicy stems. Some banana species produce edible fruit, while others are ornamental. The edible banana plants require tropical or near-tropical climates, which means that they grow best in U.S.D.A. plant hardiness zones 10 and above. These plants need 10 to 12 months of frost-free conditions to bear a crop of bananas. Ornamental banana plants thrive in USDA zones 5B through 11.
When sited in appropriate regions and properly winterized, your banana plants can thrive for years, adding a touch of the tropics to your landscape.
Winterizing Container-Grown Bananas in Cold Climates
Here's how to handle container-grown banana plants as winter approaches.
Step 1: Cut Back the Plant
Cut the banana plant to the ground with sharp garden shears after the first hard frost has damaged the leaves. If you don't remove the leaves, they will turn dark brown and begin to rot; the rot can spread to the roots and permanently damage your banana plant.
Step 2: Move to Shelter
Move the container to a sheltered location if possible, such as an overhang or a sunny location in your garage. This will protect your banana roots from cold, especially in places with extreme winters.
Step 3: Mulch and Wrap the Plant
Spread a thick layer of mulch over the soil in your banana plant's container. And wrap the pot in insulating material such as a tarp or bubble paper.
Winterizing Bananas Grown in Garden Beds
Step 1: Cut Back the Plant
Cut your banana plant's leaves to the ground. Banana trees produce new leaves from the root ball so this does not harm your plant.
Step 2: Mulch the Roots
Spread a thick layer of organic material such as peat moss over the ground around your banana tree. This will protect the root system from freezing temperatures and frequent frost/thaw cycles.
Step 3: Cover the Ground
Cover the mulch with a plastic tarp to protect the banana tree's root system from fluctuating temperatures. The cover will prevent early thaws, which can saturate the peat moss with moisture and cause the roots to rot. Secure the tarp against winds with large rocks or an additional layer of mulch.
Smaller banana plants can be brought indoors and placed near a sunny window before the first frost damages the leaves and then returned outdoors when all danger of frost has passed.
Shawna Kennedy has been writing and editing professionally since 2004. She's published numerous articles online and two of her edited manuscripts have been contracted and published by Random House.