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Basjoo banana plant is hardy (with a little protection) in USDA Zone 5

Basjoo banana tree in an Indianapolis garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Basjoo banana tree in an Indianapolis garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

One of the rare tropical plants Hoosiers can grow in their landscape is a hardy banana called Musa basjoo (pronounced moo-sa bass-sue)

The roots of this fast-growing, large-leaf plant survive when protected in winter in USDA Zone 5, which includes central and northern Indiana.

“You do not have to be a tropical geek, but you must put in some effort,” says Irvin Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Etienne has tended hardy bananas at the IMA and in his own Fountain Square garden for several years.

Plant hardy banana in a sunny spot where it has lots of room.

All bananas get torn up a bit by wind, Etienne says, so placing it where winds will be blocked may help. It grows about 6 feet a year.

If the banana is planted in well-drained soil rich, in organic matter, fertilizer may not be necessary. Water is important if there’s no rain. “They have big fleshy leaves, so they won’t be happy dry,” he said.

There are a couple of options for wintering the plant over outdoors. Once the leaves have been killed by frost, Etienne recommends erecting a 3-foot tall cage or fence a foot or two away from the trunk. He fills the cage with oak leaves because they don’t mat down. November is a good time for this.

Cut the tree back to the top of the cage or allow the leaves to collapse against the trunk. Either way, cut it back to new growth in spring. Unearth in mid to late April. The plant probably will not bloom or bear fruit in Indiana.

Native plant tour

Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society annual garden tour will be next July 9, 2011 in the Indianapolis and Lafayette area. The tour is a great way to see what native plants look like in a residential landscape. The tour is free, but registration is required to get the locations.

3 comments to Basjoo banana plant is hardy (with a little protection) in USDA Zone 5

  • irvin

    I should say it can get more than 6 feet tall in a year, if happy more in the 8 foot tall plus, even 10 or so. The sooner it gets hot the bigger it gets. Thanks for letting more folks know about this great plant. More hardy banana species are coming! Get 2 Carol. One for you and one for that monkey on your back.

  • Good idea. Though, I don’t see any monkeys around here. Do they come with the banana plants

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