BANANA Musaceae Musa species

HABITAT: Native of warm countries as listed below. Zone 9-10 dependent on variety.

USES: Tubs, greenhouse, specimen, ornamental plantings.

HABIT: Vigorous, tree-like plants with long paddle-shaped leaves and showy hanging clusters of flowers in white, yellows, lavenders, and reds. Edible and inedible fruit dependent upon species. See below for species, heights, hardiness, origin, etc.

SEED GERMINATION: M. ensete and M. arnoldiana may be propagated from seed. Sow indoors at any season. Germinates in 4-5 weeks at 75°-85°F. Spread moist grow mix even with top of a shallow container. To sow seeds, press into sowing mix with your finger, with the light colored scar facing upward. Cover lightly with mix or vermiculite. Keep moist, never allow to dry out. After seeds sprout, provide plenty of light, avoid excessive watering and hot sunshine. Shift to larger pots as the plants grow. May be sown directly in peat pots or pellets and shifted to larger pots when roots emerge from pot walls.

CULTURE: Treat as tender foliage plants, giving protection from hot, direct sun when grown under glass in summer but give full sun in winter or bright light indoors. Grow in full sun outdoors. Pot in soil mixture containing a high amount of humus (leaf mold, peat moss, compost, etc.) feed every week with half strength general house plant fertilizer and keep evenly moist at all times. Best grown warm (65°-70° nights) with high humidity.

Ornamentals will produce inedible fruit but must have 7-8 months of frost free weather. Can be used as a tub specimen for patio, terrace, etc. Repot to grow indoors over winter.

SPECIES: M. Acuminata (M. cavendishii, M. nana, M. zebrina) Blood Banana. 12 feet or more. (3-6 foot in tubs) Hardy Zone 10. Bluish-green leaves variegated with blackish blood-red color. Edible fruit. Propagate by offsets (suckers) fragrant yellow flowers. Native South China.
M. ensete (Ensete ventricosum) Abyssinian Banana. 5-8 foot. Hardy Zone 9. Native Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Shrubby. Bright green leaves with red midrib and purple edges. Inedible fruit. Propagate by seeds and cuttings.
M. bajoo. Hardy Zone 9. Native Ryukyu Islands. Propagation by offsets. Grown for fiber. Inedible fruit.
M. ornata (M. rosaceae) India Banana. 6 foot. Hardy Zone 10. Small inedible fruit. Yellow flower with pink flower bracts. Leaves have purplish undersides. Native to India.
M. ornata x paradisiaca (M. x sapientum) Common Banana. 15-20 foot. Hardy Zone 10. Yellow, green, or red fruit. Green or variegated foliage (pink and white). Edible, seedless fruit. Yellow flowers with violet bracts. Propagated by suckers. Native India, Ceylon.
M. textilis Manilla hemp, abaca. 20 feet. Hardy Zone 10. Fiber from leaves used for hemp. Native Philippines. Inedible fruit.
M. paradisiaca Plantain. Native India.

INSECTS: Aphid, Scale, Black snout beetle: Use an approved insecticide such as Rotenone or Malathion for control.
Fruit Fly: Use an approved insecticide such as Diazinon or Rotenone for control.

DISEASES: Leaf spots, heart rot: Use an approved fungicide such as Captan, Zineb, Maneb for control. Cultivate and improve drainage.
Fusarium Wilt: Destroy infected parts or plants. Apply lime to soil to avoid an acid condition. Improve drainage and control soil insects.

PROPAGATION: Seed, cuttings, suckers.

REMARKS: Though tender and requiring winter protection, Bananas in general afford the home gardener a bit of the tropics in foliage effect. Try the ornamental M. ensete and M. arnoldiana from seed. Their attractive and quick foliage effect is worthwhile.