(September) I wrote to you last year about wintering my banana trees and followed your advice. I now have three banana trees with fairly large bunches of bananas and don't know what I need to do. At what point do I pick them? I don't want to leave them to the frost.
For banana trees to bear fruit in Arkansas, they must be protected from the cold -- lifted and stored intact, not cut back in the fall. It also takes a long season for them to ripen. Normally it takes about 2 to 3 months from when the flower first appears until the fruit is ripe. Pay close attention to weather forecasts and don’t allow them to get nipped by cold. The fruit must reach maximum size before harvesting -- it looks like yours are close. When the fruit begins to turn from the darker green to lighter green, you can harvest and they will continue to ripen. If a frost gets imminent, you could either harvest what you can, or cut off the main stalk with the fruit on it, and bring it indoors and put the stalk in water to continue its life cycle. The mother plant dies after bearing fruit, but you should be left with numerous suckers at the base to make many more plants next year.
(October) I have about 30 banana trees in the yard. They have gotten very large this summer. I have been told that I can cut them off even with the ground and cover them with 12 to 14 inches of straw for winter. I had some earlier that I took up and put under the house, but they all froze that winter. What is the best way to care for these plants this winter? I also have several large elephant ear plants that I need to know how to winter.
In my opinion, all banana trees should be lifted and stored for the winter. While it is true, that a few have made it through a couple of our winters, that is not something I would take for granted. However, since you have so many-give it a shot and compare with one or two. Banana trees are tropical plants, so within the next week or two, lift and store the majority of them. If you want to start with large trees, then don't cut them back. If you don't have the storage space, cut them back by half. I have used old sheets to wrap them up in, and then simply stack them in the crawl space. If yours froze in the crawl space, you may want to add some straw or other protection around them. The key is to keep them from reaching freezing temperatures. Some of our mild winters have given many of us a false sense of security for winter hardiness. I had a bougainvillea overwinter outdoors this past year -- and that should not have happened. For your elephant ears, most are reliably hardy in central Arkansas and further south. If you have invested in some of the pricey, showy varieties, you may also want to hedge your bet and store those.
At the beginning of the summer, my husband brought home a banana tree in a pot. It was about two feet high and very ugly. We planted it in the back yard in an area that is part shade and part sun. This plant has grown to be about six feet tall, and the leaves are beautiful. It is planted in good soil and keeps producing beautiful foliage. My question is: I know these plants must be taken up in the winter. Do I dig up the entire plant and roll it in newspapers and store it under the house near the water heater or in the garage? How do I winterize this plant?
Banana trees are definitely tropical plants that will not survive outdoors for the winter. You have several options for winter protection. You can lift the plant and store it wrapped in newspapers or an old sheet under the house or in the garage--wherever it won’t be exposed to freezing temperatures. You can also pot it up and use it as a houseplant--for the smaller specimens. When wrapping and storing, some people opt for cutting the plant back to a few feet to make storage easier. It won’t hurt the plant to do this, but you will grow larger plants each season, by wrapping the whole plant without cutting it back. Try to get them lifted and stored before temperatures drop below 50 degrees.
I was given a dwarf banana plant. In what size pot should I repot it to, and what type of soil is best? It is about 18 inches tall.
Dwarf banana trees are great tropical foliage. They do best in full sun. The larger the container, the less you have to water. I would opt for at least a three gallon pot if possible. Banana trees are heavy feeders and like organic matter. Any commercial potting soil would work, but I would use half potting soil and half organic matter. Organic matter can come from humus, compost, etc. Banana trees are not winter hardy, so it will need to be moved inside for the winter.
We bought a banana tree last year. It grew wonderfully this summer. We cut it down before the first frost. We have it covered now. What we would like to know is when to uncover it and how to maintain it this spring/summer. Will it produce bananas in Arkansas? I forgot to mention that last summer we got several little shoots under our banana tree, do we need to transplant them in a different area? Please give us all the information you can.
Most of the banana trees grown in Arkansas are not winter hardy. Even when cut back and mulched, they usually will not come back. We have had some very mild winters, and this one appears to be another one. Hopefully your plant will come back. To be on the safe side, most people dig up their banana plants in the fall, and either store them in their large state, or cut them back before storing. Wrap the plants in sheets or newspaper and store them under your house or in a somewhat protected spot, to prevent freezing. If you store them without cutting them back, you start out with a larger plant in the spring, which can produce bananas. Bananas are not a common occurrence, or at least harvesting at full maturity is rare, due to the length of a growing season they need for full maturity. Daughter plants can be separated and planted out on their own in the spring. There are some new varieties of bananas that have been released, which are supposed to be hardy through zone 6, where you won’t have to dig them up each fall. We have some planted, and will let you know how they do.
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