October 9th, 2005
Musa lasiocarpa

photo: Musa lasiocarpa
2003-10-06. Musa lasiocarpa in flower. Austin, Texas. (Update: The flower closed up during the winter and then reopened throughout 2004. It finally died in early summer of 2005.)

Dateline: 2005-10-09
After flowering for two summers, the mother plant died. Slowly its stalk rotted away and the pups (some of which were full-grown plants by this time) began to fall away from the center.

photo: Musa lasiocarpa
2005-07-28. Even in late July, the blue-green banana leaves looked crisp and fresh. They never turned brown or wilted like the brighter green canna. However the number of pups was getting out of hand.

As today was the second of two perfect fall days, I decided it was time to dig up and replant the pups. I soaked the ground thoroughly to make it easier to get through the hardened clay. Then AJM and I began digging around the perimeter and trying to prize up the mass by getting the fork under the roots. The whole mass is fleshy and breaks easily. All we succeeded in doing is snapping the top of the banana plants off the roots.

In the end it was a banana tree massacre. A score of large banana trees lay rootless on the ground. Half a dozen smaller ones came away with a little bit of root. And what about the roots? If I replant them, will new pups spring up? Are banana trees like Tradescantia in this respect. I’ll try it and see and report back.

I was very depressed after destroying my banana plants. I had to keep telling myself that they were all going to fall over and die anyway and they had outgrown the space and were crushing the plants near them. Still, there’s a big empty spot in the garden where once was the most beautiful green.

I started with one and I have more than one now. If even one pulls through the winter, all will have worked out in the end.

Dateline: 2003-10-06
The Musa lasiocarpa, now in its third year, has settled into the garden, produced scores of offsets, and is now beginning to flower. The inforescence is opening slowly. I haven’t noticed the scent, yet; although I read it was deeply scented.

Dateline: 2002-06-13
I don’t know what came over me last October when I bought this banana plant fro. Barton Springs Nursery for $4.99. Winter was around the corner and the banana had been marked down. I’ve never really cared for tropical plants, least of all bananas. They invoke unpleasant memories of my childhood in sweltering heat of the Philippines. Here in Austin, tropicals can be grown, but they require a lot of supplemental water. Every few years we get a really hard freeze that will kill them off. And large leaves are often made ragged by bugs, wind, and summer hailstorms. Given all of this, I have no idea what possessed me.

But I bought this banana plant and put in a pot. Its leaves browned and it went dormant. But when the weather hit the 80s again, it started putting out huge new leaves and hasn’t stopped. Quite a few baby banana plants (called pups) have sprouted at the base of the plant. Someday it is supposed to produce a deep yellow and highly scented flower (inflorescence) that will open like an artichoke globe over several months.

The May 2002 issue of the RHS The Garden magazine had an article on banana plants. My banana. (formerly, Musella lasiocarpa), should be root hardy to 20 degrees with winter protection. Because it only grows to about 5 feet, the RHS recommends it as the best potted banana for a patio.

I think I’m going to need a bigger pot soon.

photo: Musa lasiocarpa

Photo: Musa lasiocarpa.

Dateline: 2002-10-22
Not quite ping-pong ball-sized hail at midnight this morning shredded the leaves of the banana. Until now, it has withstood rains storms and wind.

by M Sinclair Stevens

5 Responses to post “Musa lasiocarpa”

  1. From Pete South:

    I have a musa entering into its second year, and as yours has burst forth last month. I also have sproutings at the bottom of the plant. Is it best to leave these to grow, or to cut them off. If cut, can they be propagated?

  2. From mstevens:

    Pete,

    Yes, my Musa lasiocarpa has a lot of baby banana plants sprouting at it’s base–they’re called “pups”. So far I’ve had only minimal luck propagating them. I dug out several smaller ones, but they don’t seem to have their own roots. I was able to root one, but the others just rotted.

    The roots of the mother plant, however, are extensive. I was afraid to damage her, so I’ve given up the idea this year. Eventually the mother plant will flower and die. When that happens, then I’ll try to divide the “pups” again.

    The May 2002 magazine of the RHS, Gardens, had a nice article on banana plants in general. Unfortunately they don’t talk about how to divide them. The article is online (with some nice photos) at this link.

    Good luck with yours. If you find out anything else from another source, let me know.

  3. From T Goyne:

    We have a super dwarf cavandish I had in a Vivarium for a year and this spring planted by the pool in Dallas. Much to my surprise we are nursing a large stalk of bananas, hoping they will mature before the inevitable freeze. We also have a Honduras banana that has just a number for a name that has come back for its second year. In the winter I take a 55 gal. plastic garbage can and cut the bottom out and cut it down the side. Place it around the banana, duct tape the side and fill it half way with mulch. Had a little fertilizer then a bit of water and the plants are returning each year.

  4. From Ken Kopp:

    I have this plant and was told it is cold hardy. It will come back every spring if mulched is put on over them. I am scared it won’t come back. I’m in zone 6. Is this true?

    If it freezes solid, I’m guessing it would turn to mush. It never gets that cold here in Austin (zone 8). When it does freeze temperatures are rarely below freezing for more than a couple of days. In addition to a thick mulch to protect the roots, I suggest that you wrap the trunk. The leaves die back when it gets colder. In the late fall before a hard freeze, cut off the leaves before wrapping up the trunk. A little cold weather has never killed mine. But I wouldn’t take any chances if you live where the ground freezes or where it snows. Snap off the pups and bring them in for the winter. Treat them like onion bulbs and replant them the following spring.– mss

  5. From James E. Mortens:

    I love my Musella. It flowed last winter and I divided the pups and now have about half a dozen. Beautiful plant!

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