Cultivating banana trees in Germany is not as crazy as it sounds, but quite possible. Banana plants are amazingly vigorous, they can produce man-high leaves in one season, also in our house, in the conservatory or even outside in the garden. With a bit of luck (and additional light), you can even harvest your own bananas from varieties that have overwintered indoors. Unfortunately, garden bananas cannot do this, as they are too cold for most of the year. But the giant plant looks really impressive in summer and is actually quite easy to grow.
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earth and bucket
Regardless of whether you keep your banana in a bucket or plant it out in the garden (which bananas tolerate this is explained below), it does not have any special demands on the soil. Pretty normal soil that allows the banana to regulate water for its giant leaves. So water-permeable soil, in the bucket a mixture with natural components (soil and loosening particles, gravel, clay, perlite, wood chips, bark), in the garden a crumbly soil that has been cared for and loosened by earthworms and the like, which likes to be covered with a layer of some mature compost can be enriched. In its homeland, the banana gets by with very few nutrients, and as a pioneer plant it even colonizes regions with disturbed soil conditions. With us it can certainly be a little more to compensate for the scarce light supply.
The bucket must be adapted to the growth potential of the banana tree. She manages about 1 cm per day and produces a new giant leaf every week. It must be quite large for stability alone; Sales pots usually do not provide the space that a banana tree actually needs. Although she eagerly forms leaves in these pots because there is no room for root growth, this rapid development has little to do with the normal growth of a banana. So you should move the banana to a larger bucket. This also has the advantage that it is freed from the usually not high-quality sales substrate and placed in sensible soil. The banana tree will grow more slowly in a large pot. In return, it has a better chance of setting flowers and fruits and forming children. you need it
The banana tree has a number of requirements when it comes to the location: you don’t want your leaves to hit the walls and ceiling. In the case of tall varieties, the first difficulties can already be foreseen here: if the banana wants to grow to a height of 5 m and this space is not available, it quickly no longer knows where to put its leaves. Then it is all the more important that you put the banana tree in a large bucket so that it does not grow mainly in the upper area. You should also try to find out what type/variety it is.
If it is a banana variety that tolerates cold, you live in a mildly air-conditioned region and you can offer the banana a nice, snug place, you can put it in the garden. If possible, no young plants fresh from the store. It should be able to gather strength in the bucket until it has no more room indoors. How to put your banana plant in the garden:
- Dig a pit of approx. 1 x 1 meter
- Around 60 cm deep
- Fill with good potting soil or semi-mature to mature compost
- Plant the banana tree in the pit in spring
- Earth should be around 8°C
- The banana tree now has time to grow until the first frosts
The location should be very bright. Banana trees are used to completely different light intensities than can be offered in Germany. Especially if it hibernates indoors, the banana tree should move outdoors as soon as possible in summer. If kept purely indoors, a lack of light could become a problem. If you do not have a conservatory specially equipped for plants with a UV-permeable cover, the banana tree can actually only be kept under plant lamps.
Outside, a banana tree should be as sunny as possible in summer, even a young plant even enjoys direct midday sun if it has gradually become accustomed to it.
In addition, for outdoor locations: Wind can literally shred the banana leaves. This not only looks ugly, but also causes problems for the plant. The banana plant must therefore definitely get a wind-protected location. A windbreak also creates a friendly microclimate.
The water requirement of a banana plant is not exactly small, as you can imagine with the giant leaves. The more leaves it has, the more water is evaporated from the leaf surfaces. In hot weather, this means watering every day, otherwise you should simply make sure that the soil is always slightly moist. As soon as the surface dries, it can be poured again, please with room-warm water, preferably with soft rainwater. The same applies to every plant: it does not want to bathe in waterlogging or suffer from dry roots in the root area.
The banana tree in the bucket needs fertilizer, even if you have planted it in self-mixed soil with a proportion of compost. The volume in the bucket is too small to offer enough soil organisms a home, so organic fertilizer such as compost is decomposed too slowly to “saturate” a growth miracle like the banana plant. A “high flyer” like the banana needs a shot of fertilizer every week during the growth phase, how much depends on the nutrients already present in the soil.
Banana trees need a fertilizer with quite a lot of nitrogen and lower percentages of phosphate and potassium for powerful growth. The most important trace nutrients (magnesium, sulphur, iron, manganese) may be included. But be careful with the nitrogen. Banana fertilizers (up to €10 per kg) are sold commercially with 20% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus and 8% potassium. A banana tree fertilized in this way will certainly eagerly grow leafy green, but at the expense of a healthy physiological development of the entire plant organism. Normal blue grain is also sufficient, or a normal commercial green plant fertilizer. You can cover the slightly increased nitrogen requirement with organic nitrogen fertilizers (horn shavings, manure).
The leaves of the banana are powerful and powerfully sensitive. Any injury, any lack of care can cause discoloration of the leaves, but this is not a big problem.
The banana tree has enough vigor in itself, if a leaf has taken on an unattractive color, you can easily cut off the discolored part.
The lower leaves on the pseudo stem often turn brown as a whole and can then be removed close to the stem.
Which banana tree is it (should it be)?
Contrary to the commercial ideal of the uniform test-tube banana, banana plants are in reality very varied. The banana family is a large family of plants with three genera and about 75 species. The banana plants traded as ornamentals are taken from bananas with edible fruit and ornamental bananas across genera and species. Including regional variants and cultivars, you would theoretically have a choice of 470 different bananas.
You will not find quite as many different banana plants from plant dealers who deliver to Germany, but you can choose from a few types of bananas in well-stocked shops, with crucial differences:
1. Musa acuminata is a parent of Musa × paradisiaca, the modern crop banana. It is cultivated, known is the ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ breeding line, which produces compact, quite small banana plants. The M. acuminata bears edible fruits and is often sold as a dwarf edible banana, a real giant dwarf with a maximum height of 2 m.
2. Musa balbisiana is the second parent of the modern cultivated banana and is one of our (almost) hardy bananas. The ‘Black Thai’ variety is one of the fastest growing and most decorative banana plants with a final height of around 5 m. Pseudostem and leaf veins are purple to almost black, the color extends to half of the leaves, the more sun, the darker. This banana grows up to one meter a month and tolerates short periods of frost down to -5 °C, the fruits are edible but full of seeds.
3. Musa basjoo , Japanese fiber banana, grows to around 2.5 m in height and bears inedible fruit. It is the most well-known “garden banana”, the ‘Nana’ (‘Sakhalin’) and ‘Saporro’ varieties are currently considered to be the hardiest banana species. The plants should get winter protection outdoors, but in case of doubt the leaves will freeze to death when the temperatures drop below zero, while the underground rhizomes should withstand temperatures down to -12 °C under a thick layer of mulch and will sprout again in spring even if the above-ground parts of the plant freeze completely.
4. Musa cheesmanii is considered another promising outdoor banana, it comes from Asian high mountain regions and knows snow and frost.
5. Musa Daijio is an interesting new cross between M. sikkimensis and M. balbisiana.
6. Musa itinerans , one of the “Yunnan bananas”, is cultivated in several varieties. The ‘Burmese Blue’ variety from northern Thailand is said to be very hardy, there are reports of overwintering in gardens at -15 °C without protection. Adult ‘Burmese Blue’ are said to sport beautiful purple bananas.
M. itinerans seed is famous, when it was added to Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank (Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens of England, Seed #24,200) it secured 10% of the seeds of all wild plants.
7. Musa × paradisiaca: Aus M. acuminata × M. balbisiana entstandene Zuchtbanane mit hunderten Kultivaren, auch als Zierpflanze gehandelt. Höhen zwischen 2 und 9 m, alle unfruchtbar.
8. Musa sikimensis, Darjeeling Banana, frostverträgliche Banane aus asiatischen Hochgebirgsregionen, die die ersten Freilandversuche in kälteren Ländern mit Bravour gemeistert haben soll. Leider sprengt ihr Pseudostamm von bis zu 4,5 m Höhe und 45 cm Durchmesser die übliche Wohnzimmergröße, sogar in den meisten Wintergärten wird es eng.
9. Musa yunnanensis comes from tropical forests in the high mountains, tolerates shade and quite a bit of cold, develops interesting leaf tints with hints of blue and red and grows comparatively slowly – interesting banana for our climate.
10. Ensete ventricosum is a second genus red banana cultivated as an ornamental banana. It reaches heights of growth of around 6 meters, has 3 meter long leaves with a red midrib and small bananas that can be processed into flour.
11. Musella lasiocarpa , Golden Lotus Banana from the third genus of bananas, is said to develop an amazing giant yellow flower in the second year, see www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL_WGqgLBjw
Other species are cultivated in many parts of the world, the seeds of which are exchanged/traded on the Internet.
Overwintering a banana tree
Indoors, overwintering should take place at around 10 °C, although with a limited supply, but a banana tree should get water and occasionally some fertilizer even in winter. After hibernation, the banana plants need to be acclimated to light again before being placed in full sun.
The garden bananas die above ground in the fall and will sprout completely again the following spring. The parts of the plant in the ground need good winter protection, which you can produce like this:
- Prune old shoots down to a meter
- The rest remains as winter protection for the roots
- Use a saw to do this, the pseudo trunks don’t become lignified, but they have tough fibres
- The cut parts can be used as mulch material or on the compost
- Before that, they should be made as small as possible with a shredder
- The trunk remains are now covered with insulating material (insulation panels, old mattresses, …).
- Which is fixed as seamlessly as possible with cord/rope
- The entire interior is filled with straw or other water-absorbing insulating material
- Finally, the whole heap is wrapped in thick, vapor-permeable foil
- Such films are sold as mulch fabrics in garden centers
- The pile should slope to the sides to allow rain to run off
The banana trees are also watered in winter, but just so that the soil does not dry out completely. As soon as the other plants in the garden start to sprout, the banana tree can also be unpacked.
Banana plants are extremely willing to grow and quite exciting. Although you may have to search, there is a banana tree for almost every living environment. With or without the potential for a very personal banana harvest, huge or reservedly huge in terms of growth, always amazing in terms of leaf size.