Today I am sharing a photo I had taken by a professional photographer of my large and beautiful red banana plant in 2013. I have stored this plant every winter and regrow it in a very large cement walled raised bed in my backyard. The bed faces east and is situated on the backside of my pool and lower deck. The top of the plant becomes visible from the upper levels of my deck when it reaches about twelve to fifteen feet tall.
However, last year was the last season I grew this particular one because it rotted in my over-wintering storage bin for the very first time in 10 years. I’m not sure why it didn’t survive. Maybe it just got tired of the routine of being “put away” and its thick heavy large trunk was unable to tolerate the overwintering process after so many years.
I have written about my storage process many times on this blog website. I will share the links below for your reference. It is a massive tropical beauty with long wide red leaves. While it is hardy in zones 9-10, it is not hardy here in Connecticut, thus it will not survive frosts and our winters. It must be taken down in October to store and regrow in the springtime.
Mine has never produced bananas, which would be inedible if it did. It never had the opportunity to produce flowers due to being cut down each autumn season, but I have read this plant does produce inedible fruit in the wild on older plants. Most people grow them here for the show they put on. The plant grow super tall, has leaves with red coloring, and the mid-rib area is also a deep burgundy red with a slight yellow green on the sides. The mid-ribs on the leaves are very thick and a feature I admire as well as the plants overall height, red coloring, and dramatic tropical look.
I cannot recall if the first one I purchased was from a grower by the name of Sunny Border in Kensington, Connecticut, but I believe it may have been there, and I returned there years ago to get more to sell during my container gardening workshops. They referred to their tropical plants as “temperennials” which included other beautiful tropical plants I admire because they put on a show such as Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpets), Colocasia (Taro or Elephant Ear), Cordyline (Palm Lily), Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon), Phormium (New Zealand Flax), and and Musa (Banana). There are many flowering tropical plants as well to be had, but I tend to favor large showy leaves in my container gardens as the main thriller plant in combinations.
When I see larger plants at local nurseries here and there of this plant, they are pricy. But it is worth the investment if you know how to overwinter them. Consider mine which lasted ten years, it was purchased as a small starter plant in a 5″ square nursery pot years ago. Hopefully, I will be able to locate some more of that starter size going forward because I will miss this plant in my planter this season of 2023.
The planter where I always placed mine in the center, as seen in the photo below, is rather large. It has 6-foot-tall walls and is about 15 or more feet across. I’d have to go measure it to be exact, but at the moment, I’m too lazy and it is cold outside! But it is large. It has an open bottom floor to the natural ground below. It contains a mix of soil mix from fresh, to some used soil potting mix of other larger pots when I would toss it away and mix it in, and it has compost, but overall, the soil just evolved into a nice, rich, fertile soil. Due to its east location, it tends to stay on the moist side as well. The cement planter is more like a garden size, and I just love it because it is easy to work in. I do not have to bend down to the ground and may easily reach in to plant various plants around the Ensete red banana plant in the center. When I work in the soil of this big cement planter, I see worm castings and it is a sign they like the soil there as well. The planter is somewhat hidden from sight, and I have walked friends and family over to see it, and they are always surprised at its massive size. One would wonder why I put the cement planter there, and the reason is because my eyes and mind told me – put a planter there. I had envisioned a stone floor in front of it creating a path, but I still have not ventured into creating the path. I also envisioned putting a nice material on the front walls to make it more artistic but alas, I still have not done that process either. Maybe someday.
The huge leaves reaching five to six feet long move around in the wind and have a shiny look to them. When the sunlight hits the leaves, it creates a glowing look and I find this feature very enjoyable as well. These plants also grow very fast in one season. Every year, I’d take the trunk out which would be stored for the winter in a bin with peat. In springtime, I put the trunk base into a temporary starter type large patio pot and place it in my greenhouse to get started. Then around late May, it would be planted outdoors in my large cement planter. To water the plant and its counterpart filler plants, I take my garden hose to shower it from above the deck during the summer. I find the watering part therapeutic. If you’re looking to create a tropical exotic feel to your garden spaces, I would highly recommend the Ensete (red banana plant) on your growing list and keep an eye out for it when you are out shopping for plants for your larger container gardens and patio pots.
Botanical name for the red banana plant is:
Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’
Thank you for visiting,
Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
Located in Broad Brook, CT
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