Hardy Banana can make an excellent addition to temperate gardens. This specimen is on the grounds of the West Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station in Jackson. Photo by S. Conlon.

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August Gardening Tips 
 

Experts with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture recommend the following August chores to fill your lazy summer days and keep your garden and landscape in top condition.

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UT Gardens' Plant of the Month: Hardy Banana

By Susan L. Conlon

Would you like to bring a bit of the tropics to your garden? Hardy Banana, or Musa basjoo, is a banana that is cold hardy in our Tennessee climate and can be grown as a perennial in our landscapes. This green-leaf banana can add tropical punch to any garden. With a little assistance from the gardener, the hardy banana forms a growing clump that can be enjoyed year after year.

Treat hardy banana as an herbaceous perennial since it will die back to the ground for the winter. The plant prefers full to partial sun and a moist, well-drained soil. It is primarily propagated through division. Once you have a large, healthy clump, consider sharing it with your neighbors or those with a strong back who can help you dig and divide.

Hardy banana can grow up to 12 feet tall in one growing season and will produce green leaves about six inches in length. In warm conditions, this stunner can grow up to two inches a day. Don't be on the lookout for the fruit, however. Due to the relatively short growing season in Tennessee, hardy banana does not generally grow enough in the summer to produce fruit. Even if your plant does produce fruit, it will only about two to six inches long and inedible.

To overwinter hardy banana in your garden, follow these steps:

  • Just before frost, cut down the stems and leaves above the crown, keeping it about 8 to 10 inches above ground.
  • Use a clean, sharpened saw to make clean cuts.
  • Then, apply a thick layer of mulch to provide added winter protection at the crown. Pile the mulch over the crown, up to several feet high, depending on the size of the clump.
  • It is best to use a heavy mulch, such as a hardwood or pine bark mulch, to keep mulch from blowing or washing away. This will provide good drainage during the winter.
  • For a smoother, cleaner removal of the mulch in the springtime, lay a wire cage, made of chicken wire or a similar material, over the crown prior to mulching for the winter. This will also help provide good winter drainage.
  • You can also dig up the banana prior to frost and take it into a frost-free location for the winter. However, older, more mature plants can be burdensome to dig.

Hardy banana can be used in a container planting but will not achieve maximum height in a pot. Consider using it with other tropicals, such as canna and elephant ear, which also typically overwinter in Tennessee. You can also use it in combination with brightly colored annuals, such as groundcover petunia and coleus or perennials such as Rudbeckia that will really make your garden sizzle.

For more tropical fun, introduce a pink flamingo or two into your planting bed. Art can serve as a great conversation piece for your tropical paradise.

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Susan L. Conlon is a volunteer coordinator for the UT Gardens. She works under the guidance of Dr. Susan Hamilton, director of the UT Gardens. The UT Gardens are located on Neyland Drive in Knoxville. They are free and open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours.

 

 

 
     
 

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