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Bananas are perfect for large containers

By Norman Winter

MSU Horticulturist
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center

This Red Abyssinian banana is one of the prettiest banana plants in the marketplace.

This Red Abyssinian banana is one of the prettiest banana plants in the marketplace. Tidal Wave Pink petunias cascaded over the rim to the point they are touching the deck floor.

I feel like I should begin this week's column by shouting out “uncle” to this tortuous heat. Despite the oppressive temperatures, I still have gotten a lot of enjoyment from growing plants in containers on my deck this year. Two of the prettiest are bananas.

My faithful readers know that I am a banana plant lover. I enjoy landscapes where bananas' coarse, textured foliage really makes for a tropical look.

I have gotten into growing bananas in a container until this season. In 2005 when I was visiting the Proven Winners location in California, I was astounded at how incredibly beautiful bananas could be in large pots. Theirs was on a patio.

If you think about it, it makes sense that bananas would work as well in a container as any other plant. There are a couple of prerequisites that will help.

First, choose a container large enough to get the job done. One of mine is in a lightweight container that looks like ornate terracotta. For the most part this works fine, although I have had the wind capsize it once. If the wind blows hard on your patio or deck, then you might want to choose a real clay version.

Next is your potting mix. You will be surprised by how much better your plants grow when planted in a more expensive but lightweight, named brand. You will notice these bags are two to three times as large as the $1.49 or 99-cent specials but are easier to pick up and carry.

Remember that bananas are heavy feeders. Since you are growing these in containers, you will be watering every day. The extra water will leach out the fertilizer, so apply nourishment on a more regular basis. I have been using the blue water-soluble, 20-20-20 this year, and I am extremely pleased. All of my containers have done better than in previous years.

This year, I have been growing the Red Abyssinian banana Ensete ventricosum Maurelii. This is the prettiest banana in the marketplace and has gotten popular in recent years. In this container, I am also growing Tidal Wave Pink petunias that have cascaded all the way over the rim to touch the floor of the deck.

I consider my other container a project. It is a Chinese Yellow Wax banana, Musella lasiocarpa. If you have grown this one, you know that to say, “it suckers” is an understatement. I wanted to try to keep the suckers pruned and develop a larger single trunk.

I am happy to say the experiment worked. The banana with its olive grey-green leaves is awesome. As the banana grew, the foliage opened up and almost resembles the form of a Travelers Palm, a plant some of you may have had the opportunity to see in the islands.

My next project will be to grow the banana known as the Super Dwarf Cavendish. It is known botanically as Musa acuminata. We are growing this in the banana trial at the Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs. It has done well and indeed is only about 3 feet tall.

Next year when you visit the garden and patio shows or your local garden center, think about trying a banana or two in large containers on the deck or patio. you may find a lot of pleasure in growing these. I know I did.

-30-

Released: August 24, 2006
Contact: Norman Winter<, (601) 857-2284

Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.

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