Fruiting a dwarf Orinoco in colder climate
Hi, I'm starting a new adventure this summer: planting banana trees (and palms and citrus for that matter!). I'm germinating some Cheesman's cold hardy and some wild bananas from seed, and will be getting a 12" dwarf orinoco from a nursery in Melbourne, FL later this week. I figure the ornamental bananas should be fine outside (probably after their first winter in however??), but I'd really like the orinoco to bear fruit... so, I'm asking for advice on how best to grow this plant.
First, I'm assuming that this first summer/winter the plant needs to remain potted until April 1st of next spring (when frost danger goes away here). If I'm lucky, I figure that the tree will be close to ready to fruit about then, which would give me enough time for the first crop of bananas to mature. Is this a good assumption?
Second, and perhaps more important: how do I plan for the second generation to fruit? Assuming a pup starts developing, when can I separate it from the mother tree (and how can I do this without disrupting the mother's growth)? Will I then need to go through the process of growing the pup indoors until spring before planting outside, or is it possible to get them to fruit more quickly in this environment?
Third, what are your recommendations for fertilizer to get these guys growing as fast as possible. I know it needs to have lots of potassium, but what sort of balance does it need?
And Fourth, I understand I'll need to mulch the plants, but am a bit confused about how far up the plant to mulch (can I go higher than 2'?) and what type of mulch to use. Should I just use pine chips or something like that, since our soil is kind of alkaline? Or is something that decomposes faster better? Recommendations?
Thanks for any help you can give me regarding growing these fascinating plants! Oh and if you'd like to see my work, feel free to check out a little site I've set up for the palms and bananas here: Growing Palms in the Southeast. I will keep up with both the palms and bananas (and citrus) on this site :)