red tiger as hardy as basjoo?

nucci60(6 Ma.)July 2, 2006

reading "glowing" testimonials on e bay of sikkimensis red tiger being as cold hardy as basjoo. Is this a lot of bull, or is it possible?

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bihai(zone 9)

Sikkimensis is known here in No. FL as a very hardy banana, not sure about colder zones

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 7:12AM
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shiollie(z5 MI)

I did a search just using "Sikkimensis Red Tiger" as keywords and came up with all kinds of stuff saying that it WAS in fact as cold hardy or more than the Basjoo.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 7:52AM
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bobcat(z5 OH)

but regular sikki isn't?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 9:50AM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

hi bobcat, are red tiger and "regular" sikki the same except for color? I know nothing of bananas beyond musa basjoo.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 10:26AM
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dilbert(z5 IL)

Name one person who successfully overwintered any variety of Sikkimensis outdoors in zone 5 or less.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 12:48PM
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shiollie(z5 MI)

I cant even name one person!! :) But this has piqued my interest, I planted 10 of these seeds, so when they sprout, I will give it a year to really grow,then I will plant it next spring and try to overwinter it using the same method as a basjoo. Maybe my name will be the first.. ;)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 3:58PM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

hi dilbert, what zone are sikkis rated for? I am in zone six and am happy to have discovered musa basjoo that I can overwinter with protection. If there was another cold hardy banana I would try it.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 8:00PM
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mrbungalow(Z8, SW-Norway)

Here's the deal with sikkimensis:

"Red tiger" and regular sikkimensis are basically the same, although "Red tiger" is especially selected for colour. There is still alot of genetic variation, meaning you can come across a very cold hardy plant or a very tender plant.

Musa sikkimensis is NOT as hardy as basjoo. BUT, they do grow better in cool weather. When basjoo stops growing, Sikkimensis is still pushing out leaves. Here in rainy bergen, sikkimensis is better for summer bedding than basjoo. But I have not succesfully overwintered sikkimensis here, even though we are a zone 8.

In southern parts of Great Britain sikkimensis seems to overwinter fine. I have also seen they grow HUGE there. Much larger than basjoo.
There is still alot of mystery around this banana. A fellow on another forum in the pacific northwest stated that he managed to overwinter his large sikkimensis clump unscathed the first year, and the second year they died, even though the winter was milder! Strange!


    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 4:23PM
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dilbert(z5 IL)

"There is still alot of genetic variation, meaning you can come across a very cold hardy plant or a very tender plant."

Why would genetic variation mean some are very cold hardy any more than mean some are bulletproof? Some or none are very cold hardy, but until someone shows me a very cold hardy one, I see no point in speculation other than, "It might be worth a try." Prolific speculation has a way of turning into rumors and false beliefs.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 6:01PM
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mrbungalow(Z8, SW-Norway)

Dilbert, I think you misunderstand me because I tend to speak with a lot of feelings. It happens from time to time here on gardenweb. I couldn't agree with you more on prolific speculation turning into rumours and false beliefs. We have seen examples of this on basically every new trachycarpus-palm species coming out, and don't even get me started on "musa basjoo shakalin, sapporro, etc...)

What I should have said is something like "relatively-very-cold-hardy".

OK, as I write this I presume most musa sikkimensis are still grown from seed. For some reason I don't think TC of musa sikkimensis is that common yet.
The musa sikkimensis from places like Darjiling in india gets occasional snowfall and freezing temps. That is a fact that can be verified. So there must be something in this musa that enables it to cope with this harsh environment. At the same time, further down the hill there are sikkimensis specimens growing in almost tropical conditions and never experience tough conditions. Now where do the seeds you and I sprout come from? Judging by the customer demand for musa sikkimensis I would think a lot of seeds are harvested both at high elevations and warmer low elevations. Who harvests seeds? Probably local people who are unaware of the cold-hardy qualities we as customers try to find. If you lived in a third world country harvesting seeds for a living, would you know much about the harsh winters of Norway or Chicago? Probably not. A wise man once said "we accept the reality we are given".

I think it is difficult to point out the FACTS of growing a certain species, since it is so subjective. There are so many "ifs". But genetic variation among plants is a fact. I think it's fair to say that true hardiness is not developed in sikkimensis yet, but can probably be done with selective breeding, or other gene-technique. So zone 5 growers who successfully overwinter sikkims; -You won the lottery, and please, keep the pups!

So my question is: Is there a specific gene in the genus "musa" that determines cold hardiness? Is it several genes working together? I am starting to get in way over my head here. But in my guess the answer would be YES. So banana-breeders and gene-technicians; better start working. There is a high demand for cold hardy musas.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 6:32PM
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mrbungalow(Z8, SW-Norway)

By the way, I know, not all musa sikkimensis seeds come from India, but some of the larger seed-dealers claim they collect seeds directly from habitat.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 6:41PM
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cannaz(z6 MO)


I like the way you think! I think you nailed it right about sikkimensis. I work as a research scientist in the biotech industry and have thought for many years about trying to create more cold tolerant tropicals and subtropicals.
I share your belief that there are at least one, most likely serveral genes that convey cold tolerance to high elevation bananas like sikkimensis, basjoo, itinerans, etc. The entire sikkimensis genome is present in all seeds no matter where they have been harvested from, this would include any cold tolerance genes. However, the catch, as you mentioned, is that not all genes are expressed the same from different populations.
I have had an idea that I have been wanting to try and it sounds like sikkimesis would be a good candidate. I have been wanting to germinate large amounts of seeds from different sources and then expose the seedlings to a series of cold snaps followed by favorable conditions. The hope is that during these cycles it would promote the "turning on" of these otherwise silent cold tolerance genes. After these cold shocks it is just a matter of screening these plants for cold tolerance. If a cold tolerant line is found it could then be vegetatively propogated to maintain a stable genetic population.
I have heard of this being done with several cold tolerant palms in New York. I have not heard any thing for a while as it would be a slow process.
As far as genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding, cold hardiness in bananas is not exactly at the top of the list. More urgent modifications of bananas are being addressed such as, resistance to Panama wilt (fusarium) and black sigatoga. The worlds cavendish banana supply is hanging on the edge of devastation by a new strain of panama wilt that has surfaced in SE Asia. The Gros Michael variety of banana was completely destroyed in the early 1900's only to hastily be replaced with todays monoculture of cavendish bananas, which is now succeptible to the new strain. I dont think you will see any large scale breeding or genetic engineering being done on ornamental bananas anytime soon. That doesnt mean that it couldnt be addressed by enthusists in the horticultural world.
I am trying to get some facilities set up to test my idea in my basement. I have several tropicals in mind. Any recommendations on good seed sources? Best of luck with your tropical garden in Norway!


    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 4:03PM
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dilbert(z5 IL)

Is there a reason sikkimensis and basjoo can't be crossed?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 5:05PM
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fglavin(Knoxville, TN)

Dilbert, not many folks have successfully overwintered musa basjoo in a zone 5. Yeah, I know there are some that have, please do not all gang up on me with pictures and proof. They are usually extremely heavily protected with wire cages filled with leaves, mulch, burlap, bubble wrap, plastic, etc. I have yet to see somebody show winter protection of that magnitude for a musa sikkimensis! My point is that musa sikkimensis is still relatively new to cultivation. Musa basjoo has been around for a long time! Ever notice how noone sells musa basjoo seeds? There are probably only one or two clones of musa basjoo here in the states - tissue cultured clones of one cold-hardy plant. Give it some time, and an exceptionally cold-hardy strain of m. sikkimensis will be found and tc'ed.

By the way, I have a friend in Ontario that overwintered several musa sikkimensis last year. He is in a zone 6b though.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 10:19PM
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bobcat(z5 OH)

I grew a sikki reg leaf last summer and pulled it, knowing it was not a safe bet. I wanted to see how big it would get this year b4 experimenting with it. I had a lot of troubles getting it 'go' and the mother pstem is no more. Luckily I had two shoots replace it and they are both chugging nicely along and loving life. I will be removing one and bringing it in the house and hopefully keep it nice and green. The other will be mulched hard. I guess I'll see if got a good one after all...

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 11:27PM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

hi bobcat, when you say you pulled it, did you mean you potted it to grow for the winter, or you put it into dormancy? do all bananas react to dormancy like basjoo, where you can throw a blanket over a potted one and have it come back months later?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 9:55AM
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bobcat(z5 OH)

Hi Nucci60,

In my experience I have only worked with overwintering sikki and basjoo and neither went well. The basjoo did not return. The sikki, like I said, died to the ground and pupped after what seemed like an eternity. I think the basjoo died cause it was too wet in the ground after i put it in. Also there were mold problems.

I truly believe the basjoo would have been better left in the ground- with no babying, poking or watering until it leafed out. Having said that I think both would have faired much better potted or something similar to what you said. Mine were left in cool storage bare root. The basjoo was a rock when pulled it out this spring.

But don't let my experiences dissuade you. Many people in your zone overwinter basjoo fine in the ground and out. Perhaps someone else with more naner experience could answer you better.

This year I will try overwintering the one sikki, a Raja and a Ensette maurelli as potted plants. Fingers crossed.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 11:40AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

I had to put in my two cents worth about the basjoo. I overwintered them successfully in the ground here in zone 5 for the last two years. Here's my proof. I really couldn't resist posting a picture...even though you said not to fglavin! Never tried the sikkimensis, but if someone wants to send me one, I'll sure give it a try...

Here is a link that might be useful: one and two year old basjoos in Muncie, Indiana

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 10:10AM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

HI Sandy0225, I did not know I was opening a can of worms when I started this thread. It got pretty deep and technical. Your Basjoos look great. I am on my first year, and it looks like your first year one. Will protect it this winter.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 2:46PM
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bobcat(z5 OH)

Lol, you didn't open up a can of worms! This is a good discussion! Believe me, in my two short years at Garden Web, I have seen some REAL CAN OF WORMS! This sure ain't one of them!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 1:16AM
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mrbungalow(Z8, SW-Norway)

A can of worms indeed.

What I am mostly interested in is fast growth, since our growing season is cool and short.

I can't leave the thread before I give my praise to "musa sp. helen" wich is a cross between "Musa Chini Champa" (aka. "Champa Kala) and musa sikkimensis.

I started this hybrid from seed in march, and now they are gaining in on last seasons sikkimensis! Incredible growth, even in the cooler and rainy weather we often have here! The stems and undersides of the leaves are red and leaves are not variegated but very dark green. Very nice looking. When I sprouted these from seed, usually 2-4 sprouts came out of a single seed.

I don't know if this species is very cold hardy, and I am not going to be an "over-optimistic zone-deny'er" in any way. But I am going to reccomend it because of its' speed of growth, it's healthy appearance, and tolerance of cool weather.

My experience with sikkimensis so far this year: Small plants grow slowly, larger plants grow fast. By fast I mean faster than basjoo, a little slower than established ensete ventricosum.

Basjoo has not really lived up to my expectations this year, the plants I posess seem tissue-cultured or weak in some way. Not until the plants are about 3 feet do I see good growth on my musa basjoo.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 3:31AM
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dilbert(z5 IL)

"musa sp. helen"

What is "sp?" If it is species, it can't be a hybrid.

Where did you get the seeds?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 12:25PM
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mrbungalow(Z8, SW-Norway)

Good point Dilbert, but that's what it says at the place I got them. At the raare palm se*eeds place. You know what I am talking about.

Maybe sp. stands for "sub-species", or "super plant", Although I don't really care what they call it as long as it performs. This wouldn't be the first time someone misnamed a plant. Try TyTyga* nursery for example!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 6:25AM
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I have Basjoos and Sikkimensis (Both Darjeeling and Manipur - Red Tiger) The sikkimensis have burned up (leaves turned black) about 3ðF before the Basjoos have. So far this year, the Sikkis have been knocked out by the cold⦠the Basjoos have minimal leaf burn, but they'll be getting knocked out soon.
They're more likely to rot than the basjoos, but so far I've only lost 2 Sikkis to rot. They come back each spring here in zone 6a just like the basjoos.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 8:18AM
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