Winterizing Banana - Illinois

kaysbelle(z5IL)August 26, 2008

I saw a post not too long ago from a poster, I think in Chicago, that cut the stalk to the ground, covered it with the banana leaves and added a bag of mulch over that and had great success from the pics he posted. I have some questions for the poster:

1. Did you separate the pups from the mother plant? I have two plants about 5' tall that have 2-3 pups with it. If so, when and did you overwinter the pups inside for the winter or just replant them?

2. Did you cover the mulch with plastic? I have two 2.5' plastic barrels with the bottoms cut out. I thought about placing the barrels over the banana covered stalks and filling the barrels with the mulch (to help contain the mulch). Any suggestions/comments on this plan?

I dug them up and over wintered them in the basement last year and they did okay but would rather not dig them up if I don't have to.

Any advise/suggestions/comments welcome.

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wilson1963(6 SE Ohio)

Hello, not being an expert by any means and growing my second year of musa basjoo's, I have read many articles about wintering....the barrels are a good idea, just cover them and the area with a tarp as from my experience and what i've read, it's the winter moisture that is the hardest on them, so I suggest covering your barrels with a tarp and keep the area dry for the winter. Mine rotted last winter after I cut them off and mulched them with about 10' of straw and put a piece of plywood over them, but they still got wet and rotted....but I was fortunate enough to have 6 sprouts come back wich are about 6' or better now. My plan this winter is to make a box to go over them, not cut them off and cover them well with mulch and cover it all with a tarp. Keep reading the posts and you will get some great ideas for wintering them and I wish you the best of luck.....wilson1963

Here is a link that might be useful: my pictures

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 8:53PM
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I have a dwarf Cavendish that has 14 leaves on it and 5 pups growing from it. I need to know how to winterize in North Carolina near the mountains. I heard you do cut the corm back but what must I do with 5 pups? By the way, all of this is in a huge container. I'd like to keep the strongest pup but need to know about separation as I think you cut part of Mom's corm to go with it. Is now the time to do that?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 3:45PM
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To overwinter. Cut pups along with mom when the threat of frost begins. When the temp drops to 50F, the banana will stop growing. This is a good time to stop watering as well.

Cut pups about 2 inches from ground, mom about 6 inches from ground.
The entire surface should be covered with chopped leaves, about a 2 foot pile, gently patted down around the base of the plant and pups.
Plastics, mulch,straw,wood,vinyl,grass clippings,newspaper should not be used as this causes rot and other problems down the road.

Pups can be separated in the spring. Gently brush away dirt from banana, around pups. Find mothers corm, attached will be pup, gently cut a tiny portion of moms corm that is attached to pup you desire to remove. Dig down about 10 inches The pup will live on the small piece of moms corm.

Dig deep hole twice as wide as pup. Fill hole with very rich manure soil, they sell it at Lowe's, $2 a bag. Put pup in hole just a inch above ground level. The bigger the hole, the better your chances of proper drain and better growth. Mulch heavy, keep stalk clear of mulch.
If you can build a hot box a foot above ground level, banana's love them.
The pups should be shaded from the sun until you see growth. Water good, do not fertilize until you see growth. When you see growth on the pup, use a light application of fertilizer until you see strong growth. When you see strong growth, you can resume regular feeding.

Also, two kinds of pups, Water, Sword pups.
Water pups have fat leaves, hard to transplant.
Sword Pups have sword like leaves,slender, easier to transplant. You will notice a difference by looking at the leaves.
Pups should be at least one foot tall before removing from mom.

On a side note, pups really don't need to be removed unless you want the room or you simply want to expand your banana empire.
In my case, I let them hang out with mom, soon they get huge and you have a huge banana fortress.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 10:42PM
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Thanks for the info, miraclegrower. You didn't mention how I was to overwinter the corm and pups as far as where I should put them. They are in a 20 " pot for now and it looks like the best place is my laundry room which is not heated but can be warmer by a bit than the outside as the hot water heater is in there. And also once I cover the corm and pups with leaves, do I further cover it with mulch or put a covering on it?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 7:32PM
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I thought you had them in the ground. If you are gonna overwinter them in the house, I would suggest a room that has a temperature below 50, cool enough to stop growth. If you are growing Basjoo Bananas bringing them in the future will become a huge task, as the corms can become large and heavy. The root system of a Basjoo can extend 17 feet into the ground and its surroundings. This is why the Basjoo has such a great survival rate in the cold states, and better left outside and alone.
I have learned that using Mulch on top of leaves causes molds. Leaves are mothers nature way of preserving plants until spring. "Leaves" dry out faster than mulch, and leaves tend to hold some warmth. They also break down in the soil for even better results.

I have found using chopped leaves with great success. I add nothing else to them. You can use an overturned bucket to cover the stem and then add leaves to cover the bucket. Use small containers to cover pups.
Be sure to use chopped leaves.
Basjoos you can leave outside if they are in the ground. If you are growing them in a pot, or growing any other kind of banana, I would suggest you Keep in a dry cool,dark room. No need to cover them,just keep dry and cool until the spring.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 10:36PM
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Thanks, miraclegrower. I did mention I have a Dwarf Cavendish with 15 leaves on it. Keeping it in the laundry room is probably the best bet as it is cool and hardly gets light.It may get some humidity from rain and snow. But it is the best room I can think of. It's attached to the house but has no heat. October here is fickle in that you still have 75 degree days and below 50 degrees at night.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 2:46PM
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Hey there cponak, I live in Northern Illinois zone 5, Have Dwarf Cavs in a pot that I over wintered in an unheated three season room, but in Dec. put two electric heaters out there to keep above 40 or so, opaque plastic sheeting to block hv from sun on the windows, and put trays of water in front of heaters for humidity. Every day check moister in the soil, I think I watererd twice maybe three times all winter, and it was a long one for us, yet my Dwarf Cav. mat in a pot did ok, this year I plan on overwinering in my family room-Lower Level of my house with a northern exposure and some flourescent lights blue and red spectrum, and see how they do, I'ld really like to see a bloom next summer as this plant will be 2 years old, The MAIN KEY in over wintering your banana plants is MOISTURE, you have to be careful so as to not rot the roots. Bananas are allot more tolerant of low moisture than high. Hope this was of some help, and best of luck with your Dwarf Cav. !

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 11:25PM
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Well, miraclegrower, sounds like my laundry room is the best place as it will get the humidity from washing. But I will check the moisture level, I think they sell some sort of gadget that can tell you the moisture level in nurseries and even Home Depot. We had a cold winter last year but no snow, just ice pellets. We did have a few days where it did get down to 11 degrees and we have those warm days in February that are in the 60's but it gets cold at night. Thanks for the tips and hopefully mine will bear fruit also next year! My husband has a Dracaena that he brought from Florida a few years ago after his mother past away and we kept storing that container in the laundry room, not even covering it. One year, we even had to cut the largest stalk off before putting it in the laundry room as it became too tall. We would water on occasion when the weight of the pot was sort of light. It has done well and the banana plant will keep good company with it!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 12:53PM
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It's been in the 70's during the day and 50's during the night. I can see the dramatic change as my banana leaves are slowing down to one a week. Our first frost here isn't until November but the days are still in the 60's and 50's. Should I cut the corm then and put it in the laundry room, even though it may be 60 degrees outside but 29 degrees at night? The Carolinas have such wierd weather patterns. As they say here. Just sit and you can watch the weather change before your eyes and weathermen have a real problem prdicting what the forecast down the road will be.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 1:32PM
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organic_flutterby(5 MO)

I hope you don't mind if I butt in. I just want to make sure I'm following this correctly. I have a dwarf banana in a container that I need to prepare for its first Missouri winter.
If I'm right, I will not be cutting it down or removing pups. I will be putting it in an unheated garage without covering it. I will not be fertilizing and only watering about every 2 weeks.

Is this correct? and did I leave anything out?

Thank you, I know I'm a little thick-headed.

Here is a link that might be useful: my blog

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 2:38PM
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Hi, organic flutterby. I have a dwarf Cavendish and Igot some great info from miraclegrower. He said to put it in a cool dry place. You cut the corm exactly as he states and any pups also. Chop up the leaves. Put a bucket over the corm and the pups and cover with leavesfrom the banana tree. Missouri gets colder much earlier than the Carolinas. Miraclegrower says to cut the pups and the corm right before the first frost. Mine has slowed down considerably as it's been in the 50's at night and 70's during daylight. I think he knows what he's talking about and I plan to use his info for my banana tree. Hopefully, I'll get bananas next year.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 3:22PM
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