banana hardiness

amazindirt(7A mid-TN)August 16, 2005

I obtained my first three bananas this year -- basjoo, orinoco, and 'Ice Cream'. All three are potted.

I know basjoo is hardy. I'm assuming it will be fine left outside in its 7 gallon pot. Is that correct?

I know orinoco is less hardy, but I'm hoping that it will also be fine in its 7 gallon pot. Is that correct, or should I add more protection?

I know 'Ice Cream' is not hardy. Would it be better to keep it growing in a sunny room for the winter, or better to force it into dormancy in a dark cool room?

Any input would be welcomed!

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You will not be able to overwinter either Musa basjoo or Orinoco unless your plants are in the ground and well mulched. I left my musa basjoo in an unheated garage where the minimum winter temperature got down to about 28 F. (above zero)during the very coldest of the winter weather weather. Well, the basjoo was mush by the time spring came around (including the tubers). In the ground and mulched, I assume your basjoo will make it (not sure about the Orinoco).

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 1:39PM
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Todd_In_Texas(Zone 8A Dallas)

Zone 7 means your probable lowest temperatures in winter will be between 0F-10F degrees. Click on the below thumbnail for a detailed zone map of Tennessee:

A potted basjoo won't survive that. Plant it in the ground as soon as you can so it has lots of time to root before winter comes. Then just put a layer of mulch over it during the winter.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 2:33PM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

I'm really surprised at you guys!

The general rule of thumb for hardiness in a container is to add one to two zones of hardiness compared to a plant in the ground. For instance, if a plant is hardy to zone 6 in the ground, you can be relatively confident that it will be hardy to at least zone 8 in a pot. Well, Musa basjoo is rated as hardy to at least zone 5 in the ground -- so it ought to be fine in my 7. Why are y'all so certain that it won't be? As for putting it in the ground, that's a no-go -- I ain't got no drainage (clay), and all that will happen in the ground is rot!

As for my orinoco and 'Ice Cream' -- I'm well aware that at least the Ice Cream won't be safe outside even with shelter and mulching. So will it be better to force it into dormancy for the winter and store it, or to keep it going in a sunny room?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 2:55PM
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geekgranny(NC Tx USA zone8a)

My basjoos, in a HUGE pot survived this past winter and I badly managed them. see specifics

where I'm requesting help for certain issues of overwintering. It got colder and for more days out here on the escpartment than it was in most areas of Dallas, z8a.

That was my first winter with the Basjoos and I may have been lucky.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 3:16PM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

Ah-hah, thanks! That other thread has great info about the mites and all. I'll have to think about my alternatives!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 3:25PM
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Todd_In_Texas(Zone 8A Dallas)

I know what you're saying... but think about it. If you have a basjoo planted and rooted in the ground and a basjoo in a pot above ground which one do you think would be better protected in a zero degree night? Well, of course the one in the ground.

The corm in the pot is only protected by a little bit of soil on top and on the sides and a little pot/container. The soil, roots and corm are exposed to the freezing temperatures from not only above but from all surrounding sides meaning that corm is going to freeze pretty quick.

Now if you have it planted in the ground, the corm is heavily protected from the ground and soil all around. There is no part of the underground corm/roots that is exposed to the fridged temps except from above.

A potted corm will freeze long before a corm planted safely in the ground.

As for clay... I have a clay and my cannas and musas seem to be doing just fine.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 3:35PM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

" potted corm will freeze long before a corm planted safely in the ground."

Yes, of course. That's why you add one or two zones when planting in a container. ;-)

Thanks for your input, even if I'm disagreeing with you!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 11:51PM
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shapiro(5a Ontario)

We are located just outside Ottawa, Canada and grow a Japanese hybrid of banana strictly for bragging rights. It winters over in the ground - it is located next to a south-facing brick wall, and there is a pipe in the ground below which carries waste water to our septic field. So heat above and below! Then, each fall when the frost kills the leaves, we cut the plant down to earth level and bury the whole site in tons of straw, covered with a tarpaulin to prevent moisture from working its way in. No flowers or fruit (our very hot summers are just not long enough) - but we enjoy the look on people's faces when they see our banana plants! Remember - we have extreme cold in the winter - like several weeks at minus 25 or lower.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 8:27PM
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fglavin(Knoxville, TN)

I can answer this question from personal experience. I bought a musa basjoo a few years ago from HD and left it outside for the Winter in a 7 gallon pot on my patio. Our low that year was 1F, and there was nothing left but MUSH in the Spring. Orinoco would be the same, considering I had an orinoco corm turn to mush that same year (only it was planted in the ground with no additional protection).

Personally, I'd force the Orinoco and IC into dormancy for the Winter. Basjoo stems don't tend to do well with that technique though, so you may want to just cut it down to the corm in late Fall/early Winter and store the potted corm with your others.

Basjoo is rated to about zone 7 in the ground with no protection, zone 5 WITH heavy protection. In a zone 7 defining Winter, your bananas will all turn to mush in a seven gallon pot! I've had native trees left out in pots die in Winter! The roots/corm just can't take the cold temps. The ground provides lots of insulation and heat for roots, whereas a 7 gal. plastic pot provides almost none.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 12:06AM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

BUT -- there's a lot of reasons for mushing aside from cold temps. For instance, excess moisture!

Heck, I keep a Stephanie Golden camellia (as well as three other camellias), two gardenias, and MANY other plants in containers outdoors year round -- and some of them aren't even rated to zone *7*, much less 6 or 5. Stephanie Golden, for instance, is rated to z8 -- but nobody has told her she's supposed to be dead! ;-) On the other hand, I can't keep plants like gaura or hardy lavandulas alive through winters -- despite zone 5 or 6 ratings. The determining factor for a lot of plants here is tolerance for wet winters.

Although I'm arguing, all this discussion *has* convinced me of one thing -- and made me think about another.

1. I'll put basjoo in my "wet feet haters" area for the winter, which will be protected from rainfall especially for those plants that can't stand winter wet (that's also where my lavenders will go this year -- for the first time). and 2. I think I'll take orinoco inside. It's still very small (under 2 feet), so I don't think it's big enough to handle dormancy OR cold temps very well.

I'll report back in the spring about how basjoo handles the winter. Whaddaya think about my baby orinoco? Do ya think it could handle dormant storage at such a small size?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 3:36AM
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doniki(z5/6 NE Ohio)

Hey, I say anything is possible. I had an Oleander outside in a pot, up against my brick house, until Christmas last year and it saw consecutive nights in the single digits and temps not going above freezing... It survived without a scrath... Granted it was one of the "hardy" varieties. But still it came through 7 or 8 degrees (F) in a pot.
On the other hand, there is too much hype, in my opinion about the extreme hardiness of Musa basjoo. It is a zone 7 plant- 6b at best without protection... It is NOT hardy in zone 5!!!-- Only with extreme protection or excellent sighting can it be overwintered. The only way I can overwinter it, is to plant it against the foundation, mulch heavily, keep the winter moisture out with dry straw and a plastic structure... and pray hard!!! It will NOT survive in an exposed zone 5 an open field in Ohio or Illinois... Believe me I have tried it in every possible microclimate...
I know amazindirt's concern about keeping out moisture, and growing things in clay. In my experience it is more essential to keep moisture out of the root zone of a plant in a marginal zone. I've seen HUGE clumps of basjoo growing in that horrible red clay in zone 7 North Carolina, and they overwintered perfectly.
These are just some observations/opinions...

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 10:48AM
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geekgranny(NC Tx USA zone8a)

My main concern is not how to keep corms from freezing in a GIANT container but how do you keep them from "cooking" when they are all wrapped and insulated from freezing and then the temps get up into the very sunny 70's and 80's as does here throughout the winter in z8a.

Please see:

where I ask for help about this issue.

Would appreciate some help on this.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 11:02AM
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fglavin(Knoxville, TN)

Cold temps PLUS moisture is a death nell for banana corms. If it's 90+ degrees outside, I don't think there is such thing as excess moisture for a banana. I agree with you about your orinoco. Probably still too small, and not enough corm, to store bareroot in a cool, dry spot. Good luck with the basjoo. With the last two mild winters here in TN, you might get away with it, but I still say if we have a zone 7a winter it'll be mush next Spring. However, if you sink the pot into the ground, or mulch around it heavily, it'll stand a much better chance. Maybe cover it with a plastic bag too. Better even yet, set the whole pot into a trash bag full of leaves this Fall and close it up! That's the great thing about Fall...people will rake their leaves up for you, bag them up, and even place them by the curb for you! How thoughtful. Free mulch, and in the Spring it's great organic material for the garden.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 2:36PM
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fglavin(Knoxville, TN)

By the way, I see Todd posted a picture of the 1990 USDA hardiness zones for TN. That map is old, outdated, and inaccurate. Here's a much more accurate map done by a Southeastern Palm Society member, Jeff Stevens. It uses temperature data from 30 years (1971-2000).

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 2:54PM
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