looking for container banana recs for the northern US

justaguy2(5)September 16, 2009

Hi folks,

Haven't grown bananas before, but thinking it would be fun next year.

As I am in Wisconsin growing in the ground year round is clearly not an option and I would prefer to grow them in a container year round. I would over winter them in my basement which averages 55-60F. They could either be put near a sunny patio door or away from sun/light entirely depending on what seems to work best in keeping them alive over the winter (any thoughts on this?).

I have a few questions that I would appreciate input on, particularly from those growing bananas in containers in areas they must be overwintered indoors.

First question, and I suppose an odd one, but are the cultural requirements of banana similar to elephant ears? In other words they like lots of water and fertilizer and don't care much for any real cold and seem to just keep getting bigger and bigger each year?

The next question is what sized container is reasonable for the various sized plants? As I have never seen the root systems these plants put out I am uncertain if a whiskey barrel half (holds 4 cubic feet/30 gallons) is large enough for a larger variety plant. If not, what size would you recommend? Watering/fertilizing daily isn't an issue, but I would want to match the container size to the plant such that watering more often than daily wasn't necessary.

I would love a variety that eventually produces edible bananas, but this isn't critical. Any particular varieties I should lean toward or away from if my primary concern is a large (10+' tall) plant within a couple years of growth in a northern summer?

Any mail order sources you would recommend?

Thanks all.

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tropicalzone7(7b)

First off, bananas love heat and sun just like elephant ears. Only difference is bananas will grow very very slow if temperatures get in the low 50s where as elephant ears grow fast as long as its not really cold (in the 30s). Also around late august or whenever you start getting cooler you should water less frequently. Once temperatures are in the low 70s or upper 60s for day time hights they should be kept dry so they grow slower and get ready for being dormat. They also rot very easily if given water when its cool outside. The weather should be at least in the upper 70s with some sun for it to be watered alot and not mind. When its hot, they crave water and will probably have to get soaked almost every day.

I think you should aim for a large container size. You can even put it in a really large container that you cant carry in, and take it out of the container for winter storage. Then you can cut the stalk down to about 3 feet anf cut the roots back so it can fit in a smaller pot allowing it to be carried in easier.

I like the dwarf cavendish alot. They grow new leaves pretty quickly but dont get too much height with each one. Eventually they can reach 8-10 feet tall and that doent include the pot, but they will fruit at a much smaller size making it easier to pick the fruit, and most importantly its fruiting size is small enough for you to get it to fruit without dragging in a 20 foot plant every year. Super dwarf cavendish are great too and fruit at about 4 or 5 feet tall. Only probelm is they dont fruit very readily, but do grow at a speed of about 1 or 2 feet per summer (reaching maturity in only 4-6 years from a small pup). I also like the eneste species alot, but they dont fruit very easily up north and can grow very tall. the fruit is not edible either, but the flower is no short of being absolutely incredible. They also stay much smaller in pots (around 10 feet) and the beautiful leaves are more than showy enough to make a statement. Im not sure if it would ever actually fruit in a pot unless it was a very large pot and a fairly old plant.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 7:04PM
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justaguy2(5)

Thanks much, I think the dwarf cavendish would make a good first plant for me.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 8:38AM
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struwwelpeter(5)

Any banana plant can be grown in a pot as a dwarf by drenching the potting mix with a chemical growth regulator such as Arrest, Bonzi, or Sumagic, but, application is tricky because the new growth will be too short to emerge from the old pseudostem. So, after waiting several weeks, you have to cut off the pseudostem.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 10:23AM
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tropicalzone7(7b)

That does sound like a good idea for the eneste red bananas since alot of people liek the look, but cant find the space for what they can grow up to become. Sounds like a good idea, but is the banana fruit safe to eat with these chemicals? Just curious about the toxicity.

Also Dwarf cavendish is a great choice for your first banana. They love lots of heat and water, and always remember tropical gardening is very addicting!
Good luck and have fun.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 10:10PM
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struwwelpeter(5)

is the banana fruit safe to eat with these chemicals?

I don't know. They are only labeled for use on ornamentals.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 10:38AM
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tropicalzone7(7b)

Oh, I guess you cant use them for fruiting bananas, but its still a good idea for ormnametals!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 4:13PM
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struwwelpeter(5)

Or, just don't eat the fruit. It is unlikely that you will get fruit from a normally large banana plant in a pot anyway.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 11:14AM
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tropicalzone7(7b)

I forgot about that option (lol), and the fruit is beautiful anyway even if you wouldnt be able to eat it.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 12:57PM
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