When to dig up banana plants for winter

todd1234September 7, 2008

I have a pretty good size banana plant that a friend gave me this spring. I planted it around may and its growing like crazy. When is the best time to dig them up for winter? Also, if anyone could tell me the best way to store them over winter that would be great. What started out as one plant turned into five plants..i would love to find out how to keep them alive over winter.I live in Virginia beach, in case you need to know what region. Thanks for any help you can provide.


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If you're in Virginia Beach, which is a cold hardiness zone 8a, then depending on the species, you may be better off leaving it in the ground rather than digging it up and storing it in the house. It will die to the ground but will resprout from the roots(called a corm) in the spring and will grow bigger and faster next year.

However, that is just depending on the species...there are several bananas that are rated down to zone 8a, but not all from what i understand. Good luck

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 11:16PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Would also help to know what type of banana. Some are more tender than others. Some will survive in the ground; others won't.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 7:58AM
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I agree, what is the easiest way for me to send you a picture so that you might be able to identify what species of banana plant it is.

Thanks, Todd

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 8:30AM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Probably to set up a Photobucket account and upload your picture there. Then copy the appropriate code into this message window.

That said, I'm not the best at ID'ing bananas! But maybe someone else can. You'd probably need to show the blossom and fruit. However, some can ID based on foliage alone if the plant is mature enough or if it's a common ornamental variety.

Would your friend know what it is?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 1:29PM
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Thanks for everyones help...im going to try different tech. with a couple of plants.ie..dig some up, leave some in the ground etc..hopefully one will survive.I was driving in my neighborhood today and noticed a man with at least 50 plants all over his yard...so i stopped and talked to him about it as well. He told me to PLEASE come and get some lol. He said something else he does is cut the plant 2 feet from the ground, and with plywood boxes he makes... open at both ends...slips the 3 foot box over the stub and then fills it with mulch until spring. When its warm enough he uncovers the plants and lets them take off. The plants in his yard now are are 12 inches in diameter...pretty big. Thanks again for everyones help!!!


    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 10:08PM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)

For people digging them up and storing them inside (dormant), does it matter if frost hits the plant first? One method I read says to dig out the plant and remove all leaves except for the top one. I assume this would be before frost and I guess this helps preserve some of the height of the plant for next year?

In theory, if all I want is for the corm to survive, is it okay to allow frost to kill the top part first? As long as, of course, it doesn't get so cold that the soil freezes.

I want to try storing the corm as well as keeping one plant alive as a houseplant as I did last year. Unsure about the storing the corm thing though, my basement isn't really that cold, but will give it a try.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 7:33PM
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Hi all. I have two species of banana, Basjoo and Musa. I also have a red-leaf variety, but I'm not sure on it's species.

I give away dozens of plants every Christmas to friends and family. I seem to be the only one that has any luck propgating them. The basjoos are supposedly the only ones that can really survive our winter in the ground (without having to do much to them), but I had one die on me this year due to a late frost.

For most of them, I put em to bed right around now (I'll be in the garden on Sunday all day, I'm sure!). We're getting down to low 40s this week in Atlanta, and we just got some rain, so it's perfect.

For the ones in the ground, I dig them up carefully and tip them over. I cut off all the leaves except for the one in the very center. I use buckets of water to knock off most of the clay off the root ball and cut off any long roots.

If there are babies that are more than 2' tall, I'll use a spade to cut them off the bigger plants. If they're tiny, I leave them attached to the mother plant. I stack all the plants in the garage on a piece of cardboard. Every year, I usually keep around 10 plants, varying from 4' to over 15'.

If they're right around 2' tall, I'll cut them off and pot them up and bring them inside the house, leaving all the leaves. These are usually the ones I give to friends and family. They don't require much water (you risk root rot), and it's preferable to put them in a lower light area when storing them inside for the winter.

For the really, really huge basjoos, I cut them down to about a foot from the ground. A couple years ago, I put plastic bags over the top of them, but I think I lost a couple due to suffocation. The idea was to keep moisture out of the centers. This past year, I just mounded free mulch (wood chips), the previous year's mulch, grass clippings, and the compost that didn't quite finish about 2' over the stumps. I had pretty good success with this and only lost the biggest one this past year.

I only leave the ones that are really too large for me to dig up and store by myself. We're talking the ones that are 8-10" diameter.

Here's a picture of what the corner of my house looked like last year in September. I have two more areas of banana plants, as well... they're a lot of work in the fall, but beautiful and very low maintenance for the rest of the year!


    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 11:11AM
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I'm also in the VA Beach area and I dug mine up yesterday, since we are expecting a frost this week. I actually dug it up in a huge clump and put it in a pot and brought it in the house, where it now dominates our living room.

I don't know what kind it is - it was labelled as a Musa Basjoo when I bought it (for $3!!!) but I have a larger musa basjoo (which will winter in the ground) and this one is clearly not the same. It has grown much faster and has HUGE broad leaves (the musa basjoo are narrower).

It grew from 1 foot in July to nearly 5 feet now. I'm sure by this time next year it will be huge.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 1:50PM
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I'm in Norfolk and have been wondering what to do with a Musa rosa.... The original plant died back last year, but three of its pups each grew to over 6-7' this year in a 20" or so pot.

Now I've scanned this and other pages for wintering suggestions - and there are many. Too many.... Last year, the lowest temperature I recorded was 24 F.

Though I've got a greenhouse, it's reached max population density, so there's no room for the banana as it is...or the huge ficus for that matter. Since it is in a pot, should it be divided now and forced into dormancy, or should the hacking wait until next spring?

I've got room for the pot, just not the whole plant.... Oh, and I've got a detached, unheated garage so that's another possibility.



    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 1:58PM
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Hi everyone! I'm in central N.J. I have two very large and heavy delicate banana trees outside for the summer. I usually bring them in each winter with a hand truck and they hit the ceiling and take up half the house. This year we just got new rugs etc. and I don't want to be lugging them in with the hand truck and messing things up! Any way to make them go dormant for the winter in the garage or basement. (garage can get below freezing in the winter) basement is heated but should be a little cooler. I have no idea if they can be stored "dry". My only other option is to leave them outside and say goodbye. ;0(

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 11:48AM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

Bobby7b, musa is not a kind of banana. Musa means banana.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 11:22AM
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greenpassion(z4-z5 VT)

I just read a post by yankeestonk, and I have the exact same situation, and the same question as well. I live in Vermont, and my huge ensete maurelli's (3) several ensete vercoscum's, and 4 musa basjoo's are all in huge pots on my deck. I need to bareroot store them, but don't know when to do it, or how!! Do I wait for the frost to kill the leaves first? What is the process??

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 11:28AM
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rednofl(9b Goldenrod Fl hz 10)

Check this out it is about plants in the ground but good information.

As to when most bananas go dormant below 50 degrees this is the time to cut back the water and start the process

Here is a link that might be useful: Overwintering bananas

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 6:36AM
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I just dug up my 3 massive Maurelli ensete bananas after 2 weeks of HARD frost (down to 17-18 degrees for several nights). The leaves were all wilted and hanging straight down. I simply cut the leaves off back to the trunks (stalks), dug them up and stuck them in 15 gallon pots with a little dirt. The pots are very HEAVY (I would guess 150-200 lbs.) The plants are very healthy.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 4:45PM
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