how far to cut down Musa Basjoo and elephant ears in fall?

poaky1September 25, 2012

I am new here and to tropicalesque plants. I haven't gotten a hard freeze yet but surely will soon. I have Musa Basjoo, elephant ears and a canna. I also have a couple palms, can't remember names. The ones 6 ish/7 hardiness zones. I am going to try burlap around poles for the young palms, but need to know how low to chop off Musa Banjoo leaves, and Canna/ elph. ear foliage. I have the banana and palms inground And the El. ears in a shallow raised bed. They look so nice I hate to chop off all that nice summer growth! Our zone 6 here has only gotten as low as 7F or close to that, but not below 0F for quite awhile. So I'm hoping the palms will be fine with non-touching burlap around it with the top open. Any help opinions/guesses welcome.

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Im in zone 6 as well and there are only 3 palms I really trust to over winter..needle palm, sabal minor, and a fortuni.. other than that IDK how much luck you will have with the palms outside. I have almost 20 types of EE and they all get dug up and stored dry BEFORE a hard frost.. the canna I let get hit with a hard frost, chop off and store dry. I don't try to overwinter any of the canna or EE outside. there are a few that will ( sangria, pink china, maderia ) but they need to be very established first. goodluck

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 12:22AM
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Miketropic, I haven't done anything yet but know I have to act soon. I will try to cut and mulch the Musa Banana, and cut and mulch the Elephant ear. If I remember right it is zone 6 hardy. I have sulfur powder, which I read is necessary to overwinter. The Cannas I may have to dig up after they wither. I have a needle palm and 2 other palms, I can't remember the cultivar ( or species) but they are the ones touted as being zone 6-7 hardy. I have some natural burlap to protect them somewhat, this is their first winter here. I bought them in North Carolina this past March.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 2:27AM
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I've been growing Musa Basjoo, Musa Sikkimensis and various cannas for a few years.

For the past few years I've dutifully cut down everything after the first frost, but this year I am not going to cut any of them.
As far as I can tell, the only purpose that cutting them down serve is to make them look "prettier" in the winter.
It makes sense to me that if no one goes out in the wild and cuts them down, then there is no reason for me to do so either.

This winter I will just let the frosts brown the leaves up good, then I will squish them down around the stems to help protect them.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 1:44PM
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I think I will do the same as crispy this winter.

I have a multi-trunk M. basjoo that soared to about 13 feet this year, and there are plenty of leaves with which to mulch the base (last year I didn't bother to mulch at all, and (possibly thanks to our mild winter) the plant came through fine).

You hear advice to save as much of the trunk(s) as possible, building a cage around them to fill with leaves, but the one time I tried it there was no difference - all the growth came up from the base after the trunk was largely mush.

I figure I'll cut way back in April after seeing new sprouts.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 9:07AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

I don't cut back my basjoo, after several hard freezes, they collapse to the ground anyway on their own.
I'm covering my Palms in a big pile of leaves. I'm in a colder area than you though.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 8:21PM
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I know it's not spring yet, but my M Basjoo is covered in lots of brown from the old growth that fell down as you all have mentioned. My Canna I have left in my raised bed all winter so far. It is close to the house and hopefully will wake up okay. If not I'll get more and bring inside or mulch alot next time. My palms are completely unprotected. I think that they will bounce back though. The top may be oast, but new growth is hopeful. I have Needle palm, Sabal Causiarum and Saw palmetto.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:19PM
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As I mentioned last October in this thread, I left my Musa Basjoo, Sikkimensis and cannas without cutting them this winter.
(the previous winters I have cut them at 3/4 feet, and covered the stumpy stems with plastic tents full of leaves)

So far it looks to be a good idea. My banana plants were still pushing new leaves at the top of the stem until the beginning of January! A series of hard freezes since then seemed to have slowed them down, but even then, it looks like the central part of the stem are still alive.
True, the leaves are brown and tattered, and completely limp hanging down, but this did help to protect the stems from cold winds.

I think I am going to wait until the temperatures stop going below freezing at night, then I will cut the old leaves off.

Considering that I was getting new leaves pushing at the top of last years stems mid winter, I'm thinking it was a good idea to leave the stems standing instead of cutting them to some arbitrary height. I think this will result in having a bit head start on them this Spring.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:57AM
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After a few hard freezes, the stems and leaves of my M. basjoo clump collapsed neatly into a pile, sheltering the root system. Within a couple of weeks I should be able to remove this layer and see what's lurking beneath.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 7:21PM
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As of Mid March 2013, I have cut off the dead leaves and checked out the tops of the stems of all my banana plants (heights from 3-6 feet tall) and all of them have bits of green leaf showing.

The outside leaf sheaves on the stems are brown and cracked but the inside of the stems are still alive.

So basically, my experiment apparently was a success. This year my banana plants will start pushing new leaves at the same point they stopped late last fall!
I am excited to see how they will do this year having such a major head start.

The lowest temperature that I saw here this past winter was 18F on a few nights so it was a relatively mild winter.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 8:26AM
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My winter wasn't below zero as far as I know. I do remember many single digits 3F 8F. More than usual. All my tropicalesque plants are still hiding under crunchy leaves. I think it may be best though. Our last frost is usually Mothers day give or take a day. I have already bought new elephant ears in case they are toast. My palms are pretty beaten up. One has a small section of green, the other seems all brown. Too early to tell with the Musa Basjoo, it is probably fine under the tan crumpled stuff. I was lazy in not protecting my palms. When I see the guy in zone 4 on here showing his beautifu zone 7+ palms, I could kick my a** for not makin an effort to protect my small palms.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 12:20AM
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I'm in 8A, borderline 7B and have never covered or cut my Musa Basjoos. I also have a Siam Giant that I just put in last year that I didn't cut and a Pink Velvet. I have Jacks Giant EE's and don't cut or cover them either. All of them are already growing and back with no special care, cutting or wrapping. We had some teens and 20's this year, a little warmer than last year. But I've always overwintered my Musa Basjoo this way and have one that reaches up to the house gutters and we have had plenty of lows in the Singles as well as snow and ice. They are pretty tough plants IMO.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 3:27PM
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The Musa Basjoo is going to be fine, I pulled away it's tan dead leaves and I bought another from my local Lowes. It's my Eleph Ears I am not sure of. I bought new ones in case. I have a Dawn Redwood I may plant an Eleph Ear under. It looks like a Bald Cypress. I have a Bald Cypress but it needs to grow a lot before it makes any impact in the landscape. Nannerbelle, I am surprised in z 7B --8 that you had lots of 20's. this past winter. I had lots of 20's but some single digits for about 12 nights. The difference is that your day temps were probably warmer. I have faith in the Musa Basjoo coming back. The E. Ears are hard to say. Technically my winter 2012-2013 was zone 7. Thanks for replying.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 11:44PM
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My Banana Musa Basjoo from last year are eager to get growing. I have a new Musa Basjoo from this spring planting also. My Trachycarpus Fortunei , Saw Palmetto and Needle palm are very beaten up. One of them ( Needle palm?) may recover. I never covered them, so it's my fault for any losses.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 12:13AM
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Frost has beaten up my newly planted Musa Basjoo. I am hoping for new growth. I hope the frost is done and over with already.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 12:57AM
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Yesterday was the coldest morning at my place in 3-4 weeks. I think the frost is over though.
My Basjoos and Sikkimensis bananas have about 2-3 leaves each now and seem to be doing well. Since I did not cut them, the stems are already 6-8 feet tall this early in the Spring!
I planted a NEW basjoo about 3 weeks ago that I bought locally, its grown 2 feet already.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 8:11AM
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The let-the-leaves-and-stalks-collapse-on-the-center-of-the-plant method turned out fine - I have four M. basjoo shoots up and growing.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:17AM
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Good to hear others Musa Basjoo are doing great. We are getting 30F tonight according to accuweather forecast link on my computer. I have a variety of Live oak that has survived a year in the ground with no protection this past winter, well actually 3 trees of this variety. It is Live oak "late drop" from Mossy oak natives nursery. It is listed as a variety of Quercus Virginiana. The graceful live oak from the south that is my favorite tree in the universe. The one draped with Spanish moss and branches are wide spreading and evergreen. I will be out there before sunrise spraying the leaves before the sun hits them to hopefully stop damage. The tree has already recovered once from frost, I don't want to push my luck again. I have failed at the regular Live oak from down south 3 or 4 times, so this variety is special. I would say I just got lucky but for 3 to do great after failures of reg Live oak, it is the tree being hardier.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Poaky1, I live in a really crazy little micro climate here. I can have scorchers in the summer and then in the winter it gets crazy cold with wind whipping like crazy. I've also got really sandy soil but 10 miles out from me is clay based dirt. I hope your bananas are doing well, mine are doing well, got several Musa Basjoo's over 6 Ft. already. The others are doing well too, just pulled a bunch of them up and containerized getting ready for a big move in the next few weeks. We have had some crazy lows this past week, in the 40's and that is pretty well unheard of in my area.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 11:53PM
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Nannerbelle, my banana, the musa basjoos are doing fine as can be after the frost. They are ugly but have a visible leaf ready to unfurl on top of each plant and soon the burnt looking bottom will be covered with new leaves. Well, hopefully your move will take you somewhere where gardening is better. Your situation sounds okay to me with just 40's, but I guess with wind it could be bad. I am glad to get just 40's here until steady warm temps. But anyway I may try an Ensete banana, but it needs lifted or protected a good bit. Arctictropical on this forum had pics of his and they are really worth a try.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 12:43AM
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Just an update, as of last week one of my basjoo plants put out a flower for the 1st time last week. Already tiny bananas are showing around the stem of the flower.

Evidently letting the stems stand all winter paid off! Since this flowered in late Spring, it has all summer and early fall to ripen up the tiny nanners.

Then I am gonna find out for my self some answers that I cannot seem to find on the net:

1. Are the fruit in any way edible? Most places say "no" but give no evidence they even tried. Even if I can squish them through a strainer and fry them up in patties, it would be worth it.
2. Are the seeds in the fruit viable? Most places say either "no" or "you cannot get basjoo seed"

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 1:01PM
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follow up to my follow up about musa basjoo fruit:

The fruit on my plants have started to yellow and fall off, I guess that is as ripe as they are going to get. They are only around 2 inches long.

There is practically nothing inside the skin, there are three "tubes" of clear jelly looking stuff going through them with tiny specks inside. The jelly stuff doesn't taste bad, mostly bland with the slightest flavor of banana.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 10:00AM
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Well, at least now you know. If they've had all of summer to ripen then that's probably as good as they get.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 9:13AM
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Crispy, in your zone you could probably grow the kind that is usually a fruiting banana. Even if you take it in for a week or 2 to finish ripening. My Musas are doing great with no cutting back. No fruiting for me of course. I have an Ensete, that needs pulled out or covered. It is zo ne 8.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 10:33PM
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It is already Sept 1, 2013. My Musa Basjoo has already shrugged off any frost and is in the end of the growing season for 2013. So IOW Musa Basjoo over-winter ok in zone 6, without being dug up.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:43AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

I've had musa basjoo for over 7 years in z 5, I plant them a foot deeper in the ground when i plant them out like a friend from Toledo ohio told me to do. We don't mulch them or baby them at all. One of them is over 8 feet tall so far. many in shade are smaller but have been out in the ground for 3-5 years so far. They are awesome. We have had also very good luck with pink china ee. We get them to a larger size, and plant them a foot deep too. 2 years in a row so far in 5 different places in the yard. This is so fun!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 7:03PM
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