Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Musa Basjoo, another hardy banana in the Asian Collections

I donated this plant from my own extensive collection this spring. It was about 3 feet tall when Amanda planted it. Clearly it has thrived. Next year, with luck, we can get it up to twelve or fifteen feet. That would be the top of the leaves. I've always suspected that bananas are properly measured, to the growing tip. That would explain why I can grow Basjoo to 18 feet when it's only supposed to get from 10 to 15 feet tall. I don't care; until I'm personally corrected I'm measuring to the top of the plant. To get maximum height, it's necessary to remove the suckers from around the main plant. Or to fertilize and water so much that everybody can reach their maximum potential. You often see large clumps of Basjoo where the main plant tops out at 8 or 9 feet.

Just as Rhapidaphyllum hystrix is the only palm that's guaranteed to be hardy here in Washington even if you plant it on an exposed slope, Musa 'Basjoo' is the only banana that I can say I've never lost to winter. I've planted them in November, given them to friends who have brown to black thumbs, had them planted by clients from whom I know they received less than optimal care: never lost one. There are now a bunch (ha ha) of bananas that are considered USDA Zone 6 plants. I'm working on them at home and at work but they tend to require good siting, return so slowly in the spring that they're sort of useless in the landscape, or even die off in our harsher winters. Not Basjoo.

There's one downside to Basjoo that I know of and that it its tendency to droop and wrinkle when the air is dry or windy; even on days of average humidity it tends to sag and look tired in the afternoons when the humidity drops below 50%. Ensete/Musella lasiocarpa (yesterday), on the other hand, had those smaller, thicker, bluish leaves that remain perfect through pretty much whatever weather happens so long as the plant gets water once in a while. It doesn't get as tall though, and frankly isn't as hardy. So I guess we'll continue to grow both. Plus a few more including Musa sikkimensis, Ensete glaucum, and a new plant Brads getting next year. Still not enough for a calendar, "Bananas of the Asian Collection", not to be confused with "Girls of the SEC".


College Gardener said...

One of my favorite plants...With a heavy cover of dead leaves they are even hardy in southeast Michigan and make wonderful clumps by the middle of the summer.

KINGRPG said...

It is a very rare tree.