The Q&A Archives: Red Leaf Banana

Question: We purchased a red leaf banana plant in March 05. It is planted in the ground in front of our house. It has tripled in size, so it likes where we planted it and is very healthy. My question is now winter has come how do I take care of it? And will it survive.I have people telling me to chop the top off is this correct? seems to me it might shock and kill it. Anything you can suggest will be helpful the plant is approx. 10ft tall and I would hate to lose it. Thank you.

Answer: Protecting your banana plant can be as laborious as you want. Several methods have been successful. The easiest is to allow the first hard freeze to knock the plant back, then cut the trunk to the ground and mulch over. The mulch should be 6-10 inches deep and can be leaves, bark, straw, or anything else that will provide insulation. The draw back to this method is the size of the plant, and it most likely will not flower. The most extreme method is to cut off the leaves after the first frost and build a cage around the banana clump, preferably a little taller than the plant. Fill the cage with insulating material and wrap with plastic. Such a procedure is especially good the first winter. The cage technique is not advisable in areas where you rarely get below 20 f and most of your winter is mild. We have lost more bananas due to fungus caused by being wrapped up than we have ever lost to cold. The middle-of-the-road method ( the one we use ) is to do nothing until it is going to be below 20 f for a period of time. We then wrap with household insulation and plastic bubble wrap until the cold spell is over. Then we pull the wrapping, preventing heating and cooling inside the tent. We don't even cut the damaged leaves off until spring. The method you choose depends on your expected low temperatures and the age of the plant. A new banana plant should always be protected the first year. Best wishes with your plant!

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