The Q&A Archives: Cold Hardy Banana Tree

Question: Thanks for your response. One more question for zone 6 growers. Do we have to cut the tree to ground level to mulch? We have experience with other banana trees, but this is our first winter with these and I don't want to lose them. The others we bring in. We are wondering if we can leave 3-4 feet of trunk, cut large trash cans to put over the top and mulch the inside with straw and outside around the trash cans in order to keep height, or do we have to cut all the way down to the ground?

In spring, to separate, do we cut the babies while the mother is in the ground or do we have to dig up the whole plant to do this?

This is the last time I will bother you with questions (I hope!!) Thanks so much. Carolyn

Answer: First of all, you're welcome to stop by any time you have a gardening question. We're here to help!

You can either cut your banana plant back after a killing frost and apply a thick layer of mulch over the plant's crown, or, you can try letting the leaves collapse on top of the plant, providing additional insulation and then add mulch around the base of the plant. If the stem dies back completely, you can cut it down to ground level in the spring. Believe it or not, your banana can grow 6-10' tall in a single growing season so even if you have to mow it all the way down, it will recover the following spring. The only thing I would caution you against is setting a trash can over the top. It will simply hold too much moisture and will cause the plant to develop a fungal disease.

As for separating the babies from the parent, it depends.... If the pups are mature enough, you can separate them now (before frost kills the parent), pot them up and take them indoors for the winter. If the pups are really small, you may just want to leave them alone - they may or may not survive the winter, but your plant will produce new pups next year and you can try separating them then.

The pup should be about 3 feet high. This insures it has already developed some of its own roots independent of the parent tree.

To remove the pup, use a long-narrow trenching shovel (or equivalent) and force a straight, downward cut between the parent and pup. After separating the two, pull out the pup, being careful to avoid breaking off the pup?s roots. Loosening the surrounding soil first would help.

The removed pup should be defoliated by cuffing at least 50 percent off of each leaf. This young banana tree can then be planted if it is spring or summer; otherwise, place it in a large pot using a good potting soil and keep it protected from the cold until spring.

Best wishes with your hardy banana!

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