The Q&A Archives: Banana Shrub

Question: I bought a shrub last year that was called a banana shrub. It is not a banana tree as the name comes from the fact that it produces flowers that smell like bananas. The plant did not list a scientific name and I have not been able to find it in any of my gardening books. Do you have any idea of what this could be and what care is needed for it? It is a green shrub that drops its leaves in the winter. The tag stated that it would grow to 6' by 6'.

Answer: Banana shrub (Michelia figo) is a member of the magnolia family. Hardy to zone 8, it prefers a moist, fertile, well-drained, slightly acid soil. These shrubs do well in full sun to partial shade. They grow rather slowly, but can reach a height of 20 feet and spread of 10 feet over many years. Although they don't need much pruning, you may need to trim them back some in years to come to keep them in bounds. A little fertilizing is fine, but avoid trying to push them into growth. Late season fertilizing (after early July) should also be avoided as it could cause the plant to be even more susceptible to winter injury in your area.

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