Go bananas in your landscape!

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Bananas are a great choice for your landscape, whether as an edible fruit producer or simply as an ornamental, giving your space a tropical vibe.

Bananas are native to southeast Asia, however, grow well across Florida.

Complementary plants that can be paired with bananas in the landscape are bird of paradise (banana relative), canna lily, cone ginger, philodendron, coontie, and palmetto palm, just to name some.

Bananas are very easy to manage during the warmer months. Bananas are water loving, and that’s putting it lightly. Planting in vicinity of an eave on your home is a good measure for site suitability. Roof rainwater will drastically increase the growth of the banana tree and decrease the need to physically irrigate.

Banana trees will need full sun, and high organic moist soils create the best environment. For nutrition, a seasonal one-pound application of 6-2-12 fertilizer is a good practice to sustain older trees. Young trees should be fertilized every two months for the first year at a rate of a half-pound.

If there is a con to banana trees, it’s the plant’s cold hardiness. Some varieties fare well, some not so much. Dwarf Cavendish (Musa acuminate) is a popular variety that is found in many garden centers in the state. It produces fruit very well, but not very cold hardy. Pink Velvet (Musa velutina) produces fruit with a bright pink peel, but not very cold hardy either. A couple of ornamental cold hardy varieties are the Japanese Fiber (Musa basjoo) and Black Thai (Musa balbisiana), which is by far the most cold hardy, with the ability to easily combat below freezing temperatures.

Regardless of cold hardiness, in many cases, banana trees will turn brown after freezing temperatures occur, or even if the temperatures reach just above the freezing mark, but will bounce back in the spring. Until then, it’s important not to prune away the brown leaves or trunk skin. These leaves act as an insulator and help in defense of any further days of freezing temperatures. Usually, the last freezing temperatures that may occur in the Panhandle are around the first of April. So, to be safe, pruning can begin by mid to late April. When pruning, be sure to be equipped with a sharp knife, gloves and work clothes. Banana trunk skin and leaves can be quite fibrous and the liquid from the tree can stain clothing and hands.

So, what’s the best variety of fruiting bananas? Most ornamental bananas do not produce tasty fruit. If you are looking for a production banana, Lady Finger, Apple, and Ice Cream are popular varieties, but are better suited for the central and southern parts of the state.

For more information, contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 or email at rbodrey@ufl.edu. *Due to COVID-19, our physical office location is closed to public traffic at this time. However, please call or email us for assistance with extension related needs. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Supporting information for this article can be found on the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions website https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/fruits/bananas.html Also, for more information see the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Banana Growing in the Florida Home Landscape”, by Jonathan H. Crane and Carlos F. Balerdi: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG04000.pdf

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Ray Bodrey is the Gulf County Extension Director, UF/IFAS

Want to learn tips garden preparation?

Please join us!  Find out which warm season vegetable varieties will grow best in the Panhandle and learn what is needed to produce the best yield.

The free "Garden to Table "event is presented b Gulf County Extension Director Ray Bodrey, and Gulf County Family & Consumer Science Agent, Julie McMillian.

The event is Wednesday, March 10  from 6 to 7:30 p.m. CT. Register at: www.eventbrite.com/e/garden-to-table-webinar-tickets-14202179400

This article originally appeared on The Star: Go bananas in your landscape!

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