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Musa basjoo Japanese Banana plants RHS AGM 2 Litre pots.
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Musa basjoo Japanese Banana plants RHS AGM 2 Litre pots.

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Musa basjoo A real tropical stunner for the non-gardening friends and relatives! Leave out during the winter without protection and the frost will cut the leaves and stem back to the ground, only to shoot again next year. Protect and it will begin to shoot from the top of the stem, therefore producing a bigger plant year on year. Excellent for beginners. Conditions: Full Sun or Partial Shade, Hardy and will withstand a minimum temperature of -15°C.

  • Common Name: Japanese Fibre Banana, Hardy Banana.
  • Situation: Full sun, moist, well-drained soil.
  • Eventual height: 6m in the tropics!
  • Eventual spread: 3m though easily kept to less.
  • Hardiness: -15C or lower.
  • Supplied: These plants are in 2 litre pots 45-55cm tall plants excluding the pot.

Firstly the Japanese Fibre Banana neither comes from Japan, nor is it cultivated for fibre - so as common names, go, this is fairly inaccurate! Hardy Banana, however, hits the nail squarely on the head as this giant herbaceous perennial has been know to come back from beneath ground after -20C. Typically, however, gardeners generally tend to try to keep as much stem as possible - a useful technique for this is illustrated here.

During the growing season Musa basjoo is almost impossible to overfeed or overwater and will repay your kindness with a new long leaf every week.

The hardiest of the bananas, Musa basjoo is also very quick growing and - with its enormous, sail-sized foliage giving a luxuriant sense of lush jungle or the relaxed air of a colonial plantation - is an essential requirement for the Tropical British style. Surviving even the harshest winters (the winter of 2010-11 saw temperatures drop in most areas to between -10°C and -14°C),

Musa basjoo is such a wonderful plant, it is surprising perhaps, that it isn't seen cultivated more often. All that it really requires is a little extra attention in the autumn months, particularly in its first two years, to prepare it safely for winter. Its foliage is cut down by the first hard frost and this is nothing to be concerned about. The parts of the plant you should be looking to protect are the roots and the thick pseudostem. There are a number of ways to do this - a thick mulching with straw, hay or leaves around the roots, topped perhaps with bubble wrap or horticultural fleece and likewise the pseudostems can be wrapped in any dry insulating material: straw wrapped with fleece is ideal. Insulating the pseudostems ensures the plant already has some height from which to refoliate again. In the spring, as the weather warms up again, it bursts once again into life, new leaves emerging from the old trunks and new growth sprouting from its base.

A small Musa basjoo planted in the spring and protected through its first two winters in this manner is perfectly capable of reaching 10 feet in its third year, after which it will already be a large multi-stemmed clump. Depending upon your location and the adjacent microclimate, it may not need much further winter protection - if any at all - in the following years although it is always a wise precaution.

Keep it well watered during the summer heat and fed with extra nitrogen to sustain those massive jungle-look leaves and it will eventually reward you with its huge and indescribably exotic-looking inflorescence. This extraordinary flower, a bulging pendulous mass of tepals, stigmas and stamens dangles down from above you from its thick and curiously-suggestive knobbly rachis like the flaccid member of some well-hung botanical horse. Small somewhat insignificant fruit bracts form from behind the base of the flower but they are - unfortunately - not edible.

Once thought to have been native to the Ryukyu islands of Japan, it is now understood to have been introduced there from China where it is found wild in Sichuan province.

Q. Will it grow in a pot?
A. Almost any plant can be grown successfully in a pot and provided it is supplied with adequate food and water and re-potted when required, it makes a fantastic pot plant. However, its size may be restricted in a pot.

Q. How much food and water should I give it?
A. Plenty. It’s a greedy plant and loves moist but not waterlogged conditions. Yellow leaves are a sign that its hungry, and slow growth is often due to lack of water during the growing season. Plants in the ground benefit from a liberal dose of manure at planting time and annually thereafter. Plants in pots can be fed weekly during the growing season with a high nitrogen feed. 

See more: Hardy Exotics
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