Most gardeners think that tropical fruits, citrus, and beyond can only be grown in exotic locations, especially if they live in northern areas. But we're here to let you in on a little secret: Fruit Trees, particularly Banana Trees, can grow almost anywhere. And with a few simple steps to winterize, you will have healthy tropical trees in your landscape season to season.
Whether you bring them indoors or protect them when they're in your yard, we've got a few tips to help carry your trees through to the warmer months.
Caring for Container Banana Trees
Remember: While some cold hardy trees can survive temperatures in zone 5, most tropical varieties are only cold hardy to zones 8 and 9 (these are the hotter, humid southern areas).
If possible, keep your Banana Trees and any other fruit varieties in containers. If they’re planted in a container, you can easily bring them inside for the winter. Bring them in before temperatures drop to about 50 degrees and place them by a sunny window.
And if you wait until the first frost before bringing your tree indoors, remove all of its leaves. Once the leaves have come into contact with frost, they can easily become infected and die. Removing the leaves will help stop infections from spreading to the rest of the tree.
Don’t worry about cutting the leaves: Your trees are vigorous growers, and you will see new, huge leaves again in about a month.
But if you haven't planted in a container, you can carefully dig up the root system from the ground and transfer your tree to a container once the weather starts to turn cold. Bring your potted tree indoors for the winter months, and plant them in the ground again once temperatures consistently stay around 60 degrees.
To keep your tree dormant in the winter, cut them back to about 12 inches tall and allow them to weep and water will drain from the stalk. Then carefully dig up the plant and gently remove as much dirt from the roots as possible. If you see any baby plants, separate them to plant them in the spring. Lay your plants on their sides for a few days so they can dry.
Next, store your plants in a cool, dark place with a temperature around 50 degrees. Make sure that the storage area never has freezing temperatures. Once the final frost passes and temperatures warm up, you can replant in the garden.
How to Protect Banana Trees During Winter
There are a few easy steps to take if you want to keep your trees outside all year. First, cut your trees back to about 12 inches tall after the first frost. Use a sharp and sterile pair of pruners or loppers, and cut the stalks at a 45-degree angle, facing upwards to promote new growth.
Many varieties will stop growing when temperatures hit 50 degrees. They will enter a state of dormancy and won’t need fertilizer or water until the spring.
Cover your trees with a thick layer of mulch that’s about a foot deep. This mulch will insulate the roots. Keeping them dry can be achieved by placing a layer of plastic over the mulch. Secure the plastic by placing rocks on the corners or by placing another layer of mulch on top.
Spreading other organic materials like peat moss or pine straw will also keep your tree insulated. You can even cover your tree with a barrel or another object that will shield it from harsh winter weather as long as the roots stay warm and dry, such as a frost blanket.
After the final frost, uncover your tree. Once the roots sense warmer temperatures, your trees will spring back to life. To give your tree an extra boost, feed it some organic, well-balanced fertilizer, like formula 10-10-10 or 12-12-12.
Grow Bananas in Winter
Not only do they look like flawless, exotic beauties, but these trees also produce fresh and sweet bananas that are even tastier than those found in the supermarket. Don’t let winter stop you from growing your own trees – by taking a few simple steps to keep them warm and dry, they will flourish for years.