15
February
2012

Banana Trees

banannaAll jokes aside, we do have bananas for sale. 

Musas look like Cannas on the surface; however there are significant differences between the two that impact the design of both landscapes and containers. First of all, Musas are much bigger than Cannas, in both leaf and overall size. For example, a Canna might have leaves measuring 12–18 inches, whereas a typical Musa could sport a 3-foot leaf. A Canna might occupy a pot 24 inches in diameter, whereas a Musa could easily go 3–4 feet from leaf tip to leaf tip.

Also, Cannas hold their leaves vertically, so you can see their leaf shapes and colors as you walk toward them. Musas generally hold their leaves horizontal to the ground, so they function more like tropical trees that provide shade for the garden underneath.

In general, Musas look more tree-like because they lose their older leaves. The fresh new leaves form a crown at the top, producing a strong “palm tree” look with a thick pseudo-trunk supporting it all. Cannas keep all their leaves, resulting in a solid column of foliage from top to bottom.

You can see that the plants are similar but very different once you are familiar with their nuances.

dwarf_cavendish

Most people associate Musas with two popular varieties: ‘Rojo’ and ‘Dwarf Cavendish’. ‘Rojo’ has red splotches on the top of each leaf, with a red cast to the underside while ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ has green on the top and undersides of the leaves. Both varieties are smaller plants, as Musas go, reaching about 6–8 feet in height.

Two new Musas for us this year are ‘Mekong Giant’ and ‘Grand Nan’. The first one, ‘Mekong Giant’, is said to be hardy to zone 6, which would be a big deal in our area if true. We heard about a grower in Louisvile, KY, who overwinters this variety outdoors every year. He strongly recommends mulch as insurance against hard winters or colder sites, but so far this cultivar has been reliably coming back for him.

mekong_giant

‘Mekong Giant’ grows to about 10 feet with a very thick stalk. It performs well in the full sun as well as in the shade, and it has a very “palm tree” look to it.

grand_nain

Our other new Musa is ‘Grand Nan’. This is the same cultivar used in the commercial production of bananas you buy in the grocery store. It also happens to possess excellent landscaping value. The leaves have superior wind resistance and don’t split easily. It’s shorter than ‘Mekong Giant’, about 6–8 feet tall, and it definitely requires full sun—this is not a shade cultivar.

A small note about those bananas: Most of these Musas will set fruit—they’ll even do so while in containers. However, they require frost-free winters with strong sun (think Southern California) in order to produce results. For that reason, even a hardy Musa like ‘Mekong Giant’ won’t provide locally grown Cincinnati bananas—but it’s still an appealing plant.

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