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Cold Hardy Bananas This forum is dedicated to the discussion of bananas that are able to grow and thrive in cold areas. You'll find lots of tips and discussions about keeping your bananas over the winter.

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Old 07-25-2023, 08:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
Location: seattle
Zone: 8b
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Cold attempt to breed cold hardy fruiting bananas

Iím trying to breed a banana that can fruit outdoors in the PNW, specifically Seattle, and would love some feedback on my plan and the varieties/species I intend to use for it. Seattle is on the border between zone 8b and 9a, my microclimate is basically 9a. Seattle also has a cool growing season that never quite reaches the warmth that most bananas prefer.
In order to develop a banana that can fruit under these conditions I think the most realistic strategy is to develop a banana whoís pseudostem can survive the winter and fruit in its second year. Iíd prefer a banana that can fruit in one growing season, but I donít think thatís as realistic in this climate. Fruiting in as little as two years will probably be difficult enough in this climate. Regardless of which goal Iím aiming for Iím gonna want a banana that grows fast in cool weather, is cold hardy, and fruits quickly so the process to get threw will probably be the same.
Here are the bananas that I have obtained so far.
-blue java for cold hardiness
-Goldfinger for cold hardiness
-cardaba for cold hardiness
-manzano for cold hardiness
-dwarf Orinoco for cold hardiness and fast fruit
-california gold for cold hardiness and fast fruit
I had some trouble finding good info on some of these varieties so Iím not 100% sure they have the qualities I think they have or that they're fertile enough for me to use. Iím also not sure how well any of them grow in cool weather. In addition to those I also have a few wild bananas
-Musa basjoo. This seems like a really good option in terms of cold hardiness and growing quickly in cold weather. This grows a lot bigger and takes longer to flower and fruit than what Iíd prefer. Unfortunately itís not very closely related to acuminata or balbisiana so Iím not sure if itís even possible to create a hybrid.
-Mekong giant(Musa itenerans Var. xishuangbannaensis). This seems like another really good candidate in terms of cold tolerance and growing quickly in cool weather. This grows a lot bigger and takes longer to flower and fruit than what Iíd prefer. A hybrid referred to as Musa ◊ formobisiana has been successfully created between Musa itinerans var. formosana and Musa balbisiana indicating that a successful hybrid is possible. Hopefully the difference in subspecies between the parent of that hybrid and the plant I have isnít in issue.
-Musa velutina. Iím mostly interested in how quickly it flowers and fruits. I haven't done any research on what sort of hybridizations are possible, but given how closely related it is to acuminata and balbisiana Im hopeful that it will cross easily
-Three bananas that I grew from seeds are described as a ďdwarf chinese bananaĒ. Iíve seen multiple discussions about how thereís no such thing as a dwarf chinese banana from seed so Iím not really sure what I have. Whatever it is, it has managed to grow at a decent rate with lowís in the high 30ís and highís in the low 50ís so it'll be useful to this project.

Last winter I was able to keep the three mystery bananas inside and they continued to put out growth over the winter, especially once I upgraded and expanded my grow lights. Based on this I think Iíll be able to get the smaller varieties and species to fruit. For the larger varieties Iím hoping that I figure something out before it becomes an issue. If anyone has any recommendations on varieties or species I don't have that might be well suited for this Iíd love to hear them.
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Old 07-31-2023, 12:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Zone: 7b / 8a
Name: Sam
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Default Re: attempt to breed cold hardy fruiting bananas

Have you considered Musa 'Helen's Hybrid'? From what I read, it's thought to have originated from a cross between M. sikkimensis and Musa 'Chini Champa'; potentially having cold hardiness from sikkimensis genes, and better edibility from the 'Chini Champa' genes.

@sirdoofus is growing it on Vancouver Island and may be able to attest to its hardiness potential.
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Old 07-31-2023, 01:14 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: Central Vancouver Island, BC Canada
Zone: AgCan 7b, USDA 6b
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Default Re: attempt to breed cold hardy fruiting bananas

Here is quick chronicle of my experience with HH here in the Comox Valley. we are roughly USDA zone 6b, so keep that in mind.

Helen's Hybrid Update

The potential advantage to HH as I see it, as a supposedly edible banana, is that it does grow quickly here, getting reasonably large in one season, even though our nights are generally pretty cool. I also happen to think it's a particularly beautiful plant. I haven't quite figured out the perfect combo for over wintering and then getting a good Spring start, but I am getting there. Someone with more experience/expertise over wintering tender bananas shouldn't have any particular problems with it.
Who keeps calling me nuts??
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Old 11-22-2023, 09:44 AM   #4 (permalink)
Location: Port Orchard, Washington
Zone: 8b
Name: Blane
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Default Re: attempt to breed cold hardy fruiting bananas

Hey! I'm just across the sound over in Port Orchard trying to do something similar.. Just found this website and I'm glad I did! Would be cool to see what you're growing next summer. I always enjoy seeing other peoples setups. Hope you have a good winter, it's been the nicest fall so far.

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Old 11-27-2023, 12:57 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: attempt to breed cold hardy fruiting bananas

This topic has been discussed many times in the past. Dwarf namwah and dwarf orinoco would be the best two edible candidates to cross with either sikkimensis, yunnanensis or velutina. Velutina would probably be the top pick due to being corm hardy to cold temperatures and being able to pup to fruit in one season instead of two. Dwarf namwah will set seeds if pollinated also. Youíll need a decent greenhouse to have a chance. Canít succeed without trying! Good luck
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