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bigdog 11-02-2005 03:42 PM

Time to store the bananas, dormant for the Winter
It's the time of year that I dread...time to dig up the bananas. For those of us in colder zones with no greenhouse, we have to do it in order to ever get fruit. Everybody has their own methods of overwintering bananas. This is just what works for me.

Here's the last picture of my mini-plantation, the day before I started digging.

The next day, I started by cutting most of the leaves off of the pseudostems. P-stems with fruit were left alone.

I couldn't quite comfortably reach the top few leaves on a few, so I dug them first.

Digging them is actually pretty easy. The roots are pretty shallow, and easy to cut. I just cut a circle around each plant, and gently get underneath the corm with a shovel and tip them over.

We had .02 inches of rain in October, so the ground was nice and dry, as were the corms. Normally, if the corms were wet, I would let them dry out in the sun for a day or two. At this step, you can clear all of the dirt and cut the roots off if you want to. I tried to clear as much dirt off as possible, just because it makes moving the plants a bit easier. They are heavy enough without dirt weighing them down any more. The roots left on the corm will die anyway, so cutting them off will not hurt the plant in any way. Due to the fact that I had so many plants to dig and move, I didn't bother with the roots. Here's what one looked like after clearing most of the dirt from it.

Here's a few plants, ready to store. Notice that I have left pups on the mother corm. A couple fell off in the moving process, but that's ok. The whole idea here is that when the mother p-stem is through fruiting next year (hopefully), the pups will still have a large corm to draw energy from. They grow exponentially faster when left attached to the mother corm!

The p-stem in the middle of this picture is about 7 1/2 feet tall, and started growing from the ground from a mother corm last Spring. I have a couple more pups that are even larger than this (8 feet or so) that started at ground level also from a mother corm. In contrast, I have had a couple of plants that originated as pups separated from mother corms that have yet to achieve 7 feet after 2 full seasons!

Banana plants, ready to store under the house. The large plant in the middle has a nine foot p-stem, and the whole plant weighed several hundred pounds. One of the large pups broke off of this one in transit.

Normally, I would have left a leaf on most of these plants. The nine-footer pictured above had several leaves left on it, because I am anticipating a bloom very soon on this one. In fact, I was quite shocked that it hasn't bloomed yet, as others have bloomed around eight feet. The more leaves that the plant has at blooming time, the bigger the bunches of fruit. You don't NEED to leave any leaves on the plant, the theory is that it will help the plant start growing quicker come Spring (more green surfaces to make energy). After taking these pictures, I cut every leaf off of my plants because I am moving them all to Knoxville, TN from Nashville. I am moving there next month.

I also dug up my musella lasiocarpas to take with me. They are one of my very favorite banana plants! They also store VERY well dormant under the house. Here they are. Hopefully I'll get a couple of flowers next year from the two biggest plants.

After loading them all into a trailer for the trip to Knoxville, here's what it looked like. That's the 9 footer on the left side.

After arriving in Knoxville, I took another picture of the trailer, sans tarp.

Then I got a few boards together and placed them in the crawl space. They are just more a precaution than anything else. I stack the corms on them, in case water were to somehow flood the crawl space. I don't have any pictures of this process because it was getting dark and I was tired and just trying to get it all done. This is the hardest part of the whole deal. Dragging corms underneath the house can be tricky and hard work! They are awkward and heavy, and I only have a few feet of headroom under the house to work with. After stacking the plants under the house, you can throw a sheet or two over them if you want if it makes you feel better. I didn't. They also don't get one drop of water all Winter.

Hope this helps somebody. It's all in fun! The whole reason is to get fruit, obviously. I did put a few pretty small pseudostems under the house too, in hope that they would make it. Some don't. It's not a fool-proof method, and doesn't work with every banana, but it should with most. Cool, dry, and dark works very well in my experience. Good luck to everyone overwintering their bananas this Winter, and I hope you all get large bunches of fruit next year!

- Frank

JoeReal 11-02-2005 05:23 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Thanks for sharing the process very clearly. This would help a lot of banana growers in the more colder regions. Truly outstanding hard work, what I mean, your time to take pics and show it to us.

I usually don't go to this much trouble over here in zone 9 California as I already narrowed down my plants to those that would stay put during the winterr in the ground but would bloom and bear fruits by mid-spring. I do have the cold sensitive types potted and I haul the pots into the garage, with their leaves and all. When the subsequent forecasts starts to dip below the minimum temp of 38 deg F, that's the time I haul them in, using a dolly. I put them out when min temp forecasts starts to go above 38 deg F.

Excellent and outstanding job!

Sodak 11-02-2005 07:33 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Wow! Fantastic tutorial. Great pics too! \

Will you have more room to grow at the new location? What varieties do you grow? What variety is the nine footer? What type produces best in your location out of the varieties you grow? Sorry, about the 20 questions.

Thanks for sharing!

bigdog 11-02-2005 07:52 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Thank you for the nice words, Joe and Sodak!

Sodak, most of those are Tall Orinocos, which seem to produce pretty well here. They don't take forever to mature and ripen, like some varieties do. I have dwarf orinoco also, which someday will probably replace the talls. I'm also growing raja puri, belle, goldfinger, FHIA-3 sweetheart, ice cream, 1000 fingers, brazilian, and a bunch of ornamentals. Most of those are not good choices for my climate, but I thought I'd try anyway!

The 9 footer is tall orinoco.

Yes, I will have LOTS more room to grow bananas at my new location! My girlfriend has a HUGE backyard, which I can't wait to start tearing up. :D

Sodak 11-02-2005 08:11 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter

Originally Posted by bigdog
I have dwarf orinoco also, which someday will probably replace the talls.
The 9 footer is tall orinoco.

Let me know when you're ready to get rid of some tall Orinocos. I'd be happy to pay for a big corm, or whatever you would unload. :)

Thanks for the info!

Jeff 11-02-2005 08:23 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Frank, You are one dedicated banana man!! I don't know if I would be willing to do that much work if I couldn't leave them in the ground year round. One thing I noticed is that Orinocos don't seem to have very big corms. I remember one time I had to move a Saba and the corm was so big and so heavy that I could not lift it out of the hole that I had dug around it. I had to tie a rope around it and drag it out of the hole and across the yard to it's new spot. It just about killed me! I wish I would have taken a picture of it, it was massive!!

Bananavilla 11-03-2005 02:49 AM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Frank, this thread is AAA+! Absolutely the best thread on overwintering bananas.
Hopefully this post is bookmarked by all would be cold climate banana growers.
Great work!

bigdog 11-03-2005 11:41 AM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Thanks, Mike! Wow, I appreciate the kind words and praise! I see overwintering questions all of the time on forums. If people only knew how easy it really is.

Jeff, maybe that's why I haven't tried saba yet! Even though corms of tall orinoco may be smaller, get one with a nine foot pseudostem and several large pups attached, and it is nasty heavy! Eventually, I'd like to get all dwarf varieties, with maybe a few talls here and there. I'd like to get my hands on a Cal. Gold next Spring too!

PhilMusa 11-03-2005 12:30 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Great work BigDog, on both your process and the way you captured your process!

I also have an over wintering question,
This year I planted an unknown banana plant in container which I then place in the ground.
The plant did okay but really didn't grow tall about 3ft.
I now need to over winter because as many of you know it gets pretty cold north of the border.
Now the question, should I store it in its container as is or should I take it out and strip off all the leaves and dirt?:confused:
Either way I will place it in a cool dark dry place in my basement.

By the way here's a picture of it I took this summer.

I agree with Bananavilla's Quote:

...this thread is AAA+! Absolutely the best thread on overwintering bananas.
Hopefully this post is bookmarked by all would be cold climate banana growers.
Great work!

maesy 11-03-2005 12:41 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Oh yes, a California Gold is exactly what I would like to have too.
Jeff, or any body else, would you send a pup to Switzerland?
I will pay you, no problem.
I have Misi lukis, Ice cream, Sikkimensis and FHIA 18 that I am going to over winter this way.
And it`s the first way that I overwinter any bananas this way and I`m totaly excited about it!
Thank you Frank for sharing your experience with us.

Dwarf Orinoco and Dwarf Brazilian are still small enough to fit inside the house even they are already touching the ceiling of the livingroom.
I hopefully will have a bloom on them next year.


JoeReal 11-03-2005 01:16 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
PhilMusa: As long as your basement is a few degrees above freezing and you don't water, you don't need to take out the leaves. That's what I do every winter for my cold sensitive plants. I just haul them in. I clean only the dead and yellow leaves. I keep them in the dark. Sometimes when the temperature gets too high, like about 13 deg C (> 55 deg F) or more (it happens in my garage), then I turn on the bright CF lights for a few hours, water sparingly if the pot becomes really dry. This keeps their leaves green. Most tropical plants become inactive when temperature falls below 55 deg F, that is my guideline when to flip the switch on inside the unheated garage. So if you have a greenhouse, that would be a nice guideline too.

The way most tropical plants gets damaged during the onset of the colder months is due to chilling injury. The chilling injury occurs when temperature is cold (different plants have different temperature tolerances) in the presence of strong PAR (Photosynthetically Active Region) lights. When the leaves get hit by these lights, electrons in the chloroplasts gets energized, but the rest of the photosynthetic appratus is still asleep (metabolically inactive) due to cold temperature. The energized electrons with nowhere to go will damage the surrounding tissues when it dissipates its energy. So it is better to keep it dark when it is cold. You can see the injury similar to bleached or burnt leaf, because they literally burn from the inside. And we are talking about above freezing temperature here.

Below the chilling injury when it gets colder still is the freezing injury. Freezing injury is of course debilitating when temperature gets below freezing point. Ice crystals simply damaged the tissues physically. Freezing can be caused by frosts or simply cold freezing air temperature. Banana freezes below 0 deg C (32 deg F) by a few degrees (4-8 deg F below pure water) due to the solutes in their sap. Drier bananas will survive much lower freezing temperature than the wet succulent ones because their solute gets concentrated when they're drier.

bigdog 11-03-2005 02:33 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Wow, Joe, what a great explanation! I stick anything I can in the crawl space, including EEs, cannas, bananas (potted also), etc.

Phil, I agree with Joe, you can keep the leaves on your banana and store it in the basement (wish I had one!). You'll lose a few to yellowing probably, but that's ok and nothing to worry about. By the way, your banana looks like a young ensete ventricosum to me. Thank you for your kind words also!

Maesy, thank you, and I hope everything stores just fine for you.

BobbyinNY 11-03-2005 03:15 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter

VERY INFORMATIVE.. what a great job !!! AAA+.... You cut those leaves off like it's nothing.. I'm scared to death because I feel like I'd kill the plant.. Well, I'm not gonna have a choice soon. I just looked at my dwarf cavendish and it's already at the top of my greenhouse - I'm gonna have to bring him in and put him to sleep or just let him kinda hang out in one of my rooms. ugghh.

Southern-Grower 11-03-2005 07:13 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
yupper yu got it going on..

nice plants and bunches of hard work ..

aren't yu gonna replace those with the d.o.?? little less work..

i saw where hp gve yu a big well deserved atta boy, instead of "yu shuld hve"..:ha: sometimes just don't get those folks..

bigdog 11-03-2005 07:35 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Thanks, SG. Yep, I do plan on replacing them with d.o. It'll be awhile before I have enough to replace them though. Until then, I'll keep torturing myself :ha: ! It wouldn't be so bad if I had a full-sized basement. The hardest part is lugging them underneath the house via a small, crawl space door. Then, once you get them under there you have to move them around, stack them, etc. Hard to do with only a few feet of headroom! Digging them is the easy part. My problem is I don't seem to want to get rid of any bananas. I just keep on adding and adding to my collection. And my girlfriend, whom I am moving in with in Knoxville, has a HUGE backyard with lots of sun :D ...

Ditto on the hp ;) . It's all good.

JoeReal 11-03-2005 08:12 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Frank (BigDog): I have several D.O. that I plan to dispose of next spring. Just holler if you want corm (expensive shipping) or the pup without leaves. Just pay for the shipping, and maybe $2.00 more for the gas and packing tapes. Offered only for you, because of the great pics.

GATrops 11-03-2005 11:25 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Frank-I agree with the other posts about the excellent job you did with your photos and documentation of your work. That is an excellent "how to" for anyone wanting to store their plants during the winter. Fantastic Job!!!!!

I also sent you a PM about your wish list. ;)

Bananavilla 11-03-2005 11:37 PM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Why can I smell Tissue Cultured Dwarf Orinoco's in the air? :rolleyes:

bigdog 11-04-2005 12:18 AM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Thank you Joe! I'm probably going to take you up on that offer. Storing d.o.'s would be a bit easier than those talls.

Richard, thanks for saying so! I hope this post helps answer some questions for people, as I tend to see the same questions over and over on GW.

Bobby, thank you. Don't be afraid! Bananas are tough, man!

PhilMusa 11-04-2005 09:57 AM

Re: Time to put the bananas to sleep for the Winter
Thanks JoeReal for your detailed response to my question, very informative. I don't know what else to say other than "WOW"!

BigDog thanks for the ID on the plant. I can now do some research on my ensete ventricosum.

Regards to everyone!

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