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Main Banana Discussion This is where we discuss our banana collections; tips on growing bananas, tips on harvesting bananas, sharing our banana photos and stories.


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Old 08-17-2014, 11:36 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Hello everyone! This is my first real post here at bananas.org, and I have learned so much from all of you that I decided I needed to return the favor and share what I've been up to. I'm in the near west suburbs of Chicago (zone 5 or 5b depending). About 5 years ago we purchased a banana at Lowes. It said nothing other than "Banana Plant," so I have no idea what it really is. From everything I've read, it appears to be basjoo.

Until this year it lived in a clay pot about 16 inches in diameter. It did okay, and I would bring it into the house each winter; my overwintering tactic was to cut off all but the most recent leaf and put it in the basement where it received minimal light from about October through April or May.

Two or three years ago it flowered and we got just two little bananas. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see it at least make the attempt. More pups and two stems later, this thing is getting really heavy and I am growing weary of hauling it in and out of the house each winter. This year I promised I would put it in the ground and take my chances this fall, despite the fact that our last winter here was brutally cold. Some years, we have really warm weather in March or April, but this year, it didn't get decent until into June.

Preparing the perfect spot first meant digging out an old tree stump, which became one of my objectives over a weeklong vacation I had scheduled. Removing the stump involved creating a hole about 3 feet in diameter, into which I placed the banana (now pot-free). I then filled around it using the best stuff I could find in the yard, mixed in with organic fertilizer.

So this didn't get into the ground until late June, but it seems to be much happier than when in the pot. I water about every other day and have been using a 6-4-6 organic fertilizer a little on the shy side of what its maker recommends. I don't want to overfertilize if the conditions aren't going to be right. This year has been mostly on the cool side, not many days over 80 and nothing in the mid-90s. Now I begin the task of figuring out which overwintering method to use.

I'll attempt to post photos below. If it doesn't work, I'll try again. Thanks again everyone for taking a look at my Chicago area tropical garden!

This shot shows placement in the yard:



Newest leaf emerging as of yesterday; this top leaf opened today and is about 40 inches long; total height to tip of this vertical leaf is about 7.5 feet:


One thing I've noticed since putting this in the ground is that the older leaves have not been dying off; the plant seems able to sustain a much higher level of mass:



Finally, an artistic shot:
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Old 08-17-2014, 01:55 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Chicago Area Project And Thanks!

Pretty plant. It seems to be a big chore to protect it from the winter elements even if it is a cold hardier Basjoo. Good luck with it.
If it has put out a smaller pup, maybe you can separate that one by planting it in a pot and bring it in the house.
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Old 08-17-2014, 09:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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I may do that just to be safe. Will still attempt to overwinter outdoors however as I like challenges. Last year was crazy though with all the snow so not the worst idea to have a backup plan.
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Old 08-18-2014, 01:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
Location: Pennsylvania
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Hi
Great photos!

I was thinking of overwintering my basjoo in the basement as well. It's about 4' tall right now. My basement temperature is around 55F during the cold winter months. Was your situation similar?

Thanks!
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Old 08-18-2014, 03:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Great garden shots...
Your plants look very healthy.
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Old 08-18-2014, 09:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
Location: Chicago area
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geissene View Post
Hi
Great photos!

I was thinking of overwintering my basjoo in the basement as well. It's about 4' tall right now. My basement temperature is around 55F during the cold winter months. Was your situation similar?

Thanks!
Our basement is about 60-65F over the winter. I have used two methods for the pots in a basement. I have cut off all leaves except for the most recent one, and I have left on all the leaves and let them brown up and die on their own. Either way, I would occasionally give the plant a cup of water, but not very frequently. When you take it out again in spring it should be fine and the new leaves will start from the top again. Your mileage may vary. Mine was about 4 feet tall too, with three stems and a tiny pup.

Thanks for looking and for your kind comments!
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Old 08-18-2014, 09:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Originally Posted by cincinnana View Post
Great garden shots...
Your plants look very healthy.
Thank you! Photography is another passion...
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Old 08-19-2014, 01:36 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Chicago Area Project And Thanks!

After five years of growing a basjoo here in Pittsburgh in a pot (along with 5-6 other kinds), I planted it in the ground in the garden where it flourished more each summer after three pretty mild winters ( I even divided a half dozen pups from it during those years). Unfortunately it didn't come back after this past brutal winter - maybe I got too complacent with minimal winter protection last fall. Anyway, I got another plant recently from Lowes that says "Banana Basjoo" but looks way more like my Cavendishes. The leaves are flat and tight to each other rather than more separated and hanging toward the ground like my original basjoo was. - Thanks for sharing your story!

AND @ Geissene aka Erik - I've overwintered bananas and other tropicals brugs, oleanders, papyrus etc in my integral but unheated garage for more than a dozen winters with seldom losing anything except finicky red-leafed bananas. The temps sometimes get down to the upper 30s and they all stay fine - UNLESS they are overly soggy from a recent watering - I only water once a month or so while they are in storage. Good Luck with your overwintering.
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Old 08-20-2014, 11:34 AM   #9 (permalink)
 
Location: Pennsylvania
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Thanks Max and Rpiechow,

I will try storing them dormant in my basement. All my plants have pups so I can keep the pups upstairs in pots overwinter. I should be in good shape incase something doesn't wake up next year. I do have a single car unheated garage but not much room there...

I tried storing basjoo outside this last winter. I didn't realize how much standing water I would get from snow melt. I did have some pups sprout but lost the main plants.

Erik / near Philly
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Old 08-30-2015, 08:58 AM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Update:
Well it's been over a year now since my last update. Probably still in mourning over the total loss of the basjoo. I ended up cutting back my beautiful plant after an early frost. I drove fenceposts around it, and put a wire fence at least 4 feet across all around where the corm. By the time I cut it down, the pseudostem was about 8 inches at the base, with several of these that had come up over the year.

Next, I added about 18 inches of mulch to cover. Then my wife and I put a tarp over the top of this. We had a crossbar that was taller than the surrounding fenceposts, so the tarp would shed rain and snow. Winter started out pretty mild, but then got furiously cold in Jan-Feb. And it stayed there. Not an occassional dip mind you, but it stayed at zero and below for days at a time.

Waited patiently come "spring" which was very slow to emerge this year, and cool. Then we had a ton of rain in June. Still nothing. I dug it out. Dead. Gone. It had "ceased to be."

Found an ensette at a local gardening center and put that in around early July. I've got some leaves pushing 48 inches now. It's beautiful, but I'm sure it is nowhere near as hardy as the basjoo, so I am treating it as an annual.

In retrospect, aside from the super cold month of February and all the rain in June, I think my mistake may have been in not letting the cold weather slowly force the plant into dormancy. I had a lot of travel coming up and I just cut it down. This may have been too much for it and it didn't enter dormancy with any elegance. Ha.

Perhaps I'll post some pics of the ensette shortly.

I just wanted to thank all of you for your interest and guidance. I will keep trying, but around Chicago, it's really a game of hit or miss from year to year. I plan next year to order something early enough, keep it indoors and plant as soon as I can, rather than wait for the gardening centers to get banana plants.
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