Few plants pack the visual wallop of a nice clump of banana growing in the garden. For those of us in warm temperate areas, bananas are still unusual plants to find in gardens even though there are several hardy forms which will survive in USDA zone 7b gardens at least. The only species that reliably flowers and fruits for us at the JC Raulston Arboretum is Musa velutina. This is a smaller banana with trunks (pseudostems really) that reach about 5 feet tall with the typical paddle shaped leaves of the genus which can bring the overall height to about 8 feet. By mid-summer, terminal whitish to yellow flowers covered by showy pink bracts begin opening and quickly start forming small, pink, fuzzy bananas. The bananas are edible but not very palatable since there is little sugar and seeds that will crack a tooth. Bananas respond well to water and fertilizer and will quickly form large clumps. Since Musa velutina does set fruit, it will also often seed around the parent clump and some years a carpet of seedlings can be found. In colder climates, plants can be protected by heaping leaves around the pseudostems.
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