I have listings on Ebay part of the time for the "Hardy Musa Basjoo". These listings are sometimes met with a little skepticism! It does actually sound like I'm selling something too good to be true. I get that all the time...as a matter of fact another review about growing Musa Basjoo doesn't even recommend planting them further north than zone 7, but what's the fun in that when you can have them in Indiana?Here's the main question you will have though, "How can you keep a banana plant over winter in the ground in Indiana, what did you do, build a greenhouse over it?" Well the answer is no! I've found there are really two ways to protect your musa basjoo for winter, and they both work fine, one is a little more work than the other though...It's a special mulching technique that I've developed over the years and I'm willing to share with all of you. The large clump of basjoo in the picture is now five years old and I've protected it this way. And we live in Muncie, Indiana, not the most tropical of places either....
Just rake your leaves up in the fall and bag them in large bags like you're putting them out for the trash man. Don't use those biodegradable bags, you'll see why later! You can be environmental later on..
Take your prized banana plant and cut it down to about 1.5 feet tall or however tall your bags of leaves are. I know it's traumatic, but just chop right through the stem. Discard or cook with the top part.
Take 5-6 of those bags of leaves that you raked up and put them in a big circle around your plants' stump. Leave a hole in the center about a foot in diameter around the stem. Take dry leaves and place them loosely in the center hole, creating a loosely filled dead air space around the stem. Mound them up a little bit, 6" or so over the top of the cut stem. If you're too lazy to rake your own leaves, borrow a pickup and go steal leaves from the neighbors, heck they'd give them to you anyway if you ask them. Don't ask until after they've raked them up and put them out, or they'll ask you to help, defeating your laziness plans, though!LOL...
Take a nice plastic tarp (brown or camo is much prettier overwinter than blue FYI) and place it securely over the top of the entire grouping. Weight it down well if you get high winds in winter like we do. I usually use bricks, chunks of wood, or cement blocks on the corners of mine.
In the early spring, remove the mulch and watch your banana grow back! I usually remove mine about the time the daffodils bloom, for a guide, it helps me remember when to remove it. You can leave an inch or so of the leaves around to keep weeds down if you like, they make a good mulch. Then re-use the bags to put trash in and mulch your veggie garden or around your flowers with the leaves (being a good environmental steward is important) The leaves work particularly well around onions to keep moisture in and the weeds out, BTW! Don't worry if the stems look ugly and shriveled and nasty, they WILL look ugly in the spr
Since I first posted this information about mulching several years ago, I've found out an alternative and very easy way that also worked the last four years for me. When you plant your basjoo, wait to plant it out until it's at least 2-3 feet tall. Dig a hole with post hole diggers that will allow you to plant the top of the root ball of your plant 12 inches deeper than it was originally growing in the pot. In other words, 12" below grade.. Plant your basjoo into the deep hole, burying the root ball deep and leaving about a foot of stem and leaves sticking out of the hole. Grow for the season as normal. When fall hits, don't cut back your banana. Let the top naturally die back for winter. I planted one this way four years ago and it came back just fine every spring so far--and is still growing well. Well, that went so well I planted 13 more two years ago and they came back in addition to the first one and now we have all of them except for one. It looked like a mouse or something had made a winter home in there and it had eaten all of my banana plant and there was a big nest of dried grass in the place where it had been planted. But 13/14 isn't too bad, don't you think?
To check out also my other ebay guides to growing bananas, lotus and tropical plants, just click on my user name and it'll take you to my user page which will have links to my guides and website. If this review was helpful to you, please take a minute and give me a review.
Sandy Burrell, Northern Tropics Greenhouse, Muncie, IN