Tropical plants and the winter season are not happy bedfellows. Naturally banana plants and trees rely on a more tropical climate in order to thrive, so cold weather is just not welcome. What should you do then to protect your trees and plants in the winter? There are various approaches you can take to ensure success and a fantastic crop when the warmer weather returns.
Banana Trees in Winter
How to winterize your banana trees depends strongly on two factors:
- Is it a tree that is in the ground, or is it a banana plant that is in a container?
- Where in the world you are - how cold is your winter?
All banana plants and trees will require some kind of protection over the winter as they are tropical plants. If temperatures fall anywhere below 60F (16C), then chilling damage can occur; anything lower (towards freezing), and you are subjecting your tree to serious damage.
Banana trees do not need any extra watering or fertilizing in winter, as their growth shuts down in the winter months.
There are different methods that can be employed to protect your tree or plant, whether it is in the ground, or planted in a container.
Winterizing a Banana Tree In the Ground
The winterizing process for banana trees that are planted in the ground can be quite a lengthy process, depending on the climate in your area of the world.
If you live in a freezing, often windy environment in the winter, then unfortunately the best method for winterizing is to dig the banana tree up, if at all possible, and bring it inside to a greenhouse, conservatory or protected porch. If your banana trees are particularly large then you can also store them under the house - protected by blankets if it's particularly cold.
You can cut off the stems that are not producing fruit, in order to make the move easier. Whilst one of the dangers of banana trees is that they are likely to topple over in strong winds - much like the papaya tree - it also means that their root system is shallow, so digging up shouldn't be too difficult. You might try getting rid of as much of the soil around the root as possible - again this makes moving them easier.
If you live in a more mild climate, that isn't frequently subjected to freezing conditions, as long as your plants are in a wind protected area then you can winterize your trees whilst leaving them in the ground.
Apply a thick mulch around the base of the tree, to insulate the ground and protect the roots - you can further protect your banana tree by mounding earth on top of this, and around the trunk when a cold spell is forecast. If freezing weather is on its way, you can cover your banana plant with blankets, tarpaulin, or even secured bubblewrap. You can secure these further by weighting them down with rocks etc at the bottom, and using steaks to hold them up over the banana leaves.
To keep your tree even happier, especially if there is going to be a particularly freezing spell, you can use a string of low energy fairy lights, or a single eco friendly bulb. This will provide additional heat to the plant, but will not become hot enough to cause any banana plant damage during the winter months.
Winterizing a Banana Plant In a Container
You'll be pleased to hear that the process of winterizing banana plants that are container bound, is a lot easier, than those planted in the ground.
Often the easiest way is to just bring the banana plants inside - this can be a porch, conservatory or even a garage if you keep an eye on the temperature. For a start it is protected from wind, and secondly it is more likely to offer a constant temperature above 60F.
If you live in an environment that gets cold but isn't exposed to strong winds, then you can keep your banana plants outdoors, and use a blanket or bubble wrap to wrap around the container and the tree. Following the mulching guidelines above will also help the soil temperature to stay above freezing.
While mulching can often attract pests at other times of the year (depending on your mulch material), this does not tend to be a big issue in winter as most bugs and pests sensibly hibernate. So do not worry about over mulching in the colder months; it really does help to protect the plants roots.
When Should I Start?
Start to winterize banana trees and plants before the first frosts, to ensure that your banana plants are thoroughly protected from winter elements; this way they will come back stronger than ever in the spring.