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Musa basjoo (Japanese banana)
Position: mainly sunny, with a little midday shade
Soil: rich and fertile or loam based compost in pots
Rate of growth: average to fast
Flowers: white flowers in bronze/red bracts
Flower colour: creamy yellow
Other features: unpalatable greeny-yellow fruits
Hardiness: half hardy - will need protection in winter
An extraordinary, architectural plant with huge, green, paddle-like leaves that can each grow up to 3m long. It produces creamy yellow flowers in summer, that are often followed by yellowish-green fruit. These are not tasty enough to eat, however the plants look brilliant when incorporated into a jungle-style planting schemes, and can be potted up into large pots and treated as a dynamic feature.
Garden care:Though the root is fairly hardy, you should apply a thick layer of mulch to protect the crown in autumn and protect the foliage with a blanket of fleece or straw. In colder areas, or where the soil remains heavy in winter, they are best grown in pots, so they can be over-wintered under glass.
Musa lasiocarpa (Chinese hardy banana)
Position: full sun to partial shade
Soil: fertile, moist but well-drained soil
Rate of growth: average
Flowering period: July to September
Hardiness: frost hardy (needs winter protection)
Thought to be extinct only a decade ago, this handsome banana was found growing in remote regions of the Himalayas in southwest China. This clump-forming banana has huge, paddle-like, bright green leaves and mature specimens will produce long-lasting yellow, summer flowers. As the flower develops, the original plant will start to die, but it will produce off shoots and will continue to thrive. In the winter, or during a cold snap the foliage will brown off, but if the root is kept protected the plant will bounce back and continue to grow as soon as the temperatures rise again.
Garden care: Though the root is fairly hardy the foliage does need to be protected with a mulch of fleece and straw in autumn.
There are some other varieties of banana that are also often listed as being suitable to being grown in the UK, but although they can grow in the mildest of locations outside during the summer they do require both protection and bringing inside during the winter as they will not tolerate temperatures below 5 degrees. These include Musa sikkimensis and Musa ventriculosa.
Cold hardy bananas
How to overwinter banana plants
How to grow hardy bananas