The hardiest Banana plants you can grow

Banana plants are easily one of the most instantly recognisable exotic plants. The large lush green paddle-shaped leaves are iconic of the tropical regions where they so often thrive. In fact, not all Banana plants hail from the tropics. Many species of Banana have adapted to grow in high altitude mountainous regions, exposing them to cool temperatures. Over many years these plants have developed a resilience to cold conditions, making them a great option for gardeners in many parts of the world.

Musa Basjoo – The hardiest banana species.

Musa Basjoo

The Japanese Hardy Banana

Easily the hardiest Banana plant available, Musa basjoo is an incredibly resilient plant. Originally thought to have originated from the Ryuku islands near Japan, this Banana is now thought to originate from China. Musa basjoo can easily survive freezing temperatures all the way down to USDA gardening zone 5 (-20ºC). In these extreme cold temperatures the herbaceous pseudostem will collapse, but the cold hardy roots will remain protected below ground. In the warm weather of spring several young plants will reshoot from the roots and rapidly re-establish in the heat of summer. Growing up to 3m tall and readily offsetting to produce a clump of Banana plants, Musa basjoo is one of the most popular bananas in cultivation for ornamental gardens.

Musa sikkimensis – Darjeeling Banana

Musa sikkimensis

The Red Striped Darjeeling Banana

Musa sikkimensis originates from the region of Sikkim in the Northeastern Himalayas. Easily one of the most ornamental cold hardy banana plants that can be grown. Young leaves are adorned with deep maroon streaks that bleed outward from a bright red leaf midrib. The lower side of the leaves is a rich metallic coppery-maroon colour. Musa sikkimensis is frequently exposed to freezing temperatures in its high altitude natural habitat, making it a great candidate for many gardens around the world. The leaves of Musa sikkimensis are thicker than that of Musa Basjoo, and in my experience they are more resistant to being torn apart by wind. This banana will regrow from its roots if the pseudostem is damaged by freezing conditions. In mild winters the pseudostem will remain intact and Musa sikkimensis will get taller year on year and can reach heights of 2-3m.

Musa Cheesemanii – Cheesemans Banana

Musa cheesemanii

Cheesemans Banana

Much lesser known in cultivation than M. sikkimensis or M. basjoo, Musa cheesemanii deserves a place in this list of cold hardy banana plants. The foliage of Musa cheesemanii is narrow with a lush green upper surface and pale purple midrib. The underside is a striking silvery-white that catches the light as it sways in a summer breeze. The pseudostem of Musa cheesemanii develops into a rich reddish-brown that transitions into a silvery-white waxy bloom where it produces new leaf stems. Originating from the same parts of the world as Musa sikkimensis, these two banana species are likely to share cold hardiness characteristics. Musa Cheesemanii will grow to 2-3 tall.

Musa velutina – Pink flowering Banana

Musa velutina

Pink flowering Banana

A shorter growing and rapidly offsetting banana plant that will quickly form a healthy colony. Musa velutina is a banana species that also originates from the colder mountainous regions Assam and the Himalayas and has adapted to be cold hardy. The foliage and pseudostem of Musa velutina is a lush green colour. The most ornamental part of this species is its colourful inflorescence (flower structure). The bracts around emerging flowers are an intense magenta pink, hence its common name of the ‘pink banana’. The flowers are followed by golden-green banana fruits that are sweet and edible, though full or hard black seeds. Musa velutina will grow to a height of 150-200cm.

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