Ornamental banana plants can be an attractive addition to flower beds and garden areas in warm climates but can also be grown as a houseplant in more temperate areas. Proper care of the plant will help it grow into a healthy adult plant that may even produce fruit or suckers for new banana plant propagation.
Ensete maurelii 'Red Abyssinian' is one of many types of ornamental banana plants. This particular plant grows naturally in the high mountains of East Africa.
Ensete maurelii is a very large ornamental banana tree that is hardy in USDA planting zones 8 through 10. In warm climates, it can grow to a height of 18 feet with leaves as long as 10 feet. It only grows to 8 feet or less in USDA planting zones 8 and 9. This ornamental grows quickly but does not flower easily in northern zones. The fruit produced by this tree is not edible.
Ensete maurelii can be started with seeds, but that is rarely successfully--only 1 in 10,000 will germinate (for best results, soak the seeds in warm water for eight to 10 hours just before planting them). Propagation is normally done by tissue culture under laboratory conditions or by cutting the adult plant down to the ground, which forces suckers to grow.
These plants need to be watered often--do not let them dry out between waterings. In a garden, they will dry out faster than the plants around them and will need to be watered separately to keep the soil moist. Fertilise regularly with a balanced fertiliser. Ensete maurelii grows best in a good quality potting soil that drains well. It prefers a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.
Put in a sunny warm location but keep the plant out of hot direct sunlight. It grows best when temperatures stay above 20 degrees C, with daytime temperatures reaching 80 to 95. Do not place the plants too close together or close to other plants that will block their light. Too much shade will cause them to reach for light, making the stem long and weak. Poor lighting can also cause the leaves to yellow or mute the colours.
Banana plants must be protected from frost. Move the plant indoors during the fall and winter months if possible and maintain it as a houseplant in a warm sunny room. It may also be stored dormant over the winter months in a location where the temperature will not drop below freezing. Keep the temperature above 12.2 degrees C if possible and water it less often. Allow the soil to become slightly dry between waterings.
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