Ensete ventricosum Maurelii, commonly known as red banana, Abyssinian banana and Ethiopian banana, is a banana-like perennial with large reddish leaves that bears a dry, unpalatable fruit. These plants are hardy in zones 9 to 11, and in these warmer zones can grow to heights greater than 15 feet. They usually live for two years, then die, but they drop seeds (also known as pups) that will establish themselves in the place of the mother plant. They require special seasonal care.
General Growing and Autumn Care
As the plant begins to grow and some of the bottom leaves turn to yellow, leave them attached to the plant so it can feed off the extra potassium that the dying leaves provide. Remove them when they turn completely brown. Remove leaves that dry and fall to the side, since wasps and other insects are attracted to them as a nesting site. Always crush and till dead leaves into the soil around your banana, since they are hungry plants and will eat up those minerals.
Because red banana is a member of the grass family, it can be cut back and left out all winter. Take special care of the corm, or boot, by providing a thick layer of mulch, soil or compost (or a mixture of the three) around and over it during the winter months. As long as the roots don’t rot or freeze, your red banana will grow back, hardier than ever.
Some growers of the Maurelii species claim that they are more cold-hardy than the plain species (see Reference 1), while others maintain that these bananas should ideally be stored in a warm greenhouse or brought indoors (impractical as it may be, given their tremendous size) to winter on a warm, sunny porch (see Reference 2). If a greenhouse is not an option, try allowing your banana to winter outdoors. Cut back the plant back to a height of 8 inches and store it in a dark, frost-free area, water it about once a month during the winter and don’t let it dry out. In either case, air circulation in essential to winter survival to prevent the corm and roots from rotting.
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