A Wisconsin Tropical Garden

A Wisconsin Tropical Garden

Part of Ep. 1001 Uncommon Gardens

Learn how to successfully plant ornamental bananas in Wisconsin.  Mark Dwyer, landscape manager of Rotary Gardens in Janesville shares his secrets.

Premiere date: Mar 02, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Wisconsin gardeners have been growing tropicals like cannas and caster beans since Victorian times. These add a tall, stately element to almost any garden. So it's not that far of a stretch to start thinking about growing something like bananas. And here at Rotary Gardens in Janesville they've really gone bananas on bananas. I'm with the landscape manager Mark Dwyer, and Mark, you're growing twenty varieties of bananas here?

Mark:
Yes we are.

Shelley:
And how are they working in Wisconsin?

Mark:
They do real well, particularly this real hot summer is really adding some growth to them.

Shelley:
How much growth? I mean, these are humongous to me.

Mark:
Well the ones here have actually added about four feet of growth since spring, so quick growers.

Shelley:
So in a single season we're going to get a big tall plant to play with.

Mark:
Right.

Shelley:
Do you have some that you really like that are some of your favorites?

Mark:
Well actually some of the easiest bananas to grow are the Ensetes, or Ornamental Bananas. And this is a neat one that will attain size over ten feet. There's a neat variety of this called Amoreliae. The same plant but with purple leaves and behind me here this is a neat textural plant. This is a Blood Banana with purple striping through the leaves.

Shelley:
It's really beautiful.

Mark:
Yeah, it'll get pretty big, but if you're looking for something a little smaller we have a banana here called a Dwarf Cavendish Banana. That'll stand at five feet, and you can see the new growth spiraling out of the center here, which is how the bananas grow.

Shelley:
Five feet is still big, we're going to want to put these in the back on the border, not in the front.

Mark:
Right, definitely a back of the border plant.

Shelley:
Now, are we going to get fruit from these?

Mark:
No, for that it would need a real long hot summer.

Shelley:
Okay, so these are really foliage plants.

Mark:
Yes.

Shelley:
Okay, they do well in the summer, I'm assuming they want full sun.

Mark:
Full sun is preferable and if you can provide shelter for them from winds because they can get beaten up a little bit.

Shelley:
I'm assuming they don't do real well during our winters.

Mark:
No, you wouldn't leave them outside, that's for sure.

Shelley:
Is there a way for us to over winter, for a home gardener to do this then?

Mark:
Well for a homeowner there's three options. The first would be keeping it indoors as a house plant. There's limitations with size.

Shelley:
Height!

Mark:
Height, and other considerations would be insect and disease problems.

Shelley:
Okay.

Mark:
Two other options are actually digging them out, or leaving them in a pot. For instance if you were to dig a banana out of your border.

Shelley:
Okay, just lift it out of the soil.

Mark:
Just dig it out and keep the soil around these fibrous roots and what you would do is wrap this root ball in plastic.

Shelley:
Just the root ball.

Mark:
Just the root ball, seal it up tight. And actually store this in a dark spot, 50 to 60 degrees.

Shelley:
Like my basement.

Mark:
Basement would be fine. And then in spring when you pull it out it will look dead. You'll see all the leaves will be brown down to a certain point on the stem. You'll see a little bit of green and that's where you cut the stem.

Shelley:
Okay.

Mark:
Now the other option if this was grown in a pot, like this for instance. What you would do is actually make the cut when you take the pot out, just below the lowest leaves here, and store it in the same conditions.

Shelley:
Back in the basement.

Mark:
Right.

Shelley:
So I don't need light for either of these?

Mark:
No.

Shelley:
Okay. And I assume I'm bringing them out after danger of frost in the spring.

Mark:
Right, we recommend June 1st as a good time.

Shelley:
Okay, so that late. In the fall also I'd have to bring them in before frost, are they real tender?

Mark:
Real tender, and ideally the first of October is a good date.

Shelley:
So no later than that then.

Mark:
Right.

Shelley:
Okay, well I think I have something new to try in my backyard, thank you Mark.

Mark:
You're welcome.

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