Q. Can I grow bananas in the New York area?
Most banana species are tropical and subtropical plants that are not hardy in New York winters. However, bananas can be grown in this area if you have space to bring them indoors in winter. Even large plants can be moved inside by topping off the plant to make it shorter.
First, find the first frost date for your area and subtract one month from that date. Decide how tall a plant you want, and then make a sharp cut across the leaves at that point. By the time you're ready to bring it indoors, a few leaves will have grown back. Overwinter the plant in a well-lit area, keeping it lightly watered. You can also dig up the plant, cut back the leaves, remove soil from around the roots (corms), and store the plant with the root ball wrapped in paper or plastic in a cool, dark location. Move it back outdoors when the weather is warm enough, usually the end of May.
Dwarf varieties of banana (e.g. Musa acuminata 'Dwarf Cavendish') can be grown in containers and are therefore very suitable for moving indoors.
An alternative is to grow a hardy banana species. Surprisingly, there is one species of banana that is hardy in some areas of the Northeast (to zone 6, or even to zone 4 when well mulched). This is the Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo). This extremely vigorous banana grows many feet in a season and in time forms large clumps that can reach up to 13 ft. in height. Although it does produce bananas, they are inedible. Basjoo bananas are extremely easy to grow. They need plenty of water, fertilizer, and sunlight. They can, of course, also be grown indoors.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service