En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
10 ratings

Friday - June 06, 2008

From: Gladstone, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native banana trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I recently planted two types of Banana trees, a Darjeeling and a Giant Nepal. I know that both are hardy to my zone 7 but that the Nepal needed heavy mulching. My first question is how long will it take my seeds to sprout, what is their growth rate and what do I do in the winter? I want to keep them in the ground year round. Also, I have clay soil; is that good or do I need to increase the drainage?


The banana tree, Genus Musa, is native to tropical regions of southeast Asia and Australia. They are not actually trees, but fast-growing, herbaceous perennials arising from underground rhizomes. They are now cultivated throughout the tropics. We don't know how to tell you this, but Gladstone, Virginia is not tropical. Not even sub-tropical. Also, this plant is WAY non-native to North America. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's work and research all has to do with plants native to North America. We encourage the use of native plants because they are already adapted to where they are growing, and thus will require less water, fertilizer and maintenance to do well. Obviously, we have no information on this in our Native Plant Database, and certainly no personal experience with growing this plant. But, we will try to find some websites that might answer the questions you have. Note: All banana leaves, even of the most cold hardy species, will be damaged by frost and killed outright by a hard freeze. But many underground rhizomes are much cold hardier than people realize. This means that that the underground root will sprout new growth in the Spring.

The Banana Tree Banana Tree Tropical Forum

From Greenearth, Inc. Banana Plant Growing Information

In our search for answers for you, we learned that the cultivar Darjeeling Banana tree is Musa sikkimensis, and the Giant Nepal is not really considered a true banana, the Latin name being Ensete glaucum.

Frost Protection: Bananas flourish best under uniformly warm conditions but can survive 28 deg. for short periods. If the temperature does not fall below 22 deg and the cold period is short, the underground rhizome will usually survive. To keep the plants that are above ground producing, protection against low temperatures is very important. Wrap trunk or cover with blanket if the plants are small and low temperatures are predicted. We checked on the weather conditions in Nelson County, Virginia, learned that it was in the central part of Virginia, midway between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. The climate in summer has temperatures averaging about 77 deg in July. The temperature in January averages 38 deg. It appears to be in Zone 6b (average minimum temperature 0 to -5 deg) to 7a (5 to 0 deg). It will have to be your decision whether to risk the expense and trouble of preserving a tropical under those conditions. We also understood that you are planting or have planted seeds for these plants. One of the posts on the forum we directed you to says that the seeds are very difficult to propagate. We also saw a suggestion that if you really wanted these plants in your garden that you buy a fresh young shoot every Spring and trash it when it freezes in the Fall. Since they grow so fast, you shouldn't have to wait long for results from that.



More Non-Natives Questions

Non-native Gingko biloba in Austin
October 22, 2007 - Does a Ginkgo biloba tree grow easily in the Austin area? Does it take extra care to keep it alive?
view the full question and answer

Cuttings from non-native weeping willow in California
October 01, 2008 - I have a large area to plant, I have a flourishing Weeping Willow and would like to harvest cuttings from it to start new trees. What is the best time of year for this in Central California?
view the full question and answer

Eliminating kudzu from Richmond KY
March 26, 2014 - I live in Richmond KY, Kirksville area. I have noticed that Kudzu has started to grow in my patch of land next to the creek. How can I get rid of this before it becomes a big problem?
view the full question and answer

Pruning non-native peach trees in Austin
November 14, 2008 - I have 2 peach trees that are 2 years old. Last year I pruned them in February and do not want to prune them again this year. I want to cut the little sucker limbs off of them this year. When can I do...
view the full question and answer

Will non-native St. Augustine crowd out non-native bermudagrass in Plano TX
June 28, 2011 - I have Bermuda sod via builder, looked great for 3+ years. then had crack house neighbors max weeds for 2+ years. Killing them (the weeds) had a toll on the grass. Now a fifth of the LOSER neighbor...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center