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How to Winterize Banana Trees

Whether you currently have banana trees or you’re thinking about investing in one or two, there’s a lot to know about how to care for them. One of the biggest things to remember about banana trees is that you have to winterize them before the first frost sets in. While winterizing banana trees isn’t difficult, it’s necessary to follow the steps we’re going to lay out in this article.

From start to finish, we’ll discuss everything there is to know about how to winterize banana trees. We’ll look at both potted and inground options to ensure that your trees are winterized properly.

Banana trees - learn how to winterize a banana tree!

Do I Have to Winterize Banana Trees?

Even though it’s extra work, it’s extremely important to winterize banana trees. Winterization is done so that the freeze and frost of low temperatures don’t kill the leaves, roots, and fruit. If the temperature drops below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) the first thing to go will be your leaves.

If the temperature drops slightly lower still, it will eventually cause death to every part of the plant above the ground. The leaves, fruits, stems, branches, and anything else left exposed won’t stand a chance. Finally, when temperatures dip into the low to mid-twenties, your roots will be the last to go.

How to Winterize Banana Trees in a Container

To start, let’s look at everything you need to know about winterizing banana trees that you’re growing in a container. If you have a heated and conditioned space inside your home or a garage where you can move your plant and keep it out of the cold, you can forgo this procedure.

However, storing your plants indoors in a greenhouse setting comes with its own issues. First, the trees must get enough sunlight or a mechanized equivalent to stay healthy throughout the winter. As long as you can guarantee sunshine, water, and protection from the cold, you can forgo winterizing the plant. However, if you cannot, here are the steps to follow to winterize banana trees in containers.

Bananas on a banana tree branch.

Step 1: Cut the Plant

The first thing you should do to winterize banana trees is cut the plant back. We’re not talking about a little light pruning or leaf removal. When you cut back your banana tree, you should use a lopper or saw and do it at the lowest part of the plant, about six or so inches above the soil. This is especially important if your area has already experienced a bit of frost and the leaves are dead.

Anything dead that gets left behind could hinder your tree in the future, which is why a complete cutback is necessary.

Step 2: Shelter the Plant

After you’ve cut the tree down to the soil and removed anything potentially dead, it’s time to move the container indoors. Preferably, you should move it to a conditioned and heated space where frost won’t be able to affect it.

Step 3: Wrap Things Up

Thirdly and lastly, we’re going to quite literally wrap things up. First, take a bunch of mulch or banana potting soil and cover any visible parts of the banana tree. Next, take a wrapping material with ample insulation, such as bubble wrap or seram wrap, and wrap the pot or container up tight. You don’t want anything getting out of or into the plant, so make sure it’s secure.

As long as your banana tree containers are trimmed, wrapped, and in a safe place, they should be ready to go next year when you move them back out.

A potted dwarf banana plant.
A potted dwarf banana plant.

How to Winterize Banana Trees in the Ground

Winterizing banana trees firmly planted in the ground is slightly more difficult but very doable. You’ll follow many of the same steps and concepts as you did with containers, but with a few differences.

Step 1: Cut the Plant

In the same way you would cut back a banana plant in a container, you should do likewise with one planted in the ground. Cut the leaves back until there’s very little left above the ground, as any dead leaves left behind will damage the plant in the future.

Step 2: Cover the Plant

Since you don’t have the option of moving your banana tree indoors for the winter, you’ll have to protect it as best you can outside. The best way to do this is by taking insulating mulch or moss, such as peat moss, and covering the ground around the plant.

It’s best to use an organic mulch to do this. Remember, this step is only to cover the ground around the tree to protect the roots. Think of it as a blanket.

Step 3: Cover the Tree

Your third and final step to winterize banana trees is to take a layer of plastic and spread it over the mulch, trees, and area around it. While the mulch layer around the plant will protect the roots from freezing and thawing, the plastic will protect them from fluctuating temperatures. Its job is to keep the roots, mulch, and portion of the plant above ground from freezing or rotting.

If you don’t trust plastic to do the job, you can also use a large, insulated tarp. As long as you anchor it down on the sides to keep rain and snow from raining down on it, the tarp should be sufficient to winterize your banana tree.

If you winterize banana trees outside, giving them a generous watering is important as soon as spring comes around. A good watering will give your plant the stimulation and encouragement it needs to hopefully spring back to life. The hardier your banana tree variety is, the more likely it is to survive the winter and thrive in the spring.

Banana trees planted in the ground.

Tips on How to Winterize Banana Trees

  • If you don’t like the idea of cutting your banana tree down to the soil, you can cut it down to between six and twelve inches above the ground. This could make it more difficult to insulate it properly, but its chances of survival are the same.
  • You can also choose to use a special type of fleece to wrap around the stem of the tree that’s above the ground. As long as you can wrap it tightly enough to ensure no gaps, your tree should survive the winter.
  • When you make your final cut at the base of the banana tree, do so at an angle. This way, if any water happens to pile around the stump of the tree or the roots, it won’t pool on top of the trunk and cause rotting.
  • If you missed the boat to winterize banana trees, don’t jump the gun by assuming it’s dead and tearing it out. Wait until spring comes around and cut away all the dead tissue on your tree. There’s a chance that if you can find any live tissue left, your tree will come back to life.
  • If you live in areas with harsh winters, you should invest in hardy banana trees. If you choose the wrong trees for your climate, there’s a chance that even proper winterization won’t be enough to save your banana tree.
  • Keep an eye out for the fungal Panama disease, to which banana trees are susceptible.

Now You Know How to Winterize Banana Trees!

While the steps and process to winterize banana trees are picky and particular, it’s something that everyone can do. As long as everything is wrapped and not exposed to the elements, there’s a good chance your banana tree will survive the winter. Eager for more banana content?

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