Winterize Banana Trees

Jeanne Grunert
Protect tropical plants in winter.
Protect tropical plants in winter.

To winterize banana trees, you'll need to offer your tropical or semi tropical tree protection from harsh winter climates.

How to Winterize Banana Trees

The tropical look is in again in the garden, even if you live in a somewhat more northern gardening zone. The last time so many tropicals and exotics were in fashion was during the Victorian times. However, unlike the Victorians who collected tropical plants, few of us today have the luxury or wealth to create heated greenhouses to over winter our cannas, elephant ears and banana trees. That's where learning how to winterize banana trees comes in handy.

Hardiness Can Be Overstated

The most common banana tree is the Muso basjoo, a type of hardy banana tree that is supposed to be hardy to zone 5. Some sources list its hardiness to zone 4, but most gardening experts believe that's really pushing it. Muso bajoo needs winter protection in most gardening zones, however, so don't just plant it and forget it. Assemble your tools and resources and get ready to protect your precious plant.

Winter Protection

Most banana trees benefit by creating a protective barrier or natural materials around the tree. This is done by creating a round cage using chicken wire around the tree, leaving a gap of several inches between the tree and the wire. Pack autumn leaves or another natural material into the space to form a protective layer for the banana tree.

To protect your banana trees for the winter, you'll need:

  • Three metal or wooden stakes about three to four feet tall
  • A hammer to hammer them into the ground
  • Chicken wire or metal wire mesh. You can use any mesh wire with one inch or smaller holes.
  • Outdoor staple gun with industrial staples (if using wooden stakes)
  • Wire cutter
  • Heavy gloves
  • Raked leaves, or similar mulch

Be sure to wear gardening gloves while working on this project since bits of metal and wire can really scratch up your hands. First, hammer the stakes into the ground to form a large triangle around the trunk of the banana tree. Imagine the wire stretched on the triangular form you've created; you should have a gap of several inches from the circumference of the wire to the tree trunk.

Stretch the wire around the outside of the stakes. If using metal stakes, many have little metal hooks on the surface of the stake; just affix the wire to the hook. If using wooden stakes, staple the wire to the wood. Snip the chicken wire and use the pieces of wire sticking out to twist the edges together to close the circle. Pack leaves into the "cage" to insulate the tree.

Mulching

Another technique to winterize banana trees is a bit more drastic, but it also works. P. Allen Smith recommends trimming banana trees down to the ground, and then laying a very thick layer of mulch over the rhizomes. The mulch should be at least 12 inches deep. This forms enough of a protective barrier on top of the trees to keep the cold from damaging them.

Potted Plants

Many gardeners simply keep their banana trees and tropical plants in pots. Pots can be moved inside to a sunny window or into the house and under grow lights for the winter. With this method, the plant is fully protected against all cold. Be sure, however, to hose down the plant with a strong stream of water before bring it into the house. This will knock off any insect larvae or adults hiding among the leaves. After all, you don't want to bring in anything else to over winter!

Winterize Banana Trees