Bananas originate from East Asia, and have spread from there across the rest of the world in countries around the equator. The first cultivation by humans dates from around 8000 years B.C. in the Wahgi Valley in New Guinea. Alexander the Great is said to have brought the plants to the West from India. Banana trees were initially used on plantations to protect coffee, cocoa and pepper plants from the bright sun thanks to their large leaves. Only later were they appreciated for their fruit.
● When buying banana trees look at the pot size, the height of the plant and the number of plants per pot. Because the plant’s leaves are rather fragile, they must be sleeved in order to prevent leaf damage and cold damage.
● The plant should be free of diseases and pests: aphids and scale insects are the most common. Also look for the presence of sticky clear honeydew, which is a sign that there are ‘beasties’ living on the plant. The plant can have red spider mite if conditions are too dry.
● If the banana tree has been kept too wet, this can cause root rot, disrupting the plant’s growth.
● Banana trees cannot cope well with temperatures below 12-15°C, which is something to bear in mind when transporting them during the cold months.
The range of banana trees is limited. The most common varieties are Musa ‘ Dwarf Cavendish’ and Musa ‘Tropicana’. Most banana trees are offered as dwarf banana trees, and their size also makes them suitable for the living room. All plants are characterised by the large, smooth-edged leaves, often with a slightly wavy edge. There are sometimes darker markings on the leaf which further enhance the decorative value. With hardy bananas it’s useful to know that only the rhizome is properly hardy, and the aboveground parts are sensitive to frost.
● Wrap carefully for the journey home during the colder months.
● Banana trees like a warm and light position. The large leaf area means that the plant evaporates quite a lot of moisture, and therefore needs some extra water. Avoid getting the soil too wet, since this can cause root rot.
● To get a banana tree to flower, you need both patience and space where it can keep growing with plenty of light and high temperatures, such as a conservatory. The plant may then flower and produce fruit after 3 to 4 years.
● Houseplant food once a month will keep the banana tree strong and beautiful.
● The banana tree can be placed in the garden in a sunny, sheltered spot as a container plant from mid-April to mid-October. Allow it to overwinter indoors, and allow it to gradually acclimatise to bright sunlight in the spring to prevent scorching.
Display the banana tree with enough space around it so that the fabulous leaves look their best. A pedestal can help to highlight the crown and allow the green leaves to hang beautifully. Placing bromeliads and orchids below it creates a suitable tropical arrangement. Highlight the plant after the summer holidays, since many consumers see it as a way of hanging on to that holiday feeling.
You can download and use the promotional posters below free of charge if you credit Thejoyofplants.co.uk. It helps to create an inspirational and appealing display in your flower shop. If you like, just print it and give it a prominent spot in your shop!