Pink velvet bananas with their huge luxurious leaves growing in my North Carolina garden.
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
It’s October and I have pink bananas growing in my garden! With its large, luxurious oval leaves and pink fruit spikes, the ornamental pink velvet banana plant Musa velutina certainly lends an exotic flare. Watching the small banana plants we were gifted with some three years ago grow bigger, flower, and develop fruit, then die back in winter and reemerge even stronger each spring has been a fascinating process. Pink flowers blossom on a flowering spike mature into small banana fruits with tough pink skins that have a pleasant velvety texture. This curious pink fruit, while very seedy and therefore considered ornamental, can be eaten and has a pleasant flavor. These bananas reach about 8 feet in height and prefer a sunny location.
While I had heard of bananas living in local landscapes, I had not seriously considered them for my own garden assuming that they would do poorly and look out of place. Now observing how they have thrived, tripled in size, and bear clusters of colorful small ornamental bananas each year, I see their potential for adding flare and interest to the garden. Combined with other similarly exotic looking plants such as red leafed canna lilies and the saucer sized flowers of hibiscus, they make a striking display.
The pink velvet banana is a type of cold hardy banana that does well up to USDA planting zone 7 when planted in full sun. While banana plants are often referred to as banana trees, they are actually the largest herbaceous perennial! In cold climates they will die back after the first frost of winter. Caring for the bananas during winter is relatively simple, however. Before frost, cut back the stems and leaves to about 8 to 10 inches above the ground and cover with heavy mulch. In spring, after the danger of frost has passed, remove the mulch from the crown. Bananas can also be planted in pots and kept indoors during winter.
Left:The pink bananas are now about 8 feet tall. Right: A close up of the colorful bright pink banana fruits.
Annette Bartlett-Golden paints a wide range of subjects from landscapes to animals and makes abstract works with paper. Using vibrant colors, she imparts a sense of immediacy, vivacity and optimism to her paintings and paper collages.