Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ensete Ventricosum 'Maurelii"

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' in my garden this morning
     Although it now may be a common plant in our gardens, I still love Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii" also known as the red Abyssinian banana.  What is not to love as you walk out in the garden on a sunny day like today and see its glowing reddish paddle shaped leaves making such a contrast with all the finer foliage around it?  It has always been a axiom of mine that the advantage of broad leaves is that they relieve the tedium of fine foliage and make everything in the garden 'pop'.  If you have an area of your garden that seems dull to you, just pop in a banana and, voila, you have an interesting garden!
     When I first learned about these bananas (there is also a plain green Abyssinian banana) they were not common plants in nurseries like they are now.  I had to order my first one from a mail order nursery in Louisiana.   I don't think they had tissue-cultured the plant then, but it is now commonly grown that way.  For those who don't know, tissue-culture is where a plant is propagated from a few cells in laboratory conditions.  Now days many, if not most, plants sold in vast quantities are grown from tissue-culture.
     My first knowledge of this plant came from a book by Myles Challis called 'The Exotic Garden'.  I think that that book was the instigating force in the tropical looking garden style which is prevalent now.  It certainly influenced me greatly.
     I have grown many of these ensetes over the years and have tried them every which way.  I have tried growing them in the ground and protecting them over the winter; I have tried growing them in the ground and digging them up and bringing them inside over the winter; I have tried growing them in pots and bringing them inside over the winter; and I have tried growing them in pots and leaving them outside over the winter.  Of these options, by far the best is to grow them in pots and bring them in over the winter.  Although you can sometimes get them to survive if they are grown in the ground, they don't get going again until very late in the season.  Since they are so easily available from nurseries and since they grow so fast, you might as well plant a new one each year if you want to grow them in the ground.  Pretend they are annuals. 
     You can also treat them as annuals if you grow them in pots.  Many people buy fuschia baskets each year and treat those as annuals, and an ensete is no more expensive than a fuschia basket, so why not treat the ensete as an annual also?  It certainly makes more of an impact in the garden than a fuschia.
     The ensete in the picture was one I bought earlier this year.  It was in a five gallon pot and cost around 50 dollars.  I planted it in one of my larger pots and have been making sure that it gets plenty of water and fertilizer (Fox Farm, of course).  While I have been making sure my plant gets plenty of water, they are relatively tolerant of less water.  In other words, if you go away on a vacation and do not water for a week or two, they will not die, nor will they look bad after that treatment. This is particularly true if they are grown in a large enough pot.  My plant has probably doubled in size since I got it.  These plants are easy care in the summer time, but if you bring them inside over the winter, they tend to get aphids if they remain in full growth.  You can also cut off all the leaves when you bring them inside and basically let them go dormant by not watering them much.  They can even be kept in an unheated garage as long as it does not get below freezing in the garage.

1 comment:

  1. One of my absolute must have plants for my tropical container border. Love yours underplanted with that B. 'Bonfire' beautiful!