Question of the Week – October 31, 2019: Number One
“What do I do to protect my banana plant? I want to give it the best chance of surviving the winter.”
Texas is a huge state. My answer to this common question depends primarily on where you are within it.
• Gardeners in Deep South Texas may never see a freeze, for example, so their banana plants are likely to make it through the winter unscathed.
• However, coming north just a bit, where temperatures drop into the high 20s a few times, the banana plants will certainly freeze to the ground, but they’ll come back strongly next spring without any question. Mulching won’t hurt, but it probably wouldn’t be necessary except in the event of record-setting cold.
• Coming farther north – from colder parts of Central Texas and the Hill Country up to the Red River, where temperatures drop into the teens, that’s where you’ll need to do more to keep your banana plants alive through the cold. Let the first freeze kill them back to their crowns. Give them a few days to shrivel and dry, then trim away all of the dried growth. Pile shredded tree leaves up and over the crowns of their roots to act as a mulch over the winter. Save a bag or two of extra leaves to supplement as the first leaves compact. Some people even put a piece of burlap over the pile of leaves and stake the burlap in place to keep winds from blowing them away. Remove all of that by mid-March and your clumps will usually be fine.
• If you’re in a really cold area, where temperatures drop into single digits, you could take a chance by using the mulching described above, or you might want to dig your plants with a small amount of roots and store them in the corner of your heated (50-55F) garage. You could even set them down into 7-gallon nursery pots, not to grow, but just to keep them upright until spring. Or you could simply buy new plants come spring.