It is alleged that bananas were brought to the United States in the 16th century but were first grown commercially in 1870. Despite being grown for so long in America, the United States still does not rank among the top five banana-producing countries. Some studies have concluded that there could be significant decline in banana production due to climate change and the main banana producing- countries such as India and Brazil will be hit the hardest. Since climate change is a global concern, you can ensure that your banana tree plants are not affected by winterizing them. Let’s take a look at how to winterize a banana tree plant and the importance of protecting your plants from cold.
Winterizing a Potted Banana Tree Plant
According to Krostrade, the most convenient way of preparing bananas for winter is by considering them as annuals. Annual plants are those that complete their lifecycles – from germination to seed production – in one growing season, then die. If you consider your banana tree plants as annuals, you can plant them during spring so that they grow to maturity during summer. In fall, the plant will die so you will not have any plant during winter then you can begin the cycle again in spring when you plant other banana tree plants. While that eliminates the headache of having to winterize your banana trees, you will have to keep planting every season. You can avoid the hustle by moving a potted banana tree plant into the house during winter. For container-grown banana plants, you will have to wait until the first hard frost has occurred. The frost will damage the leaves which you must remove by cutting the banana tree to the ground. Leaving damaged leaves on will harm your plant permanently once the foliage starts rotting and the rot spreads. Once you have cut back the plant, move the container to the basement, garage or any other place away from the freezing temperatures. The room should be dark to keep the plant dormant and the temperatures should be between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If the soil is dry, water the plant and spread a thick layer of mulch. Ensure that the soil is not soaked with water then wrap up the plant with insulating material. Keep the plant well-watered and wait for winter to pass after which you can return the plant to the outdoors and continue with routine maintenance.
Winterizing a Banana Tree Plant in the Garden
If your plant is not small enough to be transferred into a pot during winter, you will have to winterize it in the garden. Port Kells Nurseries informs us of a couple of methods to winterize your banana tree plant, one of which is using chicken wire. After the first frost has damaged the leaves, cut down the banana tree to a stump measuring between 60cm and 90cm high. Dispose of the damaged leaves and get your tools ready. You will need a hammer, three wooden or metallic stakes measuring around four feet tall each, chicken wire or any other mesh wire with one inch holes. You will also require a wire cutter, heavy gloves, mulch and an outdoor staple gun with staples if you are using wooden stakes. Start your project by wearing the gloves to protect your hands then hammer the stakes into the ground to form a triangle around the banana tree trunk. Stretch the chicken wire around the outsides of the stakes and stake it in the wood. If using metallic stakes, fix the wire into the hooks that are on the stakes. Cover the stump of the banana tree with a small plastic bag then fill the triangle formed by the chicken mesh wire with leaves to insulate your plant during winter and wait for spring. If your banana tree is quite large, some sources recommend deep mulching by placing a thick layer of mulch that runs at least 12 inches deep. However, you must cut down the tree to about 60 cm high and use water pipe insulation to cover the stump, making sure to fold the top over so that water does not get inside the insulation. When spring comes, remove the insulation and mulch and water it well so that growth is restored in the new season.
How Does Cold Affect Plants?
The importance of winterizing your banana tree plants is because cold weather adversely affects plants. As Envii details, cold temperatures cause the water in the plants to freeze in the plant cells. When water is frozen, it expands and destroys the cells; hence you see wilting and other leaf damage as the first sign that winter has arrived. If not managed, the wilting continues even after the cold weather passes causing death especially in small plants whose cells are yet to be strong enough to adapt to the expanding cell tissues. Once the cells are damaged, there is poor intake of nutrients and without proper nutrition, the plant experiences stunted growth or death in severe cases. Additionally, water can freeze on the outside of the plant and the surrounding soil. As a result, the plant can no longer absorb water efficiently and it dries up with time. However, some plant species developed in cold climates can survive in freezing temperatures as they become hardy. Naturally, when temperatures start changing, plants prepare themselves for winter by acclimatizing themselves to the cold. David Graper, a professor at South Dakota State University, explained that the degree of cold hardiness increases in early fall through mid-winter. Plants regulate the water content in and around the cells. Therefore, he advised farmers to select perennial crops with enough cold hardiness to survive the changing climates. Depending on your zone, you can select a banana tree plant whose hardiness will enable it to do well in your area.