Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Right Now...

...Isn't actually in the garden.

It's in my dining room.

It's a banana -- Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger.'

I brought it in last night (actually technically Nigel brought it in for me), because it's marginally  hardy here, and in the absence of a greenhouse (yet) I think it needs to spend the winter inside if it wants to live. So it's been moved from the plethora of pots on my front porch to a spot beside the only south-facing window in my house.

I bought this plant this past spring, when Peter The Outlaw Gardener and I went to Cistus Nursery in Portland (read about that on Peter's blog here and on my blog here), and then on to the Portland Bloggers Spring Plant Exchange. I planted most of the plants I bought there out in my garden, but couldn't really settle on the best way to use the banana. I'd never grown a banana before. So it just sat in its one-gallon pot in a holding spot, waiting for its chance in the sun. By July when I finally decided to knock it out of its nursery pot, the roots had grown so large that I needed to cut off the pot with tin snips.

Often when I finally place plants that are root-bound, I cut off a large portion of the overgrown roots and prune the plant back a bit, which is what I did with this. I cut off all but one leaf and rather than trying to untangle those big yellow roots to make sure they grow into the new soil, I just cut them off. Kind of drastic, I know, but then any new roots will grow into the new soil.

When I potted it up into a much larger pot that was more in keeping with its actual size, it responded. By yellowing and dropping its last leaf. It then hovered for a week or two on the edge of life and death, finally deciding it wanted to live. Since then it has pumped out five leaves, and is in the process of producing a sixth. All nice and healthy and not a bit of yellowing on any of them. They're lovely large leaves, with dark streaks (red supposedly, but not any shade of red I'm familiar with).

Of course, now that I've hauled it inside for the winter, it's probably going to start dropping leaves again, because of the change in light and humidity. Ah, well. If it survives the winter inside, and if I do in fact put in new beds in the front, it will have a place of honor in the new tropical garden, along with a few Musa basjoo, a more hardy banana that I can put in the ground.

Here are some stats.

Height: 13-14 feet
Width: Narrow at the base, wider at the top ;-)
Light: Full Sun
Soil: Moisture-retentive but free-draining with lots of water and fertilizer
Hardiness: Zone 8-10 (I've seen it as Zone 7b, but I don't really trust that, speaking of which, I've seen my zone listed as Zone 8a, but I don't really trust that either)

I haven't seen it for sale online, but Plant Delights does have a Musa sikkimensis 'Bengal Tiger' that is similar, but with more pronounced coloring. Check it out here.

Read about 'Bengal Tiger' on Plant Lust here.

And because I can't be bothered with recapping, read a whole bunch of historical and cultural stuff about Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger' here.

Now that winter is on the way, it's time to start filling up that south-facing window with all my other tender plants. We don't actually have a frost or freeze in the short-range forecast, but it's that time of year. We will have one soon, so I might as well get started.

'My Favorite Plant in the Garden' is a meme hosted by Loree at the blog danger garden. Check it out here, where other bloggers have left links in the comments to their favorite plant posts as well.


  1. Very nice! I thought mine had died over last winter planted outside, but it came back. It was just a little late for the party.

  2. You're a brave woman (but we knew that), keeping a tiger in your house. It looks right at home.

  3. Your dining room will soon look like the one in my Guatemalan host family's house. All you need is a parrot!

  4. I know bananas and other tropicals are all the rage, but I'll just enjoy them in yours and other's gardens. Good luck with your plant babies.

  5. I'm sure with your green thumbs, it will not only survive but thrive in your south-facing window. Great looking banana!

  6. Beautiful fav!

    If it does start to look a little sad I bet you could successfully overwinter it dormant. Just stop watering and put it in a dark room (basement?). I know many people who do that with Ensete maurelii, they go on to achieve monster size in the summer.

  7. Yay for a good looking banana that's a toughie too that carried even with root pruning! It wouldn't have been a problem anyway apart from its temporary sulking. By keeping it under cover in the winter you start off its life outdoors next year with a tall stem already.

  8. It seems like a tough plant, and how cool to have a banana plant indoors. The streaks on the leaves do look more red in the clock photo. I'm trying to picture it in the house as it gets taller.

  9. Ah! Now, once again, I regret that I didn't pick up that banana tree at the local botanic garden's fall plant sale.

  10. I'd love to be able to grow a plant indoors but our windows are tinted and the plants don't receive enough direct light to thrive. Will your tree actually grow bananas?

  11. I bet it won't drop a single leaf and will continue growing all winter only a little bit more slowly. Bananas are way cool plants and I'm glad we got this one. Thanks for reminding me to pull mine inside!


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