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Musa Basjoo: Bringing a Touch of the Tropics to Your UK Garden

Dreaming of adding a touch of the exotic to your backyard jungle? Look no further than the Musa basjoo, fondly known as the Japanese Banana or Hardy Banana. This resilient beauty brings the drama of tropical foliage and a taste of the tropics to UK gardens, even in less-than-balmy climes.

Musa Basjoo - photo David Stang CC4.0

But before you start picturing sun-drenched beaches and freshly picked bananas, let's explore the joys and challenges of growing Musa basjoo in the UK:

Sunshine or Shade?

Musa basjoo thrives in full sun or partial shade. But remember, "full sun" in the UK is a different beast than in the tropics. Aim for bright, sheltered spots that avoid harsh midday sun, especially in hotter regions. This helps prevent leaf scorch.

The Soil Story:

Ensure well-draining, fertile soil that's rich in organic matter. Amend sandy soils with compost, manure, or leafy mulches, and consider raised beds for heavier clays. Don't forget, good drainage is key!

Watering Wisdom:

Think jungle – think moisture! Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the growing season. Regular, deep watering is much better than frequent shallow splashes. Mulching helps retain moisture and keeps weeds at bay.

Feeding Frenzy:

Musa basjoo is a hungry beast! During the growing season, feed with a balanced liquid fertilizer every 4-6 weeks. But don't go overboard – excessive nitrogen can weaken the plant and make it susceptible to disease.

Musa Basjoo - photo CC4.0 Kenraiz

Winter Wonderland (or Woes):

Here's where things get interesting. While somewhat hardier than other banana varieties, Musa basjoo can still succumb to very cold UK winters. In milder regions, it will survive with some protection around the whole trunk and a thick layer of mulch down to -8c in a sheltered position. For very cold locations (-10c or lower) , consider potting your banana and bringing it indoors for a winter slumber.

Bonus Banana Bunch:

Sadly, unless you live in a particularly warm microclimate, edible bananas are highly unlikely in the UK. But don't despair! The sheer magnificence of the foliage and the joy of nurturing exotic life are rewards enough. Plus, you might get lucky with decorative, non-edible "fingers" in good summers.

The Joys of the Journey:

Growing Musa basjoo is a journey, not a destination. Be prepared for unexpected leaf tears, wind-battered fronds, and the occasional aphid invasion. But the resilience and sheer beauty of this tropical treasure make it all worthwhile. With a little TLC, you can create a stunning oasis in your own backyard, even in the heart of England.

So, are you ready to bring a taste of the tropics to your UK garden? Give Musa basjoo a try! Just remember, patience, dedication, and the right TLC are the secret ingredients to success. Happy tropical gardening!

Bonus Tips:

  • Propagate your Musa basjoo by separating suckers that sprout around the base.

  • Don't be afraid to prune away damaged leaves to keep your plant looking its best.

  • Enjoy the sculptural beauty of the trunk as it thickens and develops character with age.

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