U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Friday, November 28, 2014

Abyssinian Banana Overwintering

It became one of my favorites the moment I saw it - big dark leaves, strong stem, overall tropical look and not-prohibitive price.
Abyssinian Banana (Red Maurelii), Ensete (Musa) ventricosum (Ethiopian Banana, Red Abyssinian Banana, False Banana).

Even if they won't survive the winter, it was worth it to have the plants from May to November.  I bought two of them last year. 
They grew well, one planted in the ground and another in a big container.

In 2013, the Abyssinian Banana in the container was underplanted with white petunia.

When last fall came, they looked so good, that I decided to take one of them inside. 
It was bulky, but I found a place for it in the house with some afternoon sun.
 Unfortunately, a heating vent was nearby.
In a couple of months, it didn't look well, and I moved it into the garage, eventually cutting the stem.
The garage is not heated but never gets extremely cold.
Planted outside in May, it grew into a giant.

June 2013, after overwintering in the garage

The second plant wasn't so lucky. I cut it down, dug it out and moved it into the container with mulch, but didn't get it inside promptly. It rottened no thanks to the rain and cold.

Last May, I bought two new plants for a slightly higher price, and together with the one from 2013, they served as beautiful focal points in the garden.

In 2014, the Abyssinian Banana in the container was underplanted with Sweet Potato Vine
and Salvia 'nemorosa 'Sensation white'

This plant in front of the house is facing east and has morning and early afternoon sun

This plant behind the house is facing west and has afternoon sun

Neither of my plants had a full sun location. Nevertheless, they seemed to be happy.
Guess which one of them grew the biggest and looked the best?
The old one which spent the winter of 2013/2014 indoors! 
This one:

This plant behind the house faces west, grows in part shade and has some afternoon sun

November came, and I decided to move all three plants into the garage. 
Two plants were dug out and moved as they were, with their giant leaves untouched.
The plants don't have big root balls. I kept as much soil around the root balls as possible and  filled big black nursery containers with bark mulch.

Notice how much bushier this 2nd year plant is:

The third plant, below, due to the lack of space in the garage, was cut down before moving. 
I'll let it go dormant.

I hope all three of them will survive, and I can enjoy them next season! 
Such a treasure for the garden!

Abyssinian Banana (Red Maurelii) Ensete (Musa) ventricosum (Ethiopian Banana, Red Abyssinian Banana)
Native to East Africa
Tender perennial in our climate
Hardiness: Zone 9-11
Growth rate: Fast
Size: 15-20 feet tall (approx. 8-10 feet in our climate), 10-15 feet wide (approx. 7 feet in our climate)
Leaves: Up to 10 feet long, green/burgundy
Flowering: It's said to flower only in tropical climate
What it loves: Heat and humidity, rich  well-drained soil, abundant water
I like the plant's profile from Louis the Plant Geek

Here is my detailed report about A. Bananas overwintering (4/11/2015): Abyssinian Banana Trees Overwintered

***Copyright 2014 TatyanaS


  1. Love these plants - I have 1 and this is a timely reminder that I must get into the greenhouse for the winter. Yours look so healthy = they are indeed a treasure.

    1. Karen, it's 28 degrees here, so I'm glad I took them inside!

  2. I hope they survive too! They're beautiful. Please let us know in the spring.

    1. Alison, I hope at least 50% will survive, ha-ha!

  3. These bananas are real treasures, great focal points in the garden with their huge beautiful coloured leaves. Wish you a lot of success with the overwintering!

  4. Fabulous! Do keep us informed about how they fare over the winter. The macro shot of the sunlight through the foliage is stunning!

    1. Beth, I'd like to have them inside the house! But, they are so bulky!

  5. Hello there girl !
    This is a stunning plant and to have multiples is even better ! .. the colours that it displays in different lighting is amazing . It is truly a focal plant no matter where you situate it . I wish we could have something like that here but no .. I am always tempted to grow a red caster bean plant but it would have to grow from seed ... and I am justnot quite sure I can bring it through that stage ... and even though it is poisonous, as many of our garden plants can be .. I have no young children or out door animals to worry about ... I may have to think this one out , especially after seeing how gorgeous a large, colourful, focal plant is like yours ... love the white under plantins to show off the colour as well.
    Your statuary has the perfect whimsy element to it ... wish I could find pieces like that too !
    Joy : )

    1. Hi Joy! I Thanks! love castor bean, but don't have it because of what you said. Red Banana should be sold in your area as an annual.

  6. I like the way you situated the banana plants, with the frog relaxing in front of a chessboard and the cat playing the fiddle. The banana plants are beautiful. They a) make really good focal points and b) are great complements to whimsical elements in the garden.

  7. Dear Tatyana, I can completely understand that you have fallen in love with the Abyssinian Banana at first sight. They are simply gorgeous sculptural plants and they look wonderful in your garden. They truly are focal points that keep pleasing and fascinating the eye. You go through a lot of trouble to overwinter these guys, though. I just wondered how you lift them out of the ground or of a container? They must be very heavy. I cross my fingers for you that you get all three of them through the winter and can enjoy them next year even more.
    Here in San Diego, because of our mild climate, we can grow Abyssinian Bananas outdoors year round, but with our ongoing drought it is difficult to keep them looking good, because, as you mentioned, they like plenty of water and that is exactly what we don't have :-(!
    Warm regards,

    1. Thank you Christina! I am smiling. I asked my husband to help me with those plants, and he promised to help. But, I don't have any patience! By the time he came out, I've finished digging them out and moving to the garage. Yes, they were pretty heavy!

  8. My FAVORITE! I had one that was the star of my garden in 2012 and 2013, but it unfortunately did not survive last winter. I could not find one locally last spring. I did get one from the internet. They sent me a four inch baby, which was promptly eaten by some critter. Sigh. Next year i am determined to find one!

    1. Hi Deb! Poor baby! It was so cute that someone ate it! You know where I buy them? In HD. You probably are checking nurseries. Maybe, you have HD there. Good luck, Deb!

  9. Now I have banana plant envy, Tatyana. Wish I had room to overwinter one. P. x

    1. Hi Pam! It doesn't take a big space if to cut it down.

  10. Hi
    Just discovered your blog--i am also in the Seattle area. How thrilling to see youe garden and your red banana. I have one too--when i first got it, six years ago, a lovely friend would come and get it from my house to overwinter it in his tiny green house but as time passed I thought it was a lot of work for him and decided to store it in the garage and take my chances. To my surprse it survived and it has ever since--it gets lots of white fly but a week after I take it out in the spring it has completely recovered. I saw in one picture you cut it back and just left the stump, does that work for you? Does it overwinter better that the other ones? The same, worse? Thanks! Your garden is very beautiful

    1. Thank you for writing, Flor de Maria Holmes! I overwintered three A. bananas last winter in our garage. They all are doing very well, grew tall and look the same. I can't tell the difference. Good luck with your plants!

  11. Tatyana, lovely garden, lovely Absyinnians. What did you need to do for the A Bananas you garaged over the winter that did not go dormant? Did you cut any leaves off? Did they need to be watered? I have three plants as well, getting ready for their second winter (one is third), but none are as big as yours. I cut leaves off them and let them go dormant last two winters.


    1. Hi! I started to water them only in March, just a bit. I cut down one plant, but kept two others untouched. Some of their leaves got dry, and I removed them. Both of them developed new leaves by spring. I posted my detailed report about A.Banana overwintering 4/11/2015. That post can be found in the blog's archive below, or here:
      I wish you best of luck with your plants. Happy Gardening!


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