A native of the East Indies and other tropical countries, the Banana can be grown and fruited successfully in a roomy, well-heated greenhouse; it is usually seen in botanical garden collections of economic plants. In the far South some kinds are grown outdoors. In habit and general appearance it differs from the majority of plants. The long fleshy leafstalks, which arise from a thick rootstock, overlap one another to form a trunklike structure varying in height from a few feet to 20, and the immense shield-shaped leaves form a luxuriant tuft at their apex.
Musa nana, a dwarf species, is the Banana most generally cultivated in the United States; M. sapientum (the Banana of commerce) is usually less satisfactory although some of the hardier varieties of this may be grown in the warmest parts of the country. M. Ensete is grown outdoors in the South, and in the North may be treated as a half-hardy plant; it is used to provide tropical effects. When grown outdoors, Bananas need rich soil and plenty of moisture.
How to Grow Bananas Under Glass. The plants are grown in large tubs 2 ft. or more in diameter; or, in large glasshouses, they may be planted in specially prepared beds. They require perfectly drained, rich soil and need full exposure to sunlight, a minimum temperature of 65 degrees, with plenty of water and adequate feeding with liquid fertilizer and top-dressings of fresh loam and manure.
Propagation. The Banana is easily propagated by means of sucker growths from the base of the old plants; the rooted suckers are detached and planted, first in small pots and, after a few months, in the tubs or boxes, or in the open bed, where they are to grow and fruit. Spring is the best time to pot or plant out rooted suckers: if the young plants are kept in a temperature of about 65 degrees at night, with a increase of 10 or even 20 degrees during the daytime with sun heat, kept well watered and given liquid fertilizer every week, they make rapid growth and bunches of fruit can be obtained by the end of the next summer. The main stem dies after fruiting and the suckers are grown to replace it.
For Summer Bedding. Musa Ensete is raised from seeds sown in March in sandy soil in a propagating case that provides bottom heat of 75 degrees. The seedlings are grown in pots until June, when they are planted out for the summer in flower beds in a sheltered part of the garden and returned to the greenhouse in the autumn.
This form of bedding out, which is called subtropical gardening, because the plants used are of a subtropical character, is little practiced by amateurs though it is represented in some public parks and gardens where collections of subtropical plants find many admirers. It is not difficult to raise suitable plants if a tropical greenhouse is available.