A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Golden Lotus Banana About to Bloom

In temperate gardens, bananas are usually grown for their huge foliage, quick growth, and delight in the most oppressive heat and humidity. If you water and fertilize a banana, it will look fat and happy when so much else in your garden looks tired and thirsty. Here's the one to start with.

 

A few bananas are easy to overwinter, and one or two species can even be grown in-ground as far north as Long Island. Below is the only banana, hardy or tender, grown for its flowers or, as the crazy structure that bears the flowers is known, an inflorescence.

 

Musella lasiocarpa Hedera canariensis Gloire de Marengo Cussonia paniculata Nelumbo TBD 070616 640

 

The leaves of golden lotus banana are modest blue-green paddles that rarely exceed three feet. If you want to grow a banana for foliage, choose the one in the link above. Even when red Abyssinian banana is only summered out in New England, not in steaming tropics that offer year-round growth, its purple flushed leaves can be twelve to fifteen feet long.

 

Musella lasiocarpa isn't reliably hardy here, so I keep mine in a container. This year, I placed it in a string of what in August will be stunners: at the front, a tubbed true lotus; then the reviving mountain cabbage tree; at the back, the huge standard of variegated Algerian ivy. (Between the banana and the ivy standard is the in-ground colony of Gold Angel shrub mint.) 

 

If the banana never did anything but grow more leaves this Summer, that would be fine. It can be filler. Musella lasiocarpa always forms clumps, and younger portions stick with growing leaves. Another two—or twenty—doesn't change the look much.

 

Musella lasiocarpa tip of a vegetative shoot 070616 640

 

The stem below is clearly up to something other than just additional leaves. The thick multi-pronged thing erupting from its tip is the top of the inflorescence.

 

Musella lasiocarpa tip of a flowering shoot 070616 640

 

Already as large as my fist, the inflorescence will be as large as a lotus blossom at maturity.

 

Musella lasiocarpa flower structure with fingers 070616 640

 

My tubbed lotus will flower this Summer, too. Then I can do a side-by-side comparison of its blossom with the banana's inflorescence.

 

 

I'll profile golden lotus banana when this astonishing inflorescence is in full flower. Given that an inflorescence often continues to develop for months, there's plenty of time to publish about this species while it's still in the thick of its floral performance.

 
 
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