If last year a couple of orchids and some tomatoes felt like a challenge, this year—with so much time spent at home—the mission has been to turn the living room into a tropical rainforest.
When it comes to fast-growing tropical plants with striking lush leaves, nothing beats bananas. Not to mention the elusive yellow fruit and giant flowers!
There are a lot of species out there, some more suited to indoors than others. Here in England, I’ve managed to get my hands on four varieties:
1. Musa Basjoo
Also known as Hardy Banana or Japanese Banana, this little plant here is the strongest of the lot. I’ve actually seen it thrive in London parks, and while the crown dies with frost, the rhizome (root system) survives (with some insulation) and will put out a new pseudo-stem in spring.
This one is easy to find on Amazon or at garden centres, and while people often talk about how to look after it outdoors, indoors it will do even better and with fewer worries (like wind, sun scorch, cold).
So what’s the catch?
The Musa Basjoo is a strong plant, but its fruit is not edible. Still, if you’re lucky enough to get them to flower, you’ll be the proud owner of the most striking, biggest house-flowers in the world.
2. Dwarf Cavendish
This is the most famous indoor banana plant variety. By “dwarf” they mean that it will probably not go through the roof (this guy managed it). The leaves are wider and stubbier than the Basjoo. The flower is red, and the fruit is edible!
Unlike the Basjoo, this plant is susceptible to low temperatures, and while it’ll survive down to 10°C, it requires 20°C or more (ideally 25°C–30°C) to grow and thrive.
If you’re wondering what those leaves at the bottom are, that’s a new shoot, also known as a pup or sucker. Cavendish really like to make new shoots, which replace the mother plant once (if) it flowers.
3. Ensete Maurelli
Red Abyssinia, or False Banana, this plant has huge red-green leaves and grows really fast. It’s almost as cold-resistant as the Basjoo, though it really likes it indoors. The issue is the size. Not only will this plant easily go through the roof, it’ll also spread its leaves low and wide, taking over the whole living room.
4. Musa velutina
This was sold to me as a Musa Velutina, or Pink Hairy banana. It’s hard to tell until it grows, but I really hope it is the case.
The Musa Velutina is a relatively small banana plant (6–10 feet when fully grown) and if you’re lucky it’ll produce a big, elongated pink flower and a bunch of small, fat pink bananas which have a furry skin and are said to be sweeter than normal bananas!
The catch is that being a wild banana plant, the fruit contains fairly large seeds which are hard enough to chip a tooth!
So, which variety should I get?
Get all of them!
If that isn’t an option, the Dwarf Cavendish (Musa Acuminata) or Pink Hairy Banana (Musa Velutina) are probably the easiest and most rewarding varieties to have as houseplants.
If you want to know more about caring for bananas indoors, as well as benefits and drawbacks, check out my previous post!