Banana split: propagating tropical plants

Growing tropical plants might seem daunting to those of us that are used to cold British winters. But if you have access to a frost free greenhouse all the same growing principles apply to these alien plants .

Bananas are a great example of tropical plants to try in the garden, their large smooth leaves are a stunning contrast to any hot border or pot display in the summer.

Tropical border at RHS Wisley 2016 featuring bananas, cannas and palms.

Like all hardy shrubs we are used to in the UK, tropical plants also need routine maintenance and care. Obviously there is the usual watering, feeding and removal of dead matter but every now and then, the bigger plants need potting on to give their roots room to grow.

Here in one of our regular client’s gardens we have a banana plant that is perhaps 4 or 5 years old and has produced 2 “babies” in the last couple of years.

Banana plant with 2 suckers ready to be propagated

This is a great task for a wet wintry day in March in the warm and dry of the greenhouse: first job is to ease the whole thing gently out of the pot.

Root bound banana plant eased out of it’s pot

Next, using a sharp knife cut off one of the babies at the base where it joins the main stem. Then tease apart the roots with a big fork..

A sharp blade is best for creating a clean wound where the baby plants meet the main trunk

Repeat this step for any other babies in the pot and ta da! Brand new banana plants ready for their very own homes!

Some healthy roots on these baby bananas

Now for the repotting: first put broken crocks in the bottom of the new pot, followed by horticultural potting grit for drainage. Now a layer of John Innes No. 3 compost, next put in the plant and firm in with more compost with your fists or heel up to the original soil level.

Potting grit

John Innes No. 3

Now give it a good soak and make sure it doesn’t dry out. You can top dress the pot with more horticultural grit if you wish… this will reduce water loss through evaporation and also suppress the weeds!

And here you have it!

3 for the price of 1!