Bananas are often grown for ornamental purposes in the warmer areas of the southern United States. Bananas are considered one of the most beautiful plants to lend a subtropical ambience to gardens of the region (Sauls, 2005). Bananas have been recognized in other parts of the world for human food (flowers and fruit), beer production, livestock food, shade, roofing thatch, and as eco-friendly cooking wraps and plates (Marangu, 1985). In the southern and coastal districts of Georgia, occasionally, mature fruit is produced after mild winters (mid 20s °F) or normal winters (about 20 °F) if the plants are grown in protected locations with a microclimate. Typically, in the climate of southern Georgia, the pseudostem must survive the winter for fruit production. However, bananas are often killed to near ground level by winter freezes of 13 °F to 19 °F (Robinson, 1996; Stover and Simmonds, 1987), thus fruit production is only an occasional bonus in the home garden. However, flower production in the fall is common and adds to the attractiveness of the plant.
Only limited information is available on the ornamental and cold hardiness characteristics of fruiting bananas. ‘Orinoco’ and ‘Raja Puri’ are reported to be two of the most cold-hardy cultivars in southern Texas (Richardson, 2003). ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ and ‘Williams’ are recommended in southern Florida (Crane et al., 2005). ‘Cavendish’, ‘Lady's Finger’, and ‘Apple’ (‘Manzano’) are recommended for central Florida (Watkins, 2006). ‘Raja Puri’, ‘Mysore’, ‘Praying Hands’, ‘Saba’, and ‘Red Iholene’ have been recommended for Georgia (LeVert, 2005). Nursery propagation using suckers is a popular and practical method of production. These can be cut from the base of the mother plant and sold bare root or potted and sold for $10 to $20 after a short period of establishment.
The objective of this study was to produce recommendations on banana cultivars for gardeners and nurseries in southern Georgia. In this study, we grew plants under replicated and uniform conditions to determine the height, pseudostem diameter, leaf dimensions, plant coloration, and sucker production during the first and second years after planting. A combination of these factors was used to formulate recommended cultivars for trial in home garden and nursery production. Observations on edible fruit production during the first 3 years were also noted.
Fonsah, E.G., Krewer, G. & Rieger, M. 2004 Banana cultivar trial for fruit production, ornamental-landscape use, and ornamental nursery production in south Georgia J. Food Distribution Res. 35 1 86 92
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Richardson, S.A. 2003 Growing bananas! Part 2 of 2 10 Dec. 2005 <http://www.suite101.com/print_article.cfm/3311/101942>.
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Watkins, T. 2006 Growing fruit all year around: Part II: Bananas 17 Nov. 2006 <http://www.gardenguides.com/how-to/tipstechniques/fruitnuts/banana.asp>.