Choose a sheltered site, with the site sloping away slightly from the plant to avoid creating a frost pocket. Shelter from the wind is also essential to prevent leaves being shredded.
Plant in late spring, in a well-drained soil, enriched with organic matter (such as garden compost). Once plants are established, water and feed generously to get the best foliage.
Hardier species, such as Musa basjoo, can be left in situ over winter, and it is generally recommended to wrap plants to protect from cold weather. Although this is something you can experiment with in your garden. See our advice in overwintering tender plants: wrapping for further information, and step-by-step instructions on wrapping a banana.
Growing in containers (for outdoors or conservatories)
Smaller banana species make ideal container plants, which can be placed outdoors for the summer and brought indoors over winter. Grow in a loam-based compost, such as John Innes No. 3 with extra grit (30 percent by volume).
Container-grown plants need ample watering during spring and summer months. Feed at weekly intervals during the spring and summer with a general-purpose liquid feed, or mix a controlled-release fertiliser into compost when potting.
In autumn, reduce watering and feeding, watering only when on the dry side in winter.
Tender plants should be brought in when temperatures fall below 14ºC (57ºF) and overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory.
Pot on in spring once a year, or every other year. Size and vigour increases with size of container. Increase pot size by 5-7.5cm (2-3in) initially. Once established in 30cm (10in) pots, increase size by 10-15cm (4-6 inches) every two to three years.
Garden plants are usually grown for their ornamental foliage. Some, however, have ornamental flowers and (mostly inedible) fruits. In a conservatory or greenhouse, Musa lasiocarpa, M. ornata, M. veluntina, M. acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’, ‘Orinoco’ and ‘Rajapuri’, are likely to flower and may fruit once established. They may also successfully flower outdoors in favoured locations.
Bananas need a long and sunny growing period of some nine to 15 months, with temperatures above 15°C (60ºF) to fruit, with an optimum temperature of 27°C (81ºF), followed by a further two to four months for the fruit to ripen. Feeding with a high-potassium fertiliser may help.