Red Abyssinian Banana
Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’
En-SET-ee (ay) ven-tre-KO-sum
Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman is the correct and accepted scientific name for this plant. It was documented as such by Ernest Entwistle Cheesman in the Kew Bulletin in 1947. It was first described as Musa ventricosa Welw. by Friedrich Martin Josef Welwitsch in Apontamentos Phytogeographicos in 1859.
I always wanted a Red Abyssinian Banana so I FINALLY bought one from Wellspring Gardens in the spring of 2012. The one I bought was a very small starter plant… Later that spring I went to the Pleasant Acres Nursery in Leland, Mississippi and she had several MUCH larger plants.
TYPE: Herbaceous perennial
ZONES: USDA Zones 10-11
SIZE: 8-10’ tall x 6-8’ wide in temperate regions. This species normally grows 18-20 feet in tropical climates.
LIGHT: Full sun
FRUIT: Takes 3-5 years but the fruit is inedible
Before I bought my Red Abyssinian Banana I already knew where I wanted it. I wanted this banana in the middle of the Colocasia esculenta in the west bed… Well, that would have been great except for the fact I bought it as a starter plant which was very small. The Colocasia soon towered above the banana and I wanted the opposite.
Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ makes a beautiful specimen with it’s HUGE olive-green and maroon leaves. They can be grown in the ground or in pots (although it has been my experience they don’t grow as fast in pots).
If you don’t live in zones 10-11, you can bring them inside for the winter. You can keep them in a bright sunny room and reduce feed and water. The other option for overwintering is to force them into dormancy. To do this, allow them to get zapped by the first frost, cut their leaves back to 6-8” and store them in a cool dark corner of your basement. Water the soil from time to time to keep it from totally drying out. IF your plant has not been in a pot OR if it is too large, you can remove it from the container, or dig it up out of the ground BEFORE the first frost. wrap the roots in plastic and store it in a cool dark place in your basement until spring. You can either leave the leaves on the plant to brown naturally or trim them off.
One other thing you need to know is that after the Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ flowers and sets fruit, the pseudostem will die… It usually takes 3-5 years for them to flower, though, and plants cut back to the ground every fall may never flower.
Also, it is said that this cultivar is more difficult to transplant than the species and it is not recommended to plant them in the ground then put them in pots to overwinter… I did and it did OK.
As cooler temps started I dug this plant up and took it to the east sunroom with the part of the potted plants. If the temps warmed up I moved them out to the front porch.
I gave this plant to a very good friend when I moved from Mississippi in February 2013.
If you have any questions or comments about the Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ I would love to hear them.