The Beauty of Red Leaf Banana Trees

The world of banana plants is not limited to just fruit-bearing varieties. Among the array of options, there are also stunning ornamental red banana trees, cultivated for their captivating red foliage. These plants add a touch of vibrancy to any garden or landscape. In this article, we explore the wonders of these unique plants and how to cultivate them.

What Defines a Red Banana Tree?

The ornamental red banana trees belong to either the Ensete or Musa genera. Ensete, also known as enset, is not only an ornamental plant enjoyed in landscapes worldwide but also an essential food crop in Ethiopia. While the bananas produced by enset plants are not edible, they offer sustenance in the form of starchy corms and stem bases. In Ethiopia, the corms and lower stems are harvested and processed into bread or porridge by local farmers.

Similar to the more common banana plants of the Musa genus, the red and green leaved banana species appear as tree-sized plants but are, in fact, giant herbaceous plants. Their trunks consist of non-woody “pseudostems” made up of tightly bundled leaf stalks (petioles). Traditionally, fibers extracted from the pseudostems are used for making mats and ropes in Ethiopia.

One of the favored varieties of ornamental red banana plants is Ensete ventricosum, known as “Maurelii.” This variety features striking red foliage and grows to an impressive height of 12 to 15 feet (4-5 m.) with a width of 8 to 10 feet (2-3 m.). It makes for a perfect centerpiece in a tropical garden or courtyard. Another name for this captivating plant is Red Abyssinian banana (Ensete maurelii), which shares the same beautiful burgundy-red hue.

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Additional red-leaved ornamental banana varieties include Musa acuminata “Zebrina,” “Rojo,” and “Siam Ruby.” These varieties thrive in highly humid regions, such as many parts of Florida.

It’s worth noting that growing ornamental bananas in large pots is also possible. If you live in cooler climates, you can bring the pots outdoors during the summer and indoors during the winter. Remember to ensure that you have enough space for the plant before embarking on this endeavor.

Cultivating Red Banana Trees

Ensete plants thrive in relatively dry climates, similar to their native habitat in the east African highlands. They cannot tolerate frost and usually dislike high humidity, although some gardeners have managed to cultivate them successfully in humid areas.

Compared to Musa banana trees, Ensete trees grow at a slower pace and have lifespans ranging from three to ten years or more. With patience, you may be fortunate enough to witness your tree flower. However, it’s important to note that each plant only flowers once, at full maturity, and then completes its life cycle.

To ensure proper care for your red banana plant, choose a well-drained site with rich soil containing an abundance of organic matter. The tree requires partial or full sun exposure. Water the plant weekly and increase the frequency during the hottest parts of summer, especially in the first season after planting. Well-established plants can tolerate drought, but they won’t showcase their best appearance without adequate water. Fertilize the tree in early spring using compost or a balanced fertilizer.

Red Leaf Banana Tree

Conclusively, the allure of red leaf banana trees lies in their captivating foliage, imbuing any landscape with a touch of striking color. Whether you choose the Ensete or Musa variety, these ornamental plants are sure to leave a lasting impression. So, why not embrace the beauty they offer and create an enchanting haven in your own garden?

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To explore more about red leaf banana trees, visit the Ames Farm Center.