Ensete – The Dramatic Tropical

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me what “that” plant was… I’d be almost rich!  “That” plant is Ensete.  It’s dramatic and so much more.

Ensete is frequently called a banana plant because it looks like a banana plant.  The real name for the redish variety we are coming to love is Ensete Ventricosum Maurelii.  In Michigan, these plants grow and grow and grow.  In a single summer, ensete can grow over 5 ft tall.  They do best in an area that is somewhat protected from wind and has access to moisture.  If they’re in a windy spot, the huge leaves can get a little frayed on the edges.

Try planting an ensete around your mailbox and count how many people ask you about it.  It’s dramatic and a good conversation starter.  It can tolerate a lot of sun with enough water and shade is ok too.  You can put it in a large container on your deck or in the ground.  Just make sure you plant it deep enough to support the future height.

When summer ends, you’ll need to decide if you want to keep your ensete over the winter or let it go.  Ensete just won’t tolerate cold nights so don’t wait too long to decide.  If you have a place inside that’s large enough to keep it growing, you can dig up the plant and put it in a large pot inside for the winter.  It might struggle a little and it does need a sunny location, but it very well might survive until next summer.  If you don’t have a large space inside, you can try putting it in the garage.  To do this, cut back the leaves all the way so just 12″ or so of the stem is there.  Dig the plant up and put it in the garage where it won’t freeze.  You might want to water it once a month if the soil is drying.  When spring comes, start bringing it outside during the day but don’t let it stay out when temperatures fall below 45 degrees.  You should start seeing new growth after a week or two.  If not, don’t get too upset.  This plant is really a tropical that would prefer to winter in Florida like many of us would also.

If a neighbor plants one, a great joke would be to buy a bunch of bananas and attach them to the plant while they are not home.  🙂

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