Growing Banana Shrub in Zone 6A

dave11October 4, 2011

I used to live in FLA, and had a Banana Shrub (Magnolia figo) that I loved. I believe it normally is a zone 8 plant. Several folks in my area have had good luck growing Zone 7 and Zone 8 plants in their yards, so I got the crazy idea to try growing Magnolia figo in my zone 6 yard, to see if it will survive.

It normally is evergreen, and I assume it will lose its leaves here. I plan to protect it every winter, but I was wondering if this idea really is completely crazy. Am I wasting a plant, or is there any reason to think this plant will survive somehow here in zone 6?

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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

The odds are against you, but if you're willing to go to a good deal of extra trouble, why not give it a try. If you have a south or west facing wall - ideally a masonry one - that will absorb heat during the day and release it at night, that would be an ideal site. Further protection involving microfoam, white reflective poly sheeting and a structure to support it would probably be necessary. Deep mulching around the roots would also be essential. One possible way to do the latter is to use 2" think foam insulation at least 4x4 feet weighted down on the ground. This should prevent freezing of the soil.

The trouble is that even if the plant survives, it may die back to the ground each year and never reach maturity so that it blooms. You might be happier trying it as a containe plant.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 5:09AM
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dave11

Thanks for the encouragement. I think I'll try both an outdoor plant and an indoor, though I've had much better success in the past with my outdoor plants. I really have no windows that get much sun.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 8:06AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i have a friend.. who does banana where he isnt supposed to do it ...

i believe he drags them into the walkout basement in fall ...

you are suggesting 2 zone leap .. odds are very low ... in my estimate ...

ken

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 8:07AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

btw .. zone 6 is very variable ...

are you in ground freeze z6 .. that may be the key

ken

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 8:08AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Too cold.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 11:09AM
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dave11

I'm in western PA near Pittsburgh,about the same weather as Columbus Ohio or Indianapolis Indiana. Not sure what "Ground freeze zone 6" means. The ground does freeze and heave here though, in the middle of winter. But doesn't it everywhere in zone 6A?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 7:10PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

not necessarily ... zone is based ONLY only low temp ...

in theory.. it can hit that temp for only a few days ... so it doesnt necessarily follow that the ground would have to freeze ...

regardless .. most tropical plants.. roots.. can not stand the freeze of the soil ... it just rots them ... so it wouldnt matter how much above-ground protection you add ...

ken

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 9:38AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

They rot because they froze and died. It only takes a few hours below a plant's minimum temperature for it to freeze. The particular problem with the freezing of the soil in the north is that it penetrates deeply, gets to all the roots.

Banana shrub is marginal in Zone 8. Zone 6, no way. Grow it as a tub specimen that is overwintered under cover.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 11:59AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I had not come across this shrub, Michelia figo, so I looked it up. It is described by UK nurseries as half-hardy and possibly hardy in mild areas in the British Isles. So it seems pretty doubtful that it would hang on in z.6.

Here is a link that might be useful: Michelia figo

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 12:34PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

There's at least one good sized one here in the Knoxville area (officially zone 6b). It's over at the University of Tennessee and has been there as long as I remember. It has no extra protection except it's a few hundred feet from a river. The actually hardiness zone of Knoxville is now probably around 7b, but your effective hardiness zone may be different than what you've seen also (I don't know what FLA stands for).

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 8:12PM
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jay_7bsc(8a)

Dear bboy,
In the Southeastern US, banana shrub is hardy in Zone 7B. Perhaps Zone 8 is chillier there in the Pacific Northwest?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 9:55AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I suspect this is the same as the claims that used to be repeated here that Loropetalum was hardy in Zone 7 in the southeast. When I finally got somebody to get down to brass tacks they said that it was Zone 7 because it sometimes got down to 10 degrees F.

That is a Zone 8 kind of cold.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 12:11PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Loropetalums aren't that unusual around here either. Our average annual minimum, in recent years, is around 8 degrees F, and in cold years we get down close to zero. The Magnolia figo I mentioned earlier has probably been around since our annual minimums averaged quite a bit lower than they do now.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 9:36PM
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