What is a Banana Shrub?
When the term “banana shrub” is mentioned, it’s natural to immediately think of the more familiar banana plant (Musa acuminata) and wonder how such a massive plant could thrive as a houseplant. However, the banana shrub discussed in this article is not related to banana trees but is a member of the over 200-strong flowering Magnolia family.
The moderate-sized banana shrub is well-regarded by gardeners and plant enthusiasts as a sublime indoor houseplant specimen. With many admirable qualities, it might be the perfect fit if you’re looking for a unique and easy-to-care-for houseplant. This guide details the best variants for indoor use, how to grow and care for it, and how to incorporate this delightful, sweet-smelling plant into your home.
Banana Shrub Variety for Indoor Use as a Houseplant
Banana shrubs offer a wide range of cultivars, each with distinguishing features that set it apart. These distinct features include differences in shrub size, flower color, and hardiness zone.
Among the notable cultivars is the popular “Port Wine or Purple Queen.” This particular variety is renowned for its captivating rose or deep maroon flowers that gradually fade to cream as they age. The ‘Port Wine’ cultivar is relatively compact, barely reaching a height of 6 to 8 feet making them perfect as indoor plants.
How to Grow Banana Shrub Indoors
Banana shrubs are relatively easy to care for and are drought-tolerant once established, and as an evergreen plant, they offer all-year-round lush indoor greenery. Cultivating your banana shrubs from semi-ripe grafts is recommended since the seed has a poor germination rate. After germination, other notable conditions to follow diligently include the following:
Potting and Soil Condition
Banana shrubs houseplants prefer a well-draining potting mix that retains some moisture while allowing excess water to drain away.
They prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range between 5.5 and 7.0. They can be grown in various soil types, but the best potting soil for banana shrubs is a mixture of peat moss, perlite, and sand. This mix provides good aeration and moisture retention while preventing waterlogged conditions.
You can add some compost or manure to the soil to improve drainage and provide nutrients. When planting a banana shrub in a pot, it is advisable to fill the pot with the potting soil mixture and add a layer of gravel or pebbles to the bottom for drainage.
The banana shrub houseplant thrives in optimal light conditions and prefers bright light, but it should be protected from direct sunlight. Place your banana shrub near a window with filtered sunlight, or choose a spot in your home that receives bright, indirect light throughout the day. Plants grown in full sun will have a shorter, compact form, and the leaves will be more yellowish green, while those grown in light shade will have medium green foliage and a slightly open, spreading habit. The crucial thing is to provide your banana shrub with at least six hours of sun daily.
Temperature and Humidity
Banana shrubs being sub-tropical plants thrive in warm and humid conditions, similar to their tropical and subtropical native habitats. They prefer warm temperatures and high humidity that range between 60°F (15°C) and 85°F (29°C) but can tolerate slightly cooler temperatures. However, prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) can cause damage to the plant. It is best to keep banana shrubs in an environment with temperatures above 50°F (10°C) to ensure optimal growth and health.
Humidity is crucial as the plant leaves may wilt or turn brown if the humidity is too low. You can increase the humidity around your banana shrub by placing it in a humid location, such as a bathroom or kitchen, or by grouping it with other plants. You can also regularly mist the plant leaves with water to increase the humidity levels.
Banana shrubs prefer moist soil and should be watered regularly to maintain soil moisture levels, especially if planted in a pot. The watering frequency will depend on various factors such as the climate, temperature, humidity, and the plant’s growth stage.
During hot and dry periods, you may need to increase the watering frequency to compensate for increased evaporation. Conversely, you may need to reduce the watering frequency in cooler seasons to avoid overwatering and soggy conditions. Applying a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, around the base of the plant can help retain moisture in the soil and reduce evaporation.
You can successfully grow banana shrubs indoors and enjoy the benefit listed below by providing the right light, temperature, humidity, watering, and care.
Benefits of Having Banana Shrubs as Houseplants
Banana shrubs are exceptional houseplant species with many top-notch qualities that make them an ideal choice for indoor cultivation. As evergreen non-invasive subtropical plants, they bring a touch of the tropics to any indoor space, adding a vibrant and exotic flair even when young. With their lush, deeply-hued leaves and bright flowers, they can transform even the darkest corners of your home into a lush, green space.
The distinct appearance of the deep green leaves against the creamy hue of the flowers creates a captivating and eye-catching contrast, adding visual interest and liveliness to any room. The beauty of banana shrubs is not only in their looks but also in their ease of care compared to other brightly colored indoor plants (we see you, Orchids and Peace Lilies). They are relatively low maintenance, requiring minimal effort to thrive indoors, and as long as they are provided with sufficient light and water, they can flourish effortlessly.
The major cultivars of banana shrubs are also known for their compact size, making them a perfect fit for indoor cultivation, especially in homes and apartments with limited space.
Despite their smaller stature, banana shrubs tend to make a big impact with their stunning and fragrant blooms. The sweet-smelling flowers act as natural air fresheners, filling your indoor space with a delightful aroma and eliminating the need for artificial air fresheners.
Care and Maintenance Tips for Banana Shrubs Indoors
The Banana shrub is a relatively problem-free and low-maintenance household plant, which is one of its endearing qualities, but it still requires regular care and can still be affected by pests and diseases. Like most Magnolias, the species does not enjoy frost and should be protected from cold winter winds or grown in sheltered locations.
Banana shrubs are susceptible to root rot if continually exposed to soggy soil due to overwatering, so monitor the soil’s moisture levels regularly. Observe the plant for signs of overwatering (wilting, yellowing leaves) or under-watering (drooping, dry soil), and adjust your watering routine accordingly to maintain optimal soil moisture levels. As a general guideline, water the banana shrubs when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels slightly dry to the touch. This typically translates to watering once or twice a week, but adjust the frequency based on your plant’s specific conditions and needs.
Some cultivators have documented infestations of a pest known as the false oleander scale (Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli). Affected plants are identified by yellow spots on the upper leaf surfaces, and severe infestations can lead to the premature shedding of leaves and unhealthy-looking plants. The timely and constant spray of horticultural oils, except on hot days to avoid damaging the leaves, is recommended to treat this condition.
Also, proper and regular pruning is essential to maintain the shape, size, and overall health of your banana shrub plant. Failure to prune can result in leggy growth, reduced flowering, and an unkempt appearance which runs the idea of a decorative houseplant. Regularly trim back any dead, damaged, or overcrowded branches, and pinch back the tips of the plant to encourage better branching and fuller foliage.
The banana shrub exhibits a suckering growth habit by producing new shoots at ground level, and it is necessary to eliminate these shoots regularly to maintain the plant’s aesthetic appeal. It is ideal to prune your banana shrub after the flowering season to encourage new growth and maintain a compact shape.
How to Use Banana Shrub in Interior Design
Decorating with plants has become popular as people seek to reconnect with nature and bring its soul-nourishing benefits into their homes. The principal idea behind decorative plants like banana shrubs is to create an aesthetically pleasing indoor space that provides numerous benefits for its residents’ physical and mental health.
Banana shrubs naturally fit into any tropical or exotic design style with their glossy leaves and fragrant flowers. They can be made the general focal point in any room by being placed in a prominent location, such as a corner of the living room, near a staircase, or in a hallway. The plant’s glossy deep green leaves and occasional flowers will naturally draw the attention of residents and visitors.
Banana Shrubs are known for their delightful fragrance, and to fully enjoy the fragrant blooms of banana shrubs, consider placing them near outdoor seating areas, windows, or pathways where their scent can be readily appreciated. Placing them in areas where you frequently spend time will allow you to savor their enticing fragrance as you relax or move around your home.
The banana shrub is a versatile plant that combines the rare combination of attractive foliage with fragrant, banana-scented flowers. It is a relatively easy-to-maintain houseplant and can be used as a standalone specimen shrub or included in mixed borders with other ornamental flowers to add beauty and fragrance to your indoor space.
Banana shrubs, as a nonnative plant specimen, may be difficult to find in some areas, so prospective homeowners may need to call around to multiple nurseries. But if you want to add an optimal visual plant as a houseplant, a banana shrub is definitely a top choice. Even young banana shrubs generally flower well and can be grown as container plants for many years with proper care.
Banana Shrubs – University of Florida
The Spruce.com – Banana Shrub Growing
Elyssa Goins is an experienced house plant hobbyist who maintains over a hundred plants. She is a gardener, beekeeper, and a proud mother of four. She is a member of the American Horticultural Society, has a published study in the National Social Science Association, and loves to talk about her love of plants. For the past twenty years, she’s been all about growing and caring for various fruits, veggies, herbs, livestock, kids, and houseplants. Managing a big garden to feed four growing kids and raising dairy goats has taught her so much about being an excellent plant parent and now is her time to share with you.