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A Guide to Cold Hardy Banana Trees

If you live in a state with a cooler climate, but still want to create a tropical oasis in you backyard, consider planting a cold hardy banana tree. Keep reading to learn how to grow and maintain this tree.

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 02/11/2024

A cold hardy banana tree, also known as a Musa Basjoo banana tree, can grow in freezing temperatures all across the United States and gives off a tropical vibe, despite not producing any fruit. Keep reading to learn how to grow a cold hardy banana tree and where to buy one.

Cold Hardy Banana Tree Overview

RegionCan be grown in all 50 states

Hardiness zone


Growing season



Cold weather


Root rot, wind

What Does a Cold Hardy Banana Tree Look Like?

The cold hardy banana tree produces green leaves and small, light yellow flowers. Inedible bananas grow out of these flowers, starting off bright green and turning yellow when the banana ripens. Unfortunately, the bananas aren’t edible, as the inside is bitter and dry.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind when caring for your tropical plant.

Cold hardy banana plants grow best in direct sunlight, so consider planting your tree in the center of your yard away from other plants with foliage that creates shade, in a pot on an uncovered patio, or inside next to a large window.

These trees like highly fertile and well-drained soil and prefer a moderately acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

Cold hardy banana trees should be fertilized once every two to four weeks in the summer. You can use an organic fertilizer or a water soluble fertilizer with an 8-10-10 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Banana trees require a deep watering that reaches the root system three to four times a week, especially during the summer months when it’s actively growing. If you don’t water regularly, the plant will dry out, stunting its growth.

The cold hardy banana tree can be grown in hardiness zones 4–11 all across the US. However, if you live in colder parts of Alaska, the North, or the Midwest, you may have less success with keeping your tree alive for more than a few years.

How to Plant a Cold Hardy Banana Tree

When you purchase a cold hardy banana tree, you will be given a rhizome—a mass of roots with a starter plant, also known as a sucker, growing out of it. Cold hardy banana trees can be planted in your yard, in a pot on your patio, or in a large pot inside your home next to a window.

  1. Plant the sucker in a hole that’s three feet wide and two feet deep.
  2. Fill the hole with soil that’s half original dirt and half amended soil from well-rotted compost or aged manure.
  3. Deeply water the sucker and place a layer of mulch around the rhizome in a two- to three-inch layer.

Read more: How to Properly Mulch Around a Tree

As the tree grows, a pseudostem will grow out of the rhizome. The true stem will grow out of the center of the pseudostem and bloom yellow flowers that turn into bananas when fertilized. This entire process should take about nine months. Like other banana trees, a cold hardy banana tree will last about six years.

Tolerance and Susceptibility

Because bananas aren’t native to the United States, some diseases that afflict tropical bananas in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America won’t cause damage to the ones here. The one major disease American bananas are susceptible to is root rot, which is when cold, wet soil causes the rhizome to rot away.

On top of disease susceptibility, the cold hardy banana tree is also susceptible to damage from strong winds. However, the plant does have a tolerance to cold temperatures, which allows them to grow in colder states.

Wildlife Threats

Since cold hardy bananas aren’t edible, you don’t have to worry about animals or insects attacking the fruit. However, common insects like aphids and moths may attack the leaves. You can prevent aphids and moths by spraying a regular or non-toxic insecticide.

Final Thoughts

Because the bananas from the cold hardy banana tree aren’t edible, this tree may be best for gardeners in colder states who want to create a tropical aesthetic without having to worry about insects or pests attacking the tree’s fruits. If you live in a warm to moderate climate and want a tropical feel and edible fruit, we recommend purchasing the ice cream banana tree instead.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cold Hardy Banana Trees

How much cold can a banana tree tolerate?

There are several species of bananas beside the cold hardy banana that can tolerate cold weather, like the Chinese yellow banana and Sikkim banana. However, the cold hardy banana is the hardiest banana and can withstand temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Should you cut dead leaves off banana trees?

Yes. Cutting off dead leaves can help stimulate growth. You can clear your tree of dead leaves by finding ones that are brown in color and cutting them off where the stem means the stalk.

What happens to the cold hardy banana tree during the winter?

A cold hardy banana tree that is planted outside will go dormant during the winter when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When that happens, cut the stem to 24 inches tall and loosely cover it with thick plastic or burlap. Mulch the root area to help regulate the temperature and provide a steady stream of nutrients. Unwrap the tree once temperatures are above 40 degrees.

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