Go Bananas With the Musa Velutina
The cinnamon scent, exotic leaves and extraordinary colour of the musa velutina transforms any garden into a tropical oasis. It is an exotic type of banana tree which produces mysterious pink fruits instead of the usual yellow bananas we know. The plant is native in Africa but is also strongly represented in the tropical regions of America. Although the actual flesh of the fruit is edible, the numerous large and small seeds are not which makes the consumption virtually impossible. Nevertheless, it is striking just in its appearance and will definitely spice up any garden.
The musa velutina is a relatively low-maintenance type of tree and is easy to handle. The best way to start up is to purchase one large seed from a professional gardener. It is recommended to roughen the seed with sandpaper and keep it in water (room temperature) for about 12 hours before planting it. Special cultivating soil or coconut fibre is essential as these types of soil are particularly permeable. It is crucial to always keep the soil damp after planting the seed which should be fully covered in earth, however not be placed too deep.
To enable the quick development of sprouts, plant the seed into a special breeding container to cultivate it and ensure that the temperature in the pot remains between 25°C- 30°C. If cultivation at these temperatures is not possible, the sprouting process may take up to 10 weeks. The container should also be covered up by a transparent cover such as foil or glass but at the same time avoid mould by taking off the cover once every 3 days and letting a little air get to the soil.
Although the tree is very durable, it cannot survive a winter outdoors with temperatures below 8°C. Those who live in tropical regions may be able to plant the tree in their garden and leave it there all year round- alternatively it can be kept in a pot and moved indoors as the winter kicks in. Bear in mind that heaters and air conditioners can dry it out, and it is crucial to ensure that the tree is always in moist soil and the leaves are regularly sprayed with water. The best place to plant the musa velutina in the garden is a sunny spot that is sheltered from wind as strong breezes may damage the young tree. When transplanting the root system into the garden or a larger pot, ensure that nothing gets damaged because it is very fragile in the first months.
Any extreme weather condition (i.e. extremely hot sun, too windy, too rainy etc) will damage the delicate tree in its early stages and it is best to keep it indoors until the weather has settled. Once the tree is planted and starts growing, it needs a lot of water and a lot of space. Choose a very large pot or a generous location in the garden as the roots will grow strongly and fast. In summer high season, the tree should be watered twice a day and manure or fertilizer is essential between May and September. Avoid over-soaking the tree though as this will result in mould and kill the roots. A fully grown musa velutina tree can get up to 2m high, but it is likely to be only around 1.5m if kept in a pot.
Although it is almost impossible to eat the amazing looking pink bananas, the tree leaves are sometimes used in cooking, for instance as a natural baking wrap instead of using aluminium foil. The leaves and bananas are also great for decoration and are simply beautiful to look at in the garden or as a home plant.