Originally marketed as the much easier to pronounce Musa Hookerii, Musa sikkimensis is still a relatively new plant introduction. This highly ornamental Musa produces foliage with beautiful maroon-red markings, a maroon-red mid-rib and a pale metallic red on the undersides of the leaf. Plants produces a magnificent display of jungle foliage and are a wonderful addition to the exotic garden.
Musa sikkimensis is one of the hardiest bananas and can survive in temperatures down to minus 6°C (21°F). It is proving to be as hardy as the most popular banana species Musa Basjoo, but more attractive and quite spectacular as a large plant. The leaves are a darker glossy-green, with new leaves producing a lovely pink flush to the underside. Some seedlings have markings almost as striking as Musa Zebrina.
Since Musa Basjoo cannot be grown from seed, this hardy alternative grows quickly, and once established can be further propagated from the suckers. Originating from 6,000ft in the Himalayas, which has light snow, it is tolerant to frost at the roots. The plants have good resilience to wind and continue to grow in cool weather (when Musa Basjoo halts), and with careful thought, preparation and planning it can be overwintered in many parts.
Successive leaves, increasing in size, are produced through the summer months, forming a pseudo stem which serves as the plant's trunk. This may be two metres (6ft) tall by the autumn, and if protected from the coldest weather, may reach four metres (12ft) in subsequent years. In the plant's fifth year flower and small inedible but very ornamental fruit may be produced.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Musa sikkimensis has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time of year.
Sow seeds as soon as you are able. If you are not going to sow them, store them in their packaging in a cool, dark, dry place. (Do not refrigerate)
Soak seed for 3 to 4 days in warm water, which has been previously boiled. Change the water each day. This process is important, as gets rid of germination inhibitors.
Fill either large cells or trays with perlite, vermiculite or sterilized compost. Stand the trays in water until the medium is completely moist
Sow the seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep. Spray the seeds with a little copper based fungicide
Bottom heat is helpful, place in a propagator if you have one or in a warm location out of direct sunlight. Do not exclude light as this helps germination. Keep at a constant temperature of 20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F). Check the seeds daily for germination. If mold or fungus appears, remove the seeds and wash them in warm water. Spray them with fungicide and re-sow in a fresh medium in a sterilised pot. Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. Patience is needed as germination is erratic and take from one to twelve months. Do not give up too soon!
When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into 7cm (3in) pots, taking care not to damage the root system. Grow on in well-lit conditions, and pot on, into rich, well drained soil, as required. Water the plant thoroughly and every 1 to 3 days thereafter depending on the season. Do not soak - remember moist soil, not wet, not dry.
Musa do not like wind, or rather you will not like the way they look as the leaves spit in windy locations. The planting site should be chosen for protection from wind and cold weather, if possible, the south or southeast side of the house.
Cold hardy bananas appreciate sun, water and a rich soil to grow well. It does not matter if the plants are planted in a position that is in shade during winter as the plants will be covered up.
The plants will grow in a wide variety of soils, but to thrive, they should be planted in a rich, well-drained soil that is not compacted to avoid waterlogging over the winter. Before planting, test your soil’s ability to drain properly. Dig a post-hole about 60cm (2ft) deep. Fill it with water. If it empties within two hours, the drainage should be ideal.
Once you have chosen a location for your banana plant, you need to prepare the soil well. Make sure the hole is is at least 60cm (2ft) deep, dig plenty of home made compost and composted manure into an area considerably bigger than your new plant's pot. Pop the plant it the soil and water well.
Their rapid growth rate makes bananas plants heavy feeders. During warm weather, apply a balanced fertiliser once a month.
Spread the fertiliser evenly around the plant in a circle extending 120cm (4ft) from the trunk. Feed container banana plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants.
Container grown plants can be moved indoors or to a sheltered spot in the garden. Outdoor plants need protection, either wrap the trunk or cover with blanket if the banana plants are small and low temperatures are predicted. You can also dig up the roots, and store in a dark dry place inside until spring. The foliage can be cut back to 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in). Leaves are damaged at 0°C (32°F) but the plant will grow back from the root (corm).
Musa sikkimensis is one of the highest altitude banana species and is found in Bhutan and India. It is native to the Himalayan foothills of North east India including Darjeeling, Assam, Sikkim and Manipur.
The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. It is botanically classed a herb, not a tree due to the lack stringy tissue (wood) in the stem. The banana itself is considered a fruit because it contains small seeds.
All the above-ground parts of a banana plant grow from a structure usually called a 'corm'. Plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy, and are often mistaken for trees, but what appears to be a trunk is actually a 'false stem' or pseudostem.
Musa is in the family Musaceae. Some 70 species of Musa were recognised by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families as of January 2013. Several produce edible fruit, while others are cultivated as ornamentals.
The genus Musa was created by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). Linnaeus had yet to establish two-word names for organisms so was content with the one-word name Musa for the banana. However, it was the custom, soon to be a rule (of Linnaeus, who loved rules), that names (of genera at least) must derive from Latin or Greek, or be eponyms for naturalists. Linnaeus was well aware that musa came from the Arabic moaz or mauz. for banana and was therefore 'barbaric' (i.e. non-classical). But he liked the name and it did have some 'official' precedence in the works of Cesalpino and others. Cleverly he circumvented this troublesome etymology by 'naming' the banana after Antonius Musa, a botanist and physician to the great Emperor Augustus, thus coining an eponym that was also decidedly Latin.
The species name sikkimensis means 'of or from Sikkim'. Sikkim is a state in East India in the Himalayan foot hills. A landlocked state, it is bordered by Nepal to the west, China's Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and northeast, and Bhutan to the east and the Indian state of West Bengal to the south.
Hailed as one of the world's last utopias by legendary Buddhist guru Padmasambhava, Sikkim is arguably among the loveliest destinations in India. The name comes from the words 'Su' and 'Him' meaning 'beautiful home'.
Pronunced sik-im-EN-sis. It is commonly called the Himalayan, Darjeeling or Sikkim Hardy Banana.
The name banana is thought to be of West African origin, from the Wolof word banan meaning 'finger', and passed into English via Spanish or Portuguese. The bananas that were growing in Africa as well as Southeast Asia were not the eight-to-twelve-inch giants that have become familiar in the supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man's finger.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 8 Seeds Family Musaceae Genus Musa Species sikkimensis Synonym Musa hookeri, Musa sapientum subsp. seminifera form hookeri Common Name Himalayan, Darjeeling or Sikkim Hardy Banana Other Common Names Hardy Banana, Plantain Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 6°C (21°F) Foliage Green glossy leaves 1.5 to 1.8m (5 to 6ft) Height 3.6 to 6m (12 to 20ft) in its native environment. Position Full sun, sheltered Soil Rich and moist but well drained