Q: I have a question about my banana tree. In reference to your AGarden Workshop piece two weeks ago, what do I do with a banana tree that has bananas on it? Should I cut them off before I move the plant indoors or leave them on for the winter?
A: You shouldn’t cut them off and you shouldn’t move your plant indoors. The reason might not be obvious unless you understand that bananas are (BI)biennial(EI) plants. You probably already know that (BI) annual(EI) plants only live one growing season, dying after they make seeds. On the other hand (BI) perennial(EI) plants live for several years. In between these two extremes lie the biennials: plants that require two years to complete their life cycle. Typically they grow lots of leaves during one warm season, rest during the winter, then bloom and make seeds during the second season. For bananas, this works fine as long as the winter is very mild. The 1998-99 winter wasn=t very cold, so your tree survived and set about making fruit this summer. If they had had enough warm weather you could make banana splits when the fruit ripened. Now that cold weather has arrived, though, your banana fruit won=t have the chance to ripen. Even so, the mother tree will feel that her job is complete and will die, whether you keep it in the basement or not. You have probably noticed the little daughter plants that sprouted up around the base of the mother. They are the ones to nurture this winter and plant next spring.