Imagine walking out of your door on a warm late spring day to be greeted by the scent of ripe bananas – not on a tropical island, but right in the US mainland. This treat can be yours if you have a banana shrub growing in your yard.
Banana shrubs are members of the magnolia family, introduced to the US from China in the late 1700’s. They are woody evergreens which grow rather slowly in sun or light shade. The flowers are small and light yellow – a fraction the size of their relative, the southern magnolia. Some are grown as container plants – mine isn’t a shrub – it is an actual tree, 15, probably 20 feet high.
The scent isn’t very noticeable on cool mornings but as the day warms the sweet scent of bananas infuses the entire area. A few flowers can scent an entire room. Plants can be started from cuttings or their bright red seeds, although I don’t personally know anyone who has had success with either method. I may have to give it a try this year.
The trees are relatively pest free, but for some reason woodpeckers are highly attracted to mine and have girdled the trunks from top to bottom with evenly spaced holes. It doesn’t seem to harm the tree in any way and does make the trunks rather interesting.
Banana shrubs may be considered an ‘old-fashioned’ garden plant but they are worthy of garden space to grow.