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Banana shrub sports thick, glossy dark green leaves (similar to those of magnolia) and flower buds cupped by six petals each that bloom from spring to summer. Its common name refers to the intense bananalike fragrance of those creamy yellow blossoms. This broadleaf evergreen, which has multiple stems and a rounded habit, grows 6 to 10 feet tall and wide if left unpruned. But don’t worry; it tolerates pruning well and is easily maintained at 4 to 5 feet tall.
When planted near a home foundation, banana shrub’s evergreen leaves will provide color all year long, and its flowers will deliver a welcome fragrance during blooming season. Plant it as part of a mixed shrub border alongside other easy-to-grow shrubs such as bay laurel and evergreen holly. Not only will this shrub border mask views, it will provide a welcome wildlife habitat.
Note that banana shrub nursery specimens often exhibit sparse branching and limited foliage. They will quickly fill out once they are planted in the landscape.
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Small Space Gardening
If you love magnolias but don't have space for the lofty beauties, banana shrub might be the perfect plant for you. Sporting thick, glossy leaves like magnolia and waxy cup-shape flowers, banana shrub has multiple stems, a rounded habit and grows 10 to 15 feet tall if left unpruned. It tolerates pruning with ease and is easily maintained at 4 to 5 feet tall. Banana shrub is a member of the magnolia family and thrives in similar conditions where magnolia grows.
Plant banana shrub near a home foundation where its evergreen leaves will provide color and interest year-round and its banana-scented, cream-colored flowers will be enjoyed. It is also a great plant for a mixed shrub border where it will grow alongside other shrubs, such a firebush, bay laurel, bottlebrush, and holly. Employ a mixed shrub border as a living screen. Banana shrub along with other easy-to-grow shrubs will not only mask views, but the shrubs are welcome wildlife habitats, providing food and nesting space.
Landscaping With Banana Shrub
Banana shrub thrives in full sun or part shade. Plants grown in the sun will mature to a smaller size and have a more compact habit and their leaves will take on a yellow hue. Plants grown in light shade have medium green foliage and a slightly open, spreading habit.
Banana shrub can be hard to find in the landscape nursery. It might be necessary to visit or call several nurseries to find a plant, but this easy-to-grow shrub is worth the extra effort. Nursery specimens often have open and sparse branching and limited foliage. Plants will quickly fill out once they are planted in the landscape.
Caring For Banana Shrub
Plant banana shrub in moist, well-drained, sandy soil that has been enriched with organic matter such as well-decomposed compost. Good drainage, which lets oxygen more easily reach the root zone, is so important to this shrub. It should be planted so the soil line in its nursery pot is slightly higher than the surrounding soil level. Water banana shrub regularly after planting. After it is established, it tolerates drought with ease.
Banana shrub is occasionally troubled by oleander scale. Treat any scale infestation with a horticultural oil spray. Reapply the spray as necessary following label directions.
New Types of Banana Shrub
Most banana shrubs in the nursery have cream color flowers. This is an excellent plant but there is one cultivar that offers a unique flower. 'Port Wine' banana shrub has rose to maroon flowers—the flowers fade to cream as they age but the young maroon blossoms are striking.