Too tight bananna leaves
April 3, 2011 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Green thumb-ish indoor banana tree question (with pic). Quickie.

I've had this banana tree plant for over ten years now. Just re-potted it last year, and it's getting bigger and bigger. Which is lovely. Only problem is that now most of the new growth leaves don't 'unfurl' all the way into a fully exposed leaf. They start to open, but then begin ripping away from the end of the leaf, leaving just these ugly, sharp, tightly coiled points exposed. See pic here showing one of the unfurled leaves. Any ideas or suggestions to remedy?
posted by zenpop to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That's not a banana plant, that's a Strelitzia nicolai, more commonly known as a Giant Bird of Paradise or White Bird of Paradise. I have a few growing outside that are ~25' tall and when their new growth fails to improperly unfurl, it's a sign they aren't getting enough water and/or light (on my outdoor ones, it's the bottom shaded leaves that can develop this problem). It's possible that yours could use a repotting if there's not enough soil in the container to hold enough water to fuel the plant during its explosive growth but the tricky part for you is yours is in a container and Strelitzia really dislike sitting in waterlogged soil.

S. nicolai can tolerate living indoors but really need to be outdoors to thrive. Like you, I had one indoors near a window in a pot for a decade, it got about 6' tall and rarely had more than a half dozen leaves. One day, I planted it outside along a southfacing wall and within a year it had grown to 15' and had so many giant leaves that I was hacking them back with a machete to see out my kitchen window.

FWIW, the new leaves pretty much always get tattered by the wind by their second year when they are grown outdoors. On the plus side, when grown outdoors, they develop massive flowers the size of your head.
posted by jamaro at 4:22 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks jamaro. In all the years I've had this (indoors) it's never once bloomed. Would love to see a flower the size of my head. But plan on keeping it inside, so don't think I ever will.

I'm in Seattle, so not the warmest climate. BUT it's warm indoors, and this plant has always been indoors.

That's what I intuited too, about not enough water. As I have an almost entirely glass house (and clerestory) I don't think light is the problem. I'll try more frequent watering.
posted by zenpop at 5:54 PM on April 3, 2011

Oh yeah, Seattle. That's not going to work for a tropical plant being outdoors year round at all.

I notice your leaf edges are brown: that's a response to low humidity. When mine was still small enough to be manageable, I used to drag it into the shower several times a year to give it a good rinse down as well as frequent misting and sponging down the leaves (with a used only for this purpose kitchen sponge).

Assuming the soil is always kept moist (not waterlogged) you can fertilize it with a tablespoon of blood meal (available in the plant section of any hardware store) sprinkled over the surface of its soil and dug in an inch or so to help fuel foilage growth.
posted by jamaro at 6:03 PM on April 3, 2011

Two 'thumbs' up! Thanks Jamaro. Will do.
posted by zenpop at 10:21 PM on April 3, 2011

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