Musa 'Orinoco'
Common Name: banana
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Musaceae
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 10.00 to 16.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 16.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Pink to cream
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy, Edible


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10 (Zone 7 with protection) where it is best grown in organically rich, fertile, consistently moist but not wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Fertilize plants regularly during the growing season. Best growth occurs in full sun, but plants tolerate and sometimes appreciate part shade or light filtered sun in the heat of the day. Site in locations protected from strong winds. Bananas are typically grown from suckers (pups) that are planted outdoors or in containers.

Bananas are monocarpic (each trunk-like pseudostem sets fruit only one time and then dies), with the plant surviving from year to year by the suckers (known as pups) which develop at the base. It is best to allow 2-3 suckers to develop around the pseudostem each year. When the main pseudostem produces fruit and dies, the largest of the suckers develops into a replacement pseudostem.

Banana culture is relatively simple in frost free winter climates. In colder winter climates, the culture becomes more complicated, particularly if harvesting fruit is a goal as opposed to growing the plants for ornamental purposes only. Banana plant growth stops when temperatures consistently dip below 50 degrees F. Fall frost will kill the leaves. Trim leaves back to the pseudostem after the first fall frost. It is important to keep the pseudostem as tall and protected as possible over winter to promote good fruit for the following year. It is less important to retain tall pseudostems in winter if fruiting is not a primary concern. If the pseudostem is cut back significantly or dies to the ground, the plant may survive winter but no fruit will appear the following year.

Regardless of climate, bananas can always be grown in containers as tender perennials which must be overwintered indoors where winter temperatures dip below freezing.

In USDA Zones 9-10, ‘Oronoco’ is basically evergreen and may be grown outdoors year round without employing significant winter protective measures.

In USDA Zones 8 and 7, ‘Orinoco’ will usually survive winter outdoors if given adequate winter protection (burlap or frost cloth on pseudostems, thick root mulch and surround the pseudostems with fencing filled with leaves to 3-4’ tall). Pseudostems containing unripened fruit may be cut before the first fall frost and brought inside for placement in a bucket of water until the fruit ripens.

North of USDA Zone 7, which includes the St. Louis area, ‘Orinoco’ will not survive winter outdoors. Plants must be brought indoors in containers as houseplants or forced into dormancy and stored in a cool but frost free area over winter. It should be noted that fruit production is rarely obtained when overwintering plants indoors. For plants growing in the ground, dig up the entire plant at the time of first fall frost, trim back the foliage and stems, wrap the roots in plastic and store plants in a cool, dark, frost-free corner of the basement until spring. For container plants, options include (a) bring container indoors in fall before first frost and place container in a large sunny room for overwintering as a houseplant with reduced water and fertilization; (b) if plant is too large to bring indoors as a houseplant, cut foliage back in fall after first frost, and store the container in a cool, dark, frost-free corner of the basement until spring providing just a touch of moisture as needed in winter to prevent the soils from totally drying out; or (c) if container is too heavy to move indoors, remove plant from the container and store in a dark corner of the basement in the same manner as if the plant were growing directly in the ground.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Musa is a genus of 40 species of evergreen, suckering, herbaceous perennial plants from Northeast India and Bangladesh and from Southeast Asia to Japan and North Australia. Species, hybrids and cultivars are grown for their edible fruits as well as their showy, tropical foliage.

Genus name honors Antonia Musa, Roman physician of the 1st century B.C.

‘Orinoco’ typically grows to 10-16’ (infrequently to 20’) tall. It is noted for having good winter hardiness to Zone 7 and is often cultivated in warm winter climates for its tasty fruit (bananas). It is commonly grown outdoors in southern Florida and along the Gulf coast. It is named for the Orinoco River Valley in Venezuela. Green fruit (8-10” long) appears in clusters. Fruit can ripen on the plant, be brought inside to ripen or be picked green and fried or boiled. This cultivar was introduced into Southern Florida in 1610.

Gardeners in warm winter climates often grow these plants for their edible fruit, but in colder climates they are usually grown for ornamental purposes since fruit usually will not form. The foliage lends an exotic and tropical aura to the landscape.

Plants produce huge paddle-shaped leaves that grow to 2' wide and to 6’ long. Leaf sheathes overlap to form a trunk-like pseudostem (false stem). Pink flowers may appear in summer on mature plants followed by green fruit. Container plants cut close to the ground in fall each year may never flower. It takes four months for fruit to ripen, which means that in cold winter climates it is unlikely any fruit which does begin to develop will ripen prior to first fall frost.

Fruit-bearing pseudostems will die after fruit appears, so it is best to cut the pseudostems containing unripe fruit prior to first fall frost and bring them indoors in a bucket of water for ripening.


No serious insect or disease problems. Grasshoppers, borers and root nematodes may attack outdoor plants. Susceptible to anthracnose, wilt and mosiac virus. Watch for aphids, spider mites, mealybugs and scale on houseplants.

Garden Uses

Whether grown outdoors in the landscape or indoors as a houseplant, bananas need lots of space. They not only provide excellent edible fruit but are classic foliage plants. Can be effective as a garden centerpiece or for tropical flair near patios or bodies of water.