Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'
Common Name: red banana
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Musaceae
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. In St. Louis, plants may be grown outdoors during the growing season (either directly in the ground or in containers), but must be brought indoors for overwintering or they will not survive. Plants are best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Plants tolerate and often appreciate some part shade or light filtered sun in the heat of the day. Plants need consistently moist soils that do not dry out. Fertilize plants regularly during growing season. Site plants in areas protected from strong winds which can severely damage the large leaves. For containers, use a well-drained potting soil mix. Keep container soils consistently moist but not wet. In St. Louis, outdoor plants must be overwintered indoors, either in a sunroom/greenhouse or by forcing plants into dormancy. Options for overwintering include: (1) Bring container plant indoors in fall before first frost and place container in a large sunny room for overwintering as a houseplant, with reduced water and fertilization; (2) If container plant is too large to bring inside as a houseplant, cut foliage back to 6-8” in fall after first frost, and store container in a cool, dark, frost-free corner of the basement until spring, with periodic addition of a touch of moisture as needed in winter to prevent the soils from totally drying out; (3) If container plant is too heavy or too large to bring inside, remove plant from container in fall before first frost, wrap roots in plastic and store in a cool, dark, frost-free corner of the basement until spring (foliage may be trimmed back or left on the plant and allowed to brown up in the normal course); (4) If growing plants directly in the ground, dig, wrap roots, trim back the leaves and store as in option #3 above. After flowering and fruiting, the pseudostem dies. Propagate by seed or tissue culture.

‘Maurelii’ is reportedly more difficult to transplant than species’ plants, and therefore it is not recommended for growing directly in the ground with dig up in fall.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ensete ventricosum, commonly called Abyssinian banana or wild banana, is a huge, banana-like, evergreen perennial that is very similar to plants in the genus Musa where it once resided as Musa ensete. As distinguished from Musa, this plant has a stronger leaf midrib and generally does not produce suckers. It is a fast-growing, evergreen perennial that typically grows to 12-20’ tall, but may reach 30-40’ tall in its native tropical habitat. Huge paddle-shaped leaves (to 10-20’+ long and 2-4’ wide) are bright olive green with prominent midribs. Sheathing leafstalks form a trunk-like structure. White flowers (generally non-showy) in inflorescences appear somewhat hidden in summer on mature plants. Younger plants often will not flower and fruit for the first 3-5 years. Container plants cut close to the ground in fall each year may never flower. Banana-like fruits (to 3” long) are dry and inedible. Gardeners in St. Louis primarily grow these plants not for their fruit but for their ornamental foliage that lends an exotic and tropical aura to the home and/or landscape.

Genus name is from the Amharic name anset.

Specific epithet means having a swelling one one side or pot-bellied.

‘Maurelii’, sometimes commonly called red Abyssinian banana, is a cultivar that is primarily distinguished from the species by its foliage that emerges with maroon-red tints and reddish leaf axils. In addition, it has a smaller growth habit, typically rising to 18-20’ tall in tropical areas but to only 8-10’ tall in temperate regions.


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for aphids, spider mites, mealybugs and scale. Susceptible to anthracnose, wilt and mosiac virus.

Garden Uses

This plant needs lots of space and lots of attention. It also needs a protected site. It is a classic tropical foliage plant that becomes a striking specimen in the landscape.