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Musa sikkimensis

Darjeeling Banana

Wow! A rare and little known large banana species, new to cultivation, that sports a massive pseudo-trunk to 4,5m (14ft) tall and 45cm (18in.) in diam., tinged with red, and purple new leaves and leaf-midribs. A percentage of plants even exhibits beautifully dark red mottled leaves. The Darjeeling Banana is very hardy to cold (i.e. in the sense of Musa basjoo) coming, as it does, from montane forests up to 2000m (6000ft) in the Himalayas of NE-India. First trials outdoors in the US, Britain, Germany and Switzerland have shown an excellent resistance to cold and frost. Like all bananas, it is extremely fast growing, given rich soil and an abundance of water. The fruits have a sweetish pulp but are hard and contain a few large seeds. An absolute novelty that shows great promise as an ornamental for the temperate as well as the cooler tropical garden. We think this plant that has more potential than any other cold tolerant Musa in cultivation at the moment.

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germination comments by our visitors
For general germination instructions click here.

Also see plant cultivation comments below.

Seeds from this species ...

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Soaked in warm water for 1 day then planted in cactus mix starter soil and put in a plastic mini-greenhouse on top of a heating mat. Temp was a constant 27c. 3 out of 5 seeds germinated within 4 weeks.
Submitted on 28/03/2012 by Trent Eyring

... are average to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Soaked 100 seeds for 24 hrs and placed in a tray of moist vermiculite and coverd with a sealed plastic bag. placed the whole lot in a propagtor at 30 deg C, removed at night and allowed to go down to around 15 deg C. First 3 seedlings are up after 20 days, potted on and am now waiting for more to germinate.
Submitted on 29/03/2008 by Martin Holland martinholland135@hotmail.com

... are not rated.
Put the seeds in water for two-three days as fast as possible after receiving. Change the water pretty often, at least once a day, but if you can change two or three times, that is better.The seeds are then sowed in a light soil mix, that is, soil added sand, vermiculite or perlite to make it more draining. It should be moist, but not wet. If the soil is very heavy, the seeds may rot easily. The box you're keeping the soil with the seeds, should have some holes to prevent mould and rot.For me, the first seeds germinated after a month, but some of the seeds will use up to three months or more.
Submitted on 29/10/2006 by Gard Nergaard gardclne@hotmail

... are easy to germinate and need up to 3 months to sprout.
Wow! It's almost like growing corn! Just planting them in seed starter mix in a shaded greenhouse they popped up in a little over a month. Temps over 100 degrees F during the day.
Submitted on 31/07/2006 by William Read weread@mac.com

...easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
i planted 100 seeds in seed compost 5.5.06 and 33 came upi put them in a progater in the greenhouseand during the day the tempatere was 30 - 35c and at night the progater was on and the tempatere was 20c
Submitted on 11/06/2005 by paul andersen plander27@aol.com

...easy to germinate and need up to 6 months to sprout.
I sowed 15 seed after 3 days soaking on 3rd May, placed in my shady greenhouse which gets sun in the morning (Lincoln England). Germination started after a cool spell in August, temps outside approx. 17C, night 10C, I kept the door open in the day. 4 germinated closely, pricked out and left rest in pot. 4 more germinated late September, also pricked out. The rest are now in my dark cupboard with central heating pump, waiting to see if I get more. The plants are overwintering in the spare bedroom below East facing window and still growing, first lot stem 12 to 18", 2nd lot still small, about 6". One of the first lot developed purple midrib and flush under leaf when a little larger than the 2nd.
Submitted on 01/01/2005 by Janet Rowley garymitsi@aol.com

...very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
soaked the seeds for 24 hours and sowed them in a miniature greenhouse kept at 25°C first ones sprouted after 3 weeks. had a germination rate of 100%
Submitted on 02/09/2004 by Joeri Seghers joeriseghers@skynet.be

...difficult to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
soaked seed in water for three days changing water every day. lightly scarified seed coat on a peice of 120 grit sand paper. soaked for an additional day. removed from water and sterilized in 10% bleach and water solution for 10 minutes. placed them in slightly damp vermiculite and sealed them in plastic bags. kept them where the temp. remains between 25-30 C day and night. received 10% germination after one month and will continue to wait for more
Submitted on 02/08/2004 by Patrick Jacklin prjacklin@telus.net

...easy to germinate and need up to 3 months to sprout.
Bought 15 seed and placed in a sealed plastic bag of damp, sterile moss peat. Placed in propagator at 30 degrees C. First germination after 3 weeks. Have 5 sprouted after 2 months. Fast growing once germinated. 2 sprouts very dark green, other 3 light yellowish green.
Submitted on 17/04/2004 by one of our visitors

...easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Soaked seeds for 24 hrs, potted in peat compost in 3" pot and placed in plastic bag. 7 days later they sprouted, grew 3" the first day.
Submitted on 25/02/2004 by Andrew North andl22389@blueyonder.co.uk

...not rated.
Hello, here’s some additional data on the Darjeeling Banana, Musa sikkimensis. It does take cold as well as heat. Here in the USA zone 7B, Mississippi, I started one in 2002 and it got about 10 feet (3 m) tall the first season. I intentionally left it unprotected to see if it indeed took cold. Our coldest temperature was 9°F (-13°C) with a good dozen or more nights into the teens. I thought it was a “goner” but the banana woke up the first week in May and never missed a step, going to 16 feet (5 m) tall and a near 18 inch (46 cm) trunk base in 2003 before the first frost of 22°F (-5°C) in late November sent it into dormancy. The traditional Mississippi summer heat did not phase it a bit. It did not flower but that’s OK with me. The foliage, which is so palm tree like, is what I like. So many of our visitors this year were just amazed by the plant and so am I. It’s still hard to imagine a banana that takes cold. This winter the bananas trunk is encased by a chicken wire cage filled with leaves and pine straw. Your customers will be delighted with this banana. It is a winner!
Submitted on 28/12/2003 by Bob Elliott, Mississippi, USA

...very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Soaked seeds for 24 hours, rinsed with fresh water and placed on germinating bed. I use a mix of 1/3 rich top soil, 1/3 bonemeal, 1/3 vermiculite. laid out seeds on bed, covered with spahgnum moss and a light layer of the mixture to keep the moss damp over the seeds. Water daily, after 3 weeks 90% are up out of 100 seeds.
Submitted on 06/06/2003 by David faders@usa2net.net

...very difficult to germinate.
Soaked seeds for a day and put in plastic bags with cocohum. Kept at room temperature on top of shelf. No luck after six months. Will try stratification next time.
Submitted on 27/03/2003 by one of our visitors

...very difficult to germinate and need up to 6 months to sprout.
Poor germination. 2 out of 100 so far. 3 months since I started. The usual seed soaking in tepid water for 3-4 days but no luck as yet
Submitted on 13/07/2002 by Mark Macdonald macdon2000@hotmail.com

...easy to germinate and need up to 3 months to sprout.
Within 6 weeks, 2 out of 5 seeds germinated at room temp: 70F day, 60 night.
Submitted on 22/04/2002 by one of our visitors

...difficult to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
I planted 30 seeds. I knicked the seed coats and soaked them in water for 3 days. Only 6 of them germinated after 1 month. The seedlings grew to about 3 feet the first season. I had 3 plain green leafed forms and 3 with mottled red foliage. The mottled ones seem to grow faster. The second year they reached 6 feet. They made it fine through the winter here in Atlanta Ga. They are currently sprouting new leaves 4/10/02 outside and have multiple suckers.
Submitted on 10/04/2002 by Gregory M. Wells cngw@bellsouth.net

...very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Soaked for two days, and put in Tupperware container filled with moist perlite at 30C. First germinating started after 1 week. Within the second week the others germinated to.
Submitted on 02/04/2002 by one of our visitors

...easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
I started with 10 seeds which I soaked in water for 5 days. I then put the seeds into a plastic bag with some moist compost and sealed the bag. I left them while in my greenhouse without any additional heat for a month last August. When I opened the bag in September six had germinated which I potted up and I discarded the other 4. The plants are now in my conservatory and are approx. 10' tall.
Submitted on 03/02/2002 by Steve Murnan steve.murnan@blueyonder.co.uk

...difficult to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
First year with this species, I utilized 50 seeds lightly filed seed shell and soaked in water for 2 days. I then an in sterile medium and around 1.5 months 3 germinations. These are now vigorously growing in my zone 7b yard. Following year repeated same exercise with zero germination.
Submitted by Roger paclippr@yahoo.com

...easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Seeds are soaked for three days in fresh water and some weak fungicide. Seeds are then placed in sterile medium and exposed to high temperatures 35C (95F). The high temperatures dramatically improve results. Expect the first to germinate within two weeks with others to follow for another month. There seems no point in keeping those not germinated at this stage.It is not worth buying this species in small numbers, at least 50 seeds should be obtained to ensure many plants. They are very vigorous once germinated.
Submitted by Adam St.Clair stclair2@bigpond.com

...difficult to germinate and need up to 3 months to sprout.
I started out with 6 seeds of this species. Nicked the outer casing and soaked for 24 hours and then kept them in a propagator with bottom heat. Only got one seed to germinate.
Submitted by Aaron McElwain aaronmcelwain@home.com

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plant cultivation comments by our visitors
Also see germination commnets above.

Plants from this species ...

... are of excellent ornamental value
In Southampton in England they need much care and grow fast.
I have not had good success growing this plant outside in the ground in southern England. I have grown and flowered very successfully numerous specimens of Musa basjoo in my garden, providing winter protection against the coldest weather using straw and fleece. However when I provided the same protection for Musa sikkimensis, I simply found a rotten foul smelling mess when I removed the protection during the warmer months of spring. I suspect the wet of the English winter is the reason for reducing the hardiness of this plant, something that Musa basjoo has taken well in its stride. Therefore I would urge caution when growing this species outside in cold/wet areas where Musa basjoo can be grown. However in my greenhouse prior to planting out, the plant did take temperatures down to 0c with no damage when on the dry side. Probably the best option is to grow this banana as a cold greenhouse plant in cooler climes.
Submitted on 18/01/2009 by James Barnet

... are of high ornamental value
In Aberdeen, Scotland in UK they need average care and grow fast.
I am growing this species for my daughter up here in Scotland, UK. Germination was slow but straightforward after soaking the seeds in her tropical fish tank for 3 days then sowing in sterile medium and placing on top of the central heating boiler.After germination plants were moved to a greenhouse where they grew well until autumn dormancy. We have had temperatures down to -6C and the plans frosted at the first slight frost. I kept them intentionally on the dry side and hoped for the best. However they seem to have succumed in their first winter (I have stumps but am not hopeful). I would recommend this species but recommend burying as much of the stem and rootball in a dry medium over the first few winters.Good luck and most of all, have fun!
Submitted on 07/04/2006 by one of our visitors

... are of high ornamental value
In London in England they need much care and grow very fast.
I have had M. sikkimensis in the ground in London since 2000. I protect it by wrapping the entire plant in horticultural fleece, stuffed with the dead Banana leaves, usually from December to early April, when growth starts. It has been far more successful than M. basjoo in my garden, probably because it is in a much sunnier spot, although it has yet to flower. It requires prodigious amounts of water and fertiliser and can get localised basal rot if it is damaged by nearby cultivation. After 5 years it has grown from 400mm to 3500mm in height and has 4 mature pseudo-stems (plus the one lost to rot in 2003) and 7 new shoots. One warning: because the leaves are more resistant to wind than M. basjoo, the plant also presents more wind resistance and, on two occasions (2002 and 2003), this has caused entire pseudo-stems to snap off in sudden gusts. I now defoliate the plant if a late-Autumn gale is forecast.
Submitted on 19/11/2005 by David Matzdorf davidmatzdorf@blueyonder.co.uk

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If you wish to read more on palm cultivation, we highly recommend Ornamental Palm Horticulture by Timothy K. Broschat and Alan W. Meerow, available in our bookshop.

Ratings and comments reflect individual experiences and the views of our visitors. They do not necessarily describe the most appropriate methods, nor are they necessarily valid for all seeds or plants of this species. Germination and plant cultivation success depends on many different factors; nevertheless, these experiences will hopefully aid you in your effort to get the best germination results from our seeds and the best growth results from your plants.

We recommend:
The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms

The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft, Scott Zona

2nd edition
Completely revised and updated

Hardcover - 528 pages
11 x 8.5 inches

Our rating:
Suitable for: all

The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms is the definitive account of all palms that can be grown for ornamental and economic use. Palms are often underutilized as a result of their unfamiliarity—even to tropical gardeners. To help introduce these valuable plants to a new audience, the authors have exhaustively documented every genus in the palm family.
825 species are described in detail, including cold hardiness, water needs, height, and any special requirements. Generously illustrated with more than 900 photos, including photos of several palm species that have never before appeared in a general encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms is as valuable as an identification guide as it is a practical handbook. Interesting snippets of history, ethnobotany, and biology inform the text and make this a lively catalog of these remarkable plants.

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