Overwintering bananas and tree ferns

You can never quite predict how severe our winter weather will be. But in the absence of a crystal ball, it makes sense to plan ahead to help your plants to survive. Hardiness is a complex issue in Britain, even though there’s not much variation in climate, there are certain plants that you know will need extra protection to see them through those cold winter months.

Tree ferns and bananas in particular are plants which must be put to bed before winter arrives, but you must do this in fine dry weather. If you wrap up a wet tree fern or banana it might rot inside the protective layer.

For tree ferns, you need to pack straw in the crown and then cover the crown to prevent water getting funnelled down and freezing the growing tip. A sheet of polystyrene over the top of the straw can be held in place with wrapped horticultural fleece. Then tie the fronds into an upright bundle with raffia or string and then cover with fleece. This can be untied in late March, or earlier if the weather seems precociously warm.

If you’re covering something like a pittosporum or banana it’s best to make a cage from chicken wire and then pack it with straw or bracken. Cover the cage with hessian, thick fleece or bubble wrap.

Then when winter ends, you’ll be able to welcome your plants again for another year. They’ll return like old friends.