May 13, 2011

Spring Spotlight: Banana Shrub

With so many things going on in the garden, its hard to keep up on what to blog! So I've decided to start a 'Spring Spotlight' series with some of my favorite plants for the season. Hopefully it will introduce readers to some new plants and inspire some gardening ideas. I imagine this will follow into a 'Summer Spotlight' and so on... but who knows! This spotlight is Brian's favorite at the moment. The smell on a warm day is pure bananas!

Banana shrub (Michelia fugo) is a member of the Magnolia family, with thick evergreen leaves and cream-colored flowers. Hardy only in USDA zones 8a-10b, it was a throwaway plant from the nursery where Brian works due to winter damage. We took it home, nursed it back to health, and it thanked us with a month long showing of banana scented flowers from mid-April to mid-May. Ours is only a few feet tall, but the shrub attains a full size of 10-15 feet tall and wide. It prefers an acidic soil so we feed it Holly Tone a few times a year.

The bugs love this shrub too! Maybe the small spider mite problem draws them in, but I always catch butterflies, arthropods, or beetles sitting on the leaves and flowers. Watching the flowers opening on this shrub were particularly interesting.. I like to think of it as a little botanical study. The bud is encased in a leathery covering which sheds as the petals grow inside. The pink rimmed petals open to show a bright green stamen. As the petals fall off one by one, the stamen is left behind and remains until a new leaf beings to grow.

Introduced to United States in late 1700, this is one of the classic evergreen shrubs of the old south, although the banana shrub is originally from China. It was named after Pietro Antonio Michele, 1679-1737, a Florentine botanist. This plant is new to my garden and we've "Gone Bananas" for it!

"To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment."  
~Jane Austen


  1. Thanks for introducing me to this plant. I'll have to be on the lookout for one. I love the yellow tones, and I bet it does smell fabulous!

  2. What a beautiful flower. Its "membership" in the magnolia family is really clear. I had no idea that anything remotely related to magnolias would grow as a shrub. Fantastic!

  3. Oh that's so pretty! Living in zone 7A, I guess it wouldn't do well here, but I would love to one day live somewhere where I can have more "tropical" type plants. Beautiful pictures too.

  4. Banana-scented flowers!! Just plant some chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) and some peanut butter plant (Melianthus major) around it and you'll be all set! :-)


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