Garden Talk

pink banana fruits

Horticultural Highlight: Pink banana

Jason Holmes

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week Doris Duke Center Gardens curator Jason Holmes features a favorite hardy banana. 

Botanical name: Musa velutina
Common name: Pink banana
Family name: Musaceae (Banana Family)
Native range: Northeastern India
Location in Duke Gardens: Doris Duke Center Gardens & Culberson Asiatic Arboretum
Site requirements: Sun to dappled shade; well-drained but moist soils. Winter protection is best.
USDA Hardiness Zones: Depending on species, 7B-11

musa velutina

One of my absolute favorites among the hardy bananas is the pink banana. From northeastern India, Musa velutina forms a stunning clump of large leaves that reach to 8 feet high. A spike of flowers develops atop the pseudostems, and by midsummer the spike of flowers becomes a mass of attractive bright pink, downy bananas.

The word “velutina” translates to “velvety.”  These bananas are very small and seedy, and I imagine that they would not provide a substantial source of calories.

In November, the pink bananas burst open to reveal a white interior that from a distance appears as if they are flowering again.

The pink banana thrives in our heat and humidity and does well with good moisture and lots of sun or even a high canopy of trees. Though Musa velutina is hardy to zone 7b, it may be best to protect it with a pile of leaves during the winter.

The pink banana is a true hardy tropical for the summer landscape and will leave many gardeners asking, “What’s that?”

We'll have this hardy banana at our Fall Plant Sale on Sept. 28 (and members-only preview sale Sept. 27). Please see our plant sale event page more about the sale and additional plant highlights.

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Photos by Jason Holmes and Paul Jones.