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7 Adding Tropical Flare with Variegated Banana Plants

Brighten up your home or garden with the vibrant colors of variegated banana plants. This guide explores different varieties in shades of green, white, pink, red and more to grow indoors or out!

With their large paddle-shaped leaves in shades of green, burgundy, pink or white, variegated banana plants bring a taste of the tropics into any home or garden. While they may look like trees, banana plants are actually the world’s largest herbaceous perennials, regrowing each year from underground stems called rhizomes or corms. Many variegated cultivars have been developed from different species, providing endless combinations of colors, patterns and sizes to liven up your indoor or outdoor spaces.

Banana “trees” are actually tall stems called pseudostems that emerge annually and produce the trademark wide leaves. The pseudostem is composed of tightly wrapped leaf sheaths and does not contain woody tissue like a true tree trunk. At maturity, the stem will flower and produce hanging banana fruit clusters if pollinated. After fruiting once, the pseudostem dies back to the ground as new stems emerge from the rhizome in the next growing cycle.

Most banana varieties are only hardy in USDA zones 9-11, but they can be grown as annual landscaping plants or houseplants everywhere else. The variegated types tend to be smaller and more compact, perfect for containers or adding accent foliage. Let’s explore some of the most colorful varieties!

1. Dwarf Cavendish (Musa acuminata)

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The most commonly encountered banana houseplant is the dwarf cavendish, a compact cultivar that typically tops out around 5-6 feet tall. Its distinctive variegation features solid green outer edges framing a creamy yellow center stripe that brightens up any room.

As the largest herbaceous perennial in the world, these miniature banana plants can grow new pseudostems over 6 inches per day in ideal conditions! Their petite size makes them perfect for areas with limited floor space or homes in cold climates where they must be brought inside for winter.

Dwarf cavendish plants make excellent houseplants or patio specimens that will reward you with little ornamental “bananas” if the flowers are pollinated. They thrive when provided with bright, filtered light, consistent moisture and high humidity. Feed them regularly during the warmer months with a balanced liquid fertilizer.

2. Thai Black Banana (Musa balbisiana ‘Thai Black’)

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For a dark, moody focal point, consider growing the tropical Thai Black banana plant. This variety features dramatically rich purple-black pseudostems and leaf stems that make an eye-catching contrast against the large olive green leaves.

Thai Black is a cultivar of the Musa balbisiana or “cooking banana” species, which produces large seeded fruits mainly used for cooking rather than raw eating. As an added bonus, the small ornamental bananas it produces have a sweet, creamy taste when roasted.

While it can reach over 10 feet when grown in the ground, Thai Black banana plants can be kept shorter and bushier around 3-5 feet tall in containers. Make sure to provide a frost-free environment if you live outside zones 9-11, as this tender tropical may not survive freezing temps.

3. Burgundy Banana (Musa x paradisiaca ‘Burgundy’)

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With its iridescent ruby red leaves and contrasting pink stems, it’s no wonder why the Burgundy banana plant is one of the most eye-catching banana selections you can grow. This hybrid cultivar combines the cold-hardy features of the Red Abyssinian banana and the brilliant red foliage color of other ornamental bananas.

Burgundy’s show-stopping red to purple leaves often feature darker splotches and flushes mixed in for an even richer tone. Its pink to red mottled trunks provide additional contrast against the foliage. As the leaves mature, they develop a spectacular sheen to their coloring.

In cooler climates, this outstanding banana plant makes an excellent potted houseplant that will add a brilliant focal point indoors or out on the patio in summer. Keep it well-watered and fertilized for maximum coloration. Burgundy bananas can reach 6-8 feet tall in containers but their large footprint requires lots of floor space.

4. Pink Velour Banana (Musa velutina)

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One of the most unique variegated banana varieties is the Pink Velour, whose iridescent pink leaves look like they’re covered in soft velvet! This naturally occurring Brazilian hybrid cultivar is prized for its shimmery foliage shades that range from bright neon pink to deeper rose hues.

The undersides of the large leaves are a solid bright pink, while the topsides blend bands of green and magenta. Reddish-pink stalks support the arching leaves and give an overall red tint to the entire plant. Very young leaves emerge a cherry red color before transitioning to the darker tones.

At 4-6 feet tall, Pink Velour bananas make fabulous accent plants that will quickly draw attention as focal specimens. Their coloring also makes them highly desirable houseplants and patio plants for those looking to go beyond the typical green foliage.

5. Raja Puri Banana (Musa acuminata ‘Raja Puri’)

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If you want big, bold variegation, look no further than the Raja Puri banana. This cultivar of the common dessert banana sports incredibly wide yellow stripes between streaks of green on its leaves. Some leaves may be nearly solid yellow!

The vibrant variegation of Raja Puri is best expressed when plants are grown in bright, dappled light. Too much shade will cause mainly green leaves, while full sun can scorch them. With their huge 6-8 foot size, these towering beauties make superb landscape plants in tropical areas.

Raja Puri’s are generally too large for houseplants unless you have a ceiling over 10 feet tall. However, they can be grown in containers and moved outdoors during summer, then overwintered in a heated sunroom or garage for winter. Just be prepared to either plant them in the ground or repot annually into larger containers as they are vigorous growers.

6. Variegated Dwarf Banana (Musa ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ variegata)

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One of the most widely available variegated banana plants is the Variegated Dwarf Cavendish, essentially a striped version of the standard cultivar described earlier. This bright, cheerful banana has long emerald green leaves with bold streaks of creamy yellow to pure white variegation scattered throughout.

While a mature plant can reach 6-8 feet tall when grown in the landscape, variegated dwarf bananas can be kept a compact 3-4 feet in containers. Their long arching leaves create an attractive fountain shape without taking up too much floor space like larger banana varieties.

A variegated dwarf banana plant makes an excellent choice for houseplants in cooler regions or for year-round patio plants in warm climates. Just be sure to provide very bright light and excellent drainage to prevent issues with their heavy moisture needs.

7. Siam Ruby Banana (Musa x paradisiaca ‘Siam Ruby’)

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For sheer vibrance, it’s hard to beat the Siam Ruby banana plant. This hybrid cultivar is one of the most brilliantly colored, sporting new leaves that emerge a fluorescent pinkish-red before developing into sheets of maroon-crimson with subtle violet undertones.

Siam Ruby combines the genetics of the ornamental Red Dacca banana and the cold-hardy Red Abyssinian to produce plants that not only grow well in freezing climates when dormant, but also retain their incredible coloring. Their bright red trunks offer added contrast against the foliage.

At 6-10 feet, Siam Rubies can get quite large but can be kept smaller if grown in containers. With their eye-popping tones, These regal bananas create a perfect accent or focal point among other bold tropical plants in both indoor and outdoor settings.

With such a wide range of variegated colors, patterns and plant sizes to choose from, it’s easy to add a taste of the tropics to any landscape or interior space! Bananas provide fast-growing, attention-grabbing foliage that not only brightens up rooms but can add textural contrast among other types of houseplants. Experiment with different cultivars to find your new favorite variegated banana.

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