Enseta – decorative Abyssinian banana

Among indoor plants, few crops can compete with enseta in leaf size. Large, peculiarly opening, indoor banana leaves amaze with their massiveness, and the play of colors, and a reddish central vein. This unique plant of large size is rightfully considered one of the most massive crops that can be introduced into the interior design. But the size does not prevent this plant from conquering the hearts of flower growers with its abilities to grow surprisingly quickly and with its unique structure. And although caring for the enseta cannot be called simple, the decorative banana with its huge leaves and tropical appearance does not become less popular from this plant. And the presence of a considerable number of decorative forms and varieties only reinforces the reputation of the best large-leaved indoor exotic.

Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum). Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com conservatoryplants
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Ornamental Abyssinian banana and its inedible fruits

When people say about an ornamental indoor banana that it is the most tropical of all tropical indoor plants, there is no exaggeration. This indoor giant seemed to fulfill the dreams of colorful and amazing plants found in the tropics. But there is a lot of confusion with the names of the enset, and with its non-belonging to edible bananas.

Most often, the seeds of this room crop are sold simply as banana seeds, which confuses unfamiliar growers with the enseta. They really are from the same family, but find out what really is Abyssinian banana (Ensete) Is just a relative of the real Banana (Musa) is only possible when studying the botanical names on the seed package.

When buying bananas in a decorative culture, we are almost always talking about a special representative of the Banana family – Enset (Ensete), which can also be called a decorative banana or an Abyssinian banana. Of course, even today, many species of enset retain a synonymous name from the specific names of a banana, but without exception, all plants from this family that are grown in room culture, according to the latest botanical classifications, belong to the genus Enset.

The difference between real and decorative bananas is significant. Indoor ensets are not only much more spectacular in color of leaves and silhouettes, but also do not produce edible fruits, and in their homeland, in Ethiopia, they are, first of all, a source of starch, which is extracted from leaf sheaths (in room culture, plants are purely decorative) … Enseta is confused with another inedible decorative banana – Japanese banana (Musa basjoo), or Banana Basho, or Japanese textile banana… But he does not have purple and red in color even on the veins, the leaves are wavy and smaller, they seem to droop from the central vein.

Enset description

Enseta forms beautiful false stems. In nature, only pseudostems of a plant can reach 10 meters in height; in its natural environment, the enset is so high that it can compete with any full-fledged tree with a powerful trunk. In the room, the trunk is limited to a few tens of centimeters. But at the same time, the plant does not at all acquire the ability to be more compact. The older the enset, the more powerful and tall it becomes. On average, the height of Abyssinian bananas ranges from 2 to 5 m.And such sizes are often the main reason that only young plants are grown in room culture, and as soon as they outgrow, they cease to fit into the space allotted to them, become too large or lose their beauty. they are replaced with young specimens. Without exception, all ensets and their varieties do not form lateral processes until the mother plant dies out after fruiting.

The false stem is formed by leaves that curl up like sheaths one around the other. This pseudostem is hollow inside. In adult plants, it is very difficult to understand that the enset does not actually have a stem. Even the rhizomes of this plant are distinguished by a special powerful structure with shortened tuberous underground stems that almost never protrude above the soil.

This is one of the largest-leaved crops. Enset’s huge leaves, which in nature reach a length of 13 m, can grow up to 2 m in room culture, and under good conditions reach an impressive size of 3 m.The leaves are usually colored olive green, but in different varieties of enset it can change to purple and reddish over the entire area of ​​the leaf plate or only on its lower side. And the central reddish vein, which can only be appreciated from the seamy side of the leaves, adds even more tropical charm.

In home and even greenhouse conditions, ensets practically do not bloom. But in botanical gardens and in nature, flower stalks about 1 m long with large white flowers and soft coral bracts in dense inflorescences make a surprisingly exotic impression. Blunt cylindrical fruits resemble bananas in appearance, they look unusual and very attractive, but they are inedible.

Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum)
Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum). Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Andrea Gessi

Enset types

Almost always, the absolute leader among the four species of enset presented in room culture is Enseta bloated (Ensete ventricosum), also known as the Abyssinian banana. It is a decorative perennial with leaves from 50 cm to 1 m in width and several meters in length, the oar-like shape of which is difficult to assess due to its rather large size. The olive tops of the leaves are combined with a reddish-purple color on the outside. Today, more popular than the basic plant variety is the maurelii form, in which a purple hue spreads over the entire leaf blade.

In addition to the bloated enset, there are 3 more species, but their distribution can be called modest, as a houseplant they are extremely rare.

  • Snow banana, or Enseta Sizaya (Ensete glaucum) flaunts with yellow-green trunks covered with black spots, reduced outer remnants of old leaves and oblong, less wide leaves, sitting on short petioles.
  • Enset Perier (Ensete perrieri) is distinguished by a blue shade of a false stem with a very beautiful thickening at the base, straight leaves with a yellow central vein, which form a fan-shaped crown.
  • Enset Wilson (Ensete wilsonii) is distinguished by a conical pseudostem, more elongated and narrow leaf blades.

Caring for enseta at home

It is no coincidence that Enseta has earned the title of the most beloved tropical plant. This is the perfect culture for those who want to bring a little exotic to their interior. Even plentiful and frequent watering, the requirements to carefully select growing conditions do not make the indoor banana a plant exclusively for experienced flower growers. In fact, the hassle with her is much less than it seems at first glance. Its sprawling large leaves, the cuttings of which form a kind of stem, are so beautiful and do not know their analogues in size that they will be fully thanked for their careful care. The only difficulty is that the enset requires a cool wintering.

Enset lighting

Indoor bananas are light-loving plants. To place an enset, you only need to select locations on the windowsills. But the choice between bright diffused lighting and sunny location will not be so easy. The light intensity directly affects the color of the leaves of this plant. This dependence is especially evident in varietal specimens.

In bright light, instead of a single purple streak and various shades of green, the foliage turns red and various shades of purplish green. But in lighter lighting, the color remains more standard and inconspicuous, only the central veins can boast of purple color. So, in many ways, the question of choosing the light intensity depends on how much you want the leaves of your enset to show off in red and purple tones. It should be borne in mind that the midday sun’s rays can leave ugly burns on the leaves, but partial shade is not suitable for plants.

When looking for an ideal placement for an enset, it is worth considering its size, in particular, its diameter, as well as the fact that the leaves grow in a kind of fan and the plants themselves take up a lot of space. Most often, the Abyssinian banana is placed near large windows, in greenhouses or conservatories, halls, lobbies – where, with good lighting, a very large free space is also preserved.

An important part of growing any ornamental banana is to provide the same lighting throughout the year. As soon as daylight hours begin to wane, it is necessary to provide compensation for the plant in the form of an additional source of lighting. Ensets, in particular, can be moved to the southern windowsill or simply provide additional lighting. The latter is easy to organize, since ensets do not like the location of lamps lower than 1 m from the plant and are content with even the usual bright interior lighting.

Snow banana, or Ensete glaucum
Snow banana, or Ensete glaucum. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Agriculture

Temperature range for decorative bananas

Despite the fact that ensets outwardly seem to be exclusively tropical plants, created for hot climates, in indoor conditions these plants surprise with the need for sufficiently cool conditions. It is the restrained temperatures that make it possible to achieve the greatest decorative effect from the enset, while at elevated temperatures the leaves rapidly lose their beauty, dry at the tips, and look stale. Enseta feels comfortable at an air temperature of about 20 degrees, and the minimum allowable indicators in spring and summer are 15 degrees. However, there is no need to be afraid of the heat. With the correction of care, an increase in air humidity, the Abyssinian banana can also put up with air temperature indicators exceeding 20-23 degrees.

Attention should be paid to the selection of the wintering regime. Enseta belongs to those plants that need a cool content for normal development. Unlike many indoor plants, Enseta will accept temperature drops, even to 0 degrees, if they are temporary. The optimal temperature range for this culture in winter is from 5 to 12 degrees Celsius.

In love with fresh air, Enseta can easily outshine any other indoor plant. A decorative banana must be kept in a constantly ventilated place, only in rooms where air does not stagnate. Already at the end of May, plants can begin to be taken out into the fresh air, under the open sky. During the summer, Enseta feels great on balconies and even in the garden. At the same time, access to fresh air also determines its decorative effect, the intensity of the color of the leaves, and directly affects the growth rate of plants. For all its love for fresh air, the Enset manages to react very poorly to drafts, especially when placed next to an air conditioner, fans, or in a location with strong air currents. In the garden or on the terrace, it is also better to place the enset in a draft-free area.

Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum)
Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum). Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com The Wild Papaya

Watering the Abyssinian banana and air humidity

Ornamental bananas, without exaggeration, belong to plants with one of the highest water requirements. The explanation for the moisture-loving nature of the enset is very simple: large leaves and rapid growth affect the rate of use of moisture from the substrate and without regular and very abundant watering, the plants suffer significantly. Stagnant moisture and waterlogging of the soil will not benefit the enset, as well as with other indoor plants, causing root rot in it. But both drought and too light moisture of the substrate should be avoided. For the Abyssinian banana, it is necessary to provide irrigation, between which only the uppermost layer of soil dries out. During the wintering period, when the decorative banana stops developing, watering is reduced by one and a half to two times, allowing 2 to 3 cm of the upper layer of the substrate to dry out. When kept cool, these procedures are very rare, since moisture evaporation is extremely low.

For this plant, only water with a minimum lime content, soft and always of the same temperature as the air in the room, is suitable.

Increasing the air humidity is not vital for the enset. But the plant literally comes to life during even minimal measures for spraying greenery and very noticeably increases its attractiveness. Plus, with regular spraying of an Abyssinian banana, you’ll never run into problems like dry tips or brown leaf edges. Spraying can be done daily and even more frequently in hot weather.

Feeding for Enseta

As for all plants with a pronounced dormant period, fertilizers are applied for ornamental banana exclusively from spring to mid-autumn. The optimal frequency of procedures is once a week or even more often, depending on the rate of development (the frequency can be increased up to 1 times a week). But with such frequent top dressing, the dosage of fertilizers recommended by the manufacturer should be reduced by 2 times. Even during the dormant period from mid-autumn and throughout the winter, ensets also need to be fed, as large leaves require support in the form of regular replenishment of lost nutrients to maintain their attractiveness. True, the frequency of procedures should be significantly reduced by applying the same half dose of fertilizers with a frequency of 2 time per month.

For enseta, a universal complex fertilizer containing both organic and mineral components is perfect.

Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum)
Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum). Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Turn It Tropical

Trimming ensets

The rapid growth and development of the Abyssinian banana is inextricably linked with the constant renewal of the plant, drying out and the loss of decorativeness of old leaves as new ones develop. In the Enseta, this process requires the regular removal of little ornamental old foliage. But no other pruning is required for the plant.

Transplant and substrate

One of the more pleasant surprises ensets come across when selecting a substrate. These plants thrive in any standard loose and permeable soil mixture. Even the pH specifications should be absolutely “average”, around 6,0. Suitable for the plant are universal substrates for indoor crops, self-compiled soil mixtures or soil for decorative deciduous crops. To prepare a high-quality substrate yourself, mix in equal parts sand, humus, leaf and sod soil.

The frequency of enseta transplant directly depends on its size and age. Young plants can be transplanted several times a year, depending on the rate of development of the volume of containers, changing them to large ones as they grow. But adults are transplanted very rarely, so as not to damage the leaves and not disturb the rhizomes, with a frequency of about 1 time in 5 years. But for them, the top layer of the substrate in the pot is necessarily replaced annually.

Finding the right capacity for an enset is not an easy task. In the presence of too much soil, the plant starts growing rapidly and grows rapidly to a size that sometimes requires replacement with a new plant. In a small container, the enset will run out of soil nutrients too quickly and fill the container with roots in a matter of months, and then the development will stop. Therefore, for a decorative banana, an intermediate option is always chosen, increasing the previous capacity by about 4-5 cm in diameter so that the plant has room to develop, but at the same time it was not given excessive freedom.

Diseases and pests ensets

In the combination of high air temperatures and the operation of heating systems, spider mites often settle on decorative bananas. Plants are also considered not too resistant to mealybugs and aphids, but, like all problems, they appear only when the rules of care and selection of growing conditions are violated. But waterlogging, excessive dampness quickly cause the spread of rot, which is most often associated with various fungal infections. And to deal with this problem is much more difficult. But in any case, for a decorative banana, it is preferable to start with biological control methods, and only then treat the plants with insecticides and fungicides. We should not forget about the correction of growing conditions.

Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum)
Abyssinian banana, or Ensete swollen (Ensete ventricosum). Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Steve Lau

Enset reproduction

These amazing tropical indoor stars can be propagated both by seed and vegetative methods.

Enset seeds germinate only freshly harvested or within a few months after harvest, they quickly lose their germination. But if sowing on time in the middle of spring, the probability of success is very high. The seeds are soaked in warm water for a day. After soaking, the shell of the seeds of the Abyssinian banana must be scarified, at least slightly damaged.

A nutritious light germination substrate is not entirely suitable. The optimal mixture for sowing this culture is considered to be a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts (either a mixture of peat and sawdust, or a special substrate consisting of equal parts of peat, sphagnum, sawdust and charcoal). For the enset, you need to maintain the air temperature above 20 degrees Celsius (optimal indicators are about 30 degrees), cover the crops with foil or glass. Seedlings appear quite quickly and develop well, the main thing is not to forget about airing and water the substrate abundantly. On average, germination of ornamental banana seeds takes from 2 to 8 weeks, although at lower air temperatures this process can take more than 3 months.

The complexity of enseta vegetative reproduction is due to the fact that the shoots, which can be separated as an independent plant, appear only after the plant has completed fruiting. And in indoor conditions to wait for the flowering of the Abyssinian banana, and even more so the formation of daughter plants, to put it mildly, is not easy.

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Anna Evans

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