This ornamental cousin to the popular fruit is a grand cut flower with an exotic flair.
by Steven W. Brown, aifd
1. a showstopper. Pro-nounced “MOO-sah” or “MU-za,” Musa is one of the showiest of all cut flowers. The blossoms, the stems of which are often 3 to 4 feet long, shoot from the heart of the palmlike plant and are initially long, tapering buds that either stand upright or drape pendulously, depending on the species.
2. tropical origins. The Musa genus, which is in the Musaceae family, includes more than 35 species. Some are purely ornamental and bear only the exotic blooms while others also produce edible bananas and plantains. Bananas are native to Asia, Australia and the South Pacific but are now grown in most tropical regions. The name, which may have been derived from the Arabic words “mouz” and/or “moz,” for “banana,” was most likely inspired by Antonius Musa, who was a physician to the first Roman emperor, Octavius Augustus.
3. cool colors. Banana flowers are available in a variety of hues, including red, orange, yellow, violet and white. There are also a few bicolored selections.
4. 12-month supplies. Banana blossoms are generally available year-round due to the varying bloom times of the different varieties and the range of regions in which these crops are grown. Major production areas include Hawaii and South America. In order to ensure availability of specific varieties and colors, order well in advance from wholesalers who carry tropical blossoms.
5. shop smart. These exotic specimens must be harvested and selected at peak maturity because they do not develop after they are cut. Look for flowers that have high gloss and vivid color, and avoid those that are creased or marred.
6. in-store care. Unpack your banana flower purchases immediately upon arrival. Since these grand blossoms often have to be taped in place inside their shipping containers, carefully remove the tape and any packing materials. Recut the stems, and dip or place them into a hydration solution. Then, place the stems into properly prepared fresh flower-food solution. If necessary, submerge the flowers in room-temperature water for 20 minutes to rehydrate.
7. a hot item. Banana blossoms are cold-sensitive and should be stored at room temperature in as humid an environment as possible.
8. refresh for longevity. It is beneficial to recut banana stems and change the flower-food solution every other day. With appropriate care, these blossoms will last for one week to three weeks, or longer.
9. a helping hand. The blooms of some Musa varieties need a little help to open. Gently pull the petals back to reveal the inner “pagoda,” which adds to the flowers’ exotic appeal. When designing with banana flowers, be sure to secure the large stems in a strong floral-foam base, reinforced with wire if necessary, to keep the flowers upright. These blossoms are excellent dramatic selections for tropical weddings, holidays, commercial accounts or for everyday interior decoration.
10. healthy choices. Some varieties of the banana family have been used for treating snakebites, and banana root can be used to treat worms and bronchitis, but, of course, the edible fruits are much in demand.
Aloha Tropicals; Oceanside, Calif. www.alohatropicals.com
Montoso Gardens; Maricao, Puerto Rico www.montosogardens.com
Nature Products Network of the TianZi Biodiversity Research & Development Centre; Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China www.natureproducts.net
Roy Borodkin; Brannan Street Wholesale Florist, Inc.; San Francisco, Calif. www.brannanst.com
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 29 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 239-3140.