Ensete lasiocarpum is a rare variety of ornamental banana from China. It is closely related to bananas, having been once included as a species in both Musa and Ensete. It is native to mountainous areas up to 7,500 feet in elevation in the Yunnan Province in China. It typically grows to 3-5' (6') tall, featuring a conical trunk-like pseudostem, upright paddle-like gray-green leaves and distinctive lotus-like flowers (2-3 per plant) that grow erect from the top of the pseudostem. Gardeners grow this plant for its flowers and for its foliage, both of which lend an exotic and tropical aura to the landscape. Leathery, broad-lanceolate, banana-like leaves typically grow to 1-2' long. Flowers bloom throughout the summer. Each upright inflorescence (8-12" long terminal panicle) consists of a cluster of yellow tubular flowers subtended by broad, stiff, waxy, yellow bracts. Flowers resemble a lotus just prior to flowering, hence the common name of golden lotus banana. Flowers usually first appear in the second year of growth and annually thereafter. Each inflorescence will last for several months (up to as long as 6 months). Flowers are reminiscent of those found on king protea (Protea cynaroides). Flowers are followed by inedible fruit (to 2" long) which often does not appear on plants grown in the northern parts of the growing range. Best grown in groupings so that some plants will be flowering while others are in foliage. These are classic tropical foliage plants. Excellent accents for entrances, decks and patios.
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10 where it can be grown outside year round. A thick winter mulch over the root area is recommended near the northern edge of its growing range. Some experts claim this plant will survive many Zone 6 winters outside if well protected. It is best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Plants tolerate and often appreciate some part shade or light filtered sun in the heat of the day. Best growth occurs with consistently moist soils that do not dry out. Fertilize plants regularly during the growing season. Site in protected locations to protect leaves from wind damage. For areas north of USDA Zone 7, plants are best grown in containers using a well-drained potting soil mix. Soils should be kept consistently moist but not wet. Bring containers indoors in fall before first frost for overwintering in conservatories or greenhouses. Containers may also be overwintered in a sunny room with reduced soil moisture. Another option is to trim off all leaves in fall and bring containers into a cool frost-free corner of a basement, providing just an occasional touch of moisture in winter to prevent the soils from totally drying out. Detach suckers for developing new plants.