Flowering Banana Shrub

Botanical Name: Michelia figo or Magnolia figo

Banana Shrub is a sub-tropical evergreen that makes a gorgeous container plant. Its creamy yellow flowers, sometimes with a blush of purple, are small and cupshaped, resembling mini magnolia blossoms. However, what makes the blooms especially captivating is their sweet banana-like fragrance.

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Michelia figo is also known as Magnolia figo because it is in the magnolia family, and may labeled by that name. You may have difficulty finding this fragrant shrub in garden centers unless you live in a tropical or subtropial climate. Look for it at online nurseries.

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Give your plant plenty of sunlight and you can expect a show of flowers in early spring, with blooms continuing sporadically through the summer.

Unlike many shrubs, this one is slow-growing, with a round, compact shape. It will grow tall unless you prune it back.

Brown leaf tips indicate dry soil or a build up of soluble salts. Soluble salts come from the chemicals in tap water and fertilizers and can damage foliage and roots. It's a good idea to flush salts from the soil every year.

How to Flush Salts: Slowly pour lukewarm water over the soil. Allow water to drain out the drainage holes. Pour more water through the pot, then empty the drainage tray. Flushing salts every year will keep your plant healthier and takes only minutes to do.

Banana Shrub Care

banana shrub, michelia figo, magnolia figo, banana magnolia, banana figo

Origin: China

Height: Up to 10 ft (3 m) 

Light: Bright light 

Water: Keep evenly moist in spring and summer.

Humidity: Moderate. You can increase humidity around the plant by putting it on pebble tray. The pebbles keep the pot above the water so the roots don't rot. I do this for some of my plants and it works beautifully to add humidity to the air around them.

Temperature: Average room temperatures 60-75°F/16-24°C. This subtropical shrub is hardy to USDA Zone 8, so if you scoot the container outdoors for the warm months, bring it back in when the temp drops in autumn.

Soil: Slightly acidic medium that drains well, a peat moss-based potting mix such as African violet mix is ideal.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2-3 weeks with a high-potassium liquid fertilizer diluted by half while plant is growing.

Propagation: Take 4 in (10 cm) stem tip cuttings (with leaves attached) in summer. They'll root easily in moist potting mix in about 5-6 weeks.

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