Growing banana plants for basket making in a cooler climate

Updated: Feb 25

Growing your Banana Plant in a cooler climate

People often think you need to live in the tropics to grow excellent fibres for basket making, but that's not necessarily true. Take the banana plant for instance. Banana fibre is a basket makers favourite. it is excellent for cordage, twining, coiling and looping. Personally, my favourite thing is to turn it into cordage and then incorporate it into basketry. See pics below to see what I mean; the outcome is pretty special!

This is an image of a banana plant used in basketry
The banana plant's leaves are huge!

Grown for its enormous leaves, which enclose the trunk (known as the Pseudostem) - these tightly packed leaf sheaths can be used for fibre to create gorgeous basketry work. With a bit of care, you can have a few flourishing plants in your garden, and loads of fibre to make baskets with!


Back to my original premise: you may think the banana plant only grows in tropical climates but it will grow in cooler, more temperate climates like the United Kingdom. I bought a few banana plants a few years ago, and although they took a while to get established, with a little bit of work, they are doing really well. I live in a part of Victoria, Australia where the winters can be cold and come with a few frosts (not hard frosts).




Banana plant loves lots of water. They like to be fed every month or so - and this will really encourage growth. You’ll be able to pick the outer sheaths for your basket making at the end of autumn when the leaves start to die off. Throughout the winter they will die back but then pop back again as the temperature begins to rise. In tropical climates, the plant will fruit (don't expect fruit if you live in a cooler climate) and then the stem will die. A new one will shoot when the weather warms up. Nature is amazing, isn't it!?


This is a picture of banana fibre ready for use in basketry
Banana plant fibre once dried

I did a bit of research and the lovely Monty Don shows a video on the BBCs website on how to grow banana plants in cooler climates. You can watch it here.

Preparing your banana fibre to make cordage and baskets

Start by peeling off the outer sheath. Make sure to be careful because it contains a lot of sap and will stain your clothes.


I usually let it dry for a few days then cut it up into strips depending on how thick I want the cord after I'll let it fully dry for a couple of weeks.


I then store the fibre in a dry airy place until I’m ready to use it. When I want to use it, I’ll soak it. I only soak it for 2 - 5 minutes as the fibre is very absorbent and will not take long to moisten

Here's a video on how to make cordage that I created a few years ago.


Enjoy!


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