The Nelson Street Bananas of Cooper Young District

One of the best tropical plants for Memphis is the Musa ‘Orinoco’ banana. They are a zone 7 hardy edible green banana. In a single season coming from a well established corm, (the actual heart of the plant from where visible shoots come), an Orinoco banana stalk can reach 18ft or more. They will also regularly bear fruit by September in our Memphis climate. The Musa ‘Orinoco’ banana cultivar is the most commonly seen banana in the Memphis area and all over the South in zone 7 and warmer.

One of the very best places to see these wonderful fruiting tropical plants is Nelson Street in the Cooper Young District of Memphis. As you drive down the street, you will feel as though you are in an equatorial country rather than in Tennessee. The bananas can be seen in front of many of the houses, along with quite a number of other tropical plants hardy to Memphis.

Back in 2005, I spoke with one of the residents whose father planted the original bananas back in the 1960’s. Yes, this stand of bananas has been in that location for over 50 years! They have seen some mighty hot summers and severely cold winters in that time and yet they have thrived, proving to be a reliable and stunning tropical plant for the Memphis climate.

Here is a view from the front porch “behind” the original stand of bananas. It is quite a sight to have essentially a functional banana plantation right outside the front doors of these homes in Midtown Memphis.

There several nearby homes that obviously adopted the Musa ‘Orinoco’ into their own gardens, giving the neighborhood quite the tropical feel for most of the year.

By late summer, fresh locally grown bananas hang, ready to be fried and eaten!

The Musa ‘Orinoco’ is an excellent choice for both a bold tropical statement in your yard and as a great exotic fruiting plant that does great in the subtropical Memphis climate. While you can certainly see Orinocos in many yards around Memphis, Nelson Street is truly one of the best sights to see if you want to view a slice of the tropics in Tennessee!


6 thoughts on “The Nelson Street Bananas of Cooper Young District

    • Those bananas have been there since the 1960’s. They do not get dug up. Yes, they lose their fronds during the winter months, usually late November or early December whenever the first freeze occurs, until early April.

      The fronds die after a few hours below 32F/0C. The larger stalks die after too much time below about 20F/6C. If it’s a mild winter, you can sometimes retain some height to the stalks for spring.

      The plants themselves are root hardy into the single digits fahrenheit (zone 7) if well established.


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