Winter Banana: growing & caring for Winter Banana apple trees
The so-called ‘Winter Banana’ apple is not exotic, but it is unique. Read on to find out what makes this apple variety special and how to grow the ‘Winter Banana’ apple in your own garden.
‘Winter Banana’ (Malus), or ‘Flory Banana’, is a delicious apple variety, best enjoyed fresh or juiced. It stores well, making it a great dessert apple, and is easy to grow at home.
This is because the tree does not demand a specific climate or location, and is generally resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses. In fact, with a weak-growing rootstock, the tree produces a regular, high yield and requires little pruning – perfect for the garden!
Sounds good? Read on to find out more.
‘Winter Banana’ apple: profile
|Fruit||Medium to large; yellow green base colour with light to cloudy orange on top|
|Yield||High and alternating; medium-late |
|Harvest time||Mid to end of October|
|Ripe to eat||From December|
|Shelf life||Very good; can be stored until April|
|Growth||Vigorous; plenty fruiting wood|
|Climate||Moderately demanding; frost tolerant; better tasting fruit in warm locations|
|Pests and diseases||Low susceptibility to scab and bitter pit|
Origin and history of ‘Winter Banana’
David Flory first discovered the ‘Winter Banana’ on his orchard in Indiana in the mid-1870s, hence its name: ‘Flory banana’. The tree was a chance seedling on the orchard, but soon began commercial cultivation, coming to market in the 1890s, before spreading to Europe in the early 1900s.
Taste and characteristics of ‘Winter Banana’ apples
‘Winter Banana’ apples are medium to large, and range from cone-shaped to slightly flattened spheres. Sometimes the fruits are lopsided, and it is not uncommon to find a russet seam stretching from the stalk to the calyx pit at the bottom of the apple.
The base colour of the apple’s skin is a matte, shiny yellow-green. It is covered with a light to cloudy orange and occasionally adorned with russet patterns, which tend to be in isolated areas of the fruit.
The flesh is yellow-white, firm and neither very juicy, overly sour nor aromatic, but rather sweet. ‘Winter Banana’ apples grown in cool locations have less flavour than those from warm locations.
Top tips on growing ‘Winter Banana’
The ‘Winter Banana’ apple variety has vigorous growth and forms a broad, pyramidal crown. In nature, the tree produces enough fruiting wood for commercial cultivation. Depending on the rootstock, however, you can grow this variety to suit your needs.
Graft the tree onto a dwarf rootstock, such as M26 or M9, to shape a tall, narrow trunk or form an espalier by tying it up. For a stronger, more stable, or bushy tree, reach for an M7, M4 or MM 106 rootstock, instead.
‘Winter Banana’ apples do not require much pruning, especially if you use a dwarf rootstock. However, it is worth thinning the crown occasionally, and diverting or tying down shoots that are too vertical; moving them into diagonal or horizontal positions. If you have used a strong rootstock, you will need to prune your ‘Winter Banana’ annually.
‘Winter Banana’ trees flower in late spring and are not very sensitive to frost. They are good pollen donors and can be pollinated by other late varieties, such as ‘Fuji’, ‘Gala’, ‘Gloster’ or ‘Elstar’.
‘Flory Banana’ does not demand much from the climate or soil, so it is well suited to most home gardens. What is more, the tree has naturally good health, although it is slightly susceptible to apple scab infections and bitter pit, which is the result of calcium deficiency.
Tip: Warm locations improve the flavour of the ‘Winter Banana’ fruit. In fact, the trees tend to suffer damage from wood frost if it is too cold.
Harvest time and uses
‘Winter Banana’ apples are ready for picking between the middle and the end of October and, under the right conditions, can be stored until April. If you want to enjoy the apple straight from the tree, wait until December before picking.
Even in storage, the apples will only ripen enough to eat between December and April. ‘Winter Banana’ apples are versatile but tend to be used as a dessert apple and for making fruit juice.
When ‘Winter Banana’ apples grow with an odd shape, it is usually due to pollination problems. Read our article on apple tree blossom to learn everything about apple tree flowering, pollination and how to avoid frost damage.