After the snow, some of our tropical plants that we have planted out here at the nursery are looking a little sorry for themselves.
Our bananas and gingers that usually keep above ground through winter have died back completely. If you are finding the same - read on.
These types of plants should really be considered herbaceous in the UK even in our sunny little corner of the country. We shouldn't expect these types of plants to sail through every winter untouched, it’s only that we've had such a good run of mild albeit wet winters that we've become used to seeing them remain reasonably unaffected.
So dying back doesn't mean dying - dead, it just means the plant has retreated to the snug conditions under the soil. It's being herbaceous.
The only concern here is the earlier mention of wet winters. Wet winters can cause problems in soils which drain poorly. Wet soil in winter potentially leads to plants, especially plants with bulbs or tubers to rot. (like bananas and gingers)
This is why it’s important to prepare the soil when planting, to try and create a reasonably well-drained environment. In most cases this can be achieved simply by digging the planting hole half as deep and wide again as the plant's rootball and backfilling with quality compost of topsoil.
This applies to our local Sussex clay soil, but is also good practice for chalk soil too although not to aid drainage but just the opposite to retain moisture and add organic matter to provide a more hospitable rooting environment.
So in summary don't be too concerned if you see your usually stout banana cut down to the ground it's perfectly normal there's no reason (soil permitting) that you won't see a joyful re-emergence in Spring.
Ps - If your banana has retained a stem(s) over winter, wait for the frosts to pass then feel down the stem until it's feels firm and cut through just below this point. This will provide a nice, clean starting point for new leaves.
pps - To improve snug conditions under the soil for herbaceous plants a generous mulch does wonders.