Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Improved Banana Shrub
Magnolia figo var. skinneriana

Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia (mag-NO-lee-a) (Info)
Species: figo var. skinneriana

Synonym:Michelia figo var. skinneriana
Synonym:Michelia skinneriana

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

10 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade


Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
Flowers are fragrant
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From hardwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

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There are a total of 14 photos.
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5 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive nativeGeorgian On May 2, 2009, nativeGeorgian from Marietta, GA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Delightful, practically care-free ; started blooming this year (2009) on April 20th, and usually blooms for close to a month. Intensely fragrant, I guess is the best way to put it, as I can even smell it when I'm inside the house (open windows, of course). We've been in a drought situation for several years here, and I've rarely watered it (restrictions), but it's in bloom again this year, and it's growing in partial shade. I'm in hardiness zone 7.

Positive passiflora_pink On Apr 2, 2008, passiflora_pink from Shelby County, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

Delightful shrub for the fragrance garden. Evergreen leaves make it attractive year round. Mine requires no care.

Positive GulfportMSgirl On Jul 2, 2007, GulfportMSgirl from Gulfport, MS wrote:

We have a banana shrub tree that is on our property (well my grandparents old place - that was passed down many generations). It has is over twenty feet tall and throws the prettiest little magnoila flowers that smell like bananas when you drive up my grandparents house. I had asked one of my daddy's sister the name and then I asked my mom both told me the wrong name being something like franschisa (forgive me if that is spelled wrong). But I decided to search for it on the internet and with pictures and detail I realize the name is the "Banana shrub tree or known as the Michelia Figo". I located the best picture of the flower on - it was exciting to finally locate the tree's true name. Again this tree grows wonderful in Gulfport, Mississippi. I am planning to order for my property because I would like to enjoy what my family members before me enjoyed.

Positive violabird On Mar 2, 2005, violabird from Barnesville, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I purchased 2 of these plants last fall after an extensive search to find one. I first saw it at the U. of Ga. Research and Education Garden in Griffin, Ga. and was overwhelmed by the lucious banana scent that drifted over the garden during their annual plant sale.

I planted one in the ground, which has done very well this winter, and kept one in a large pot in the basement. Both have the fuzzy brown pods that will become blooms, hopefully next month.

Walter Reeves (our Georgia Gardener) had recently answered a question about location, he suggested a northeast corner would be best.

Update 4-6-06
I absolutely adore this plant, it kept it's leaves all winter (unlike M. Figo) and is blooming now (unlike M. Figo). The scent is more like Banana Rum!

Positive suncatcheracres On Dec 5, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I have been looking for a plant of Michelia figo for years, as my Mother grew it in her garden a block and a half from the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and as a child I loved the banana smell of the small, creamy yellow flowers. So I was really excited when I recently found a Michelia skinneriana, or 'Improved Banana Shrub' at a local nursery near Gainesville Florida, here in zone 8b, although I was disappointed that it wasn't "the real thing"--the plant of my childhood.

Internet research explains that this plant is a new introduction from China that was collected in 1990 from a stream bank of the Jiangxi Province by the staff of the Shanghai Botanic Garden. It first flowered in 1995. The genus Michelia differs from "true" magnolias in having flowers in the leaf axils rather than at the branch ends, and a short stalk beneath the female reproductive parts. There are at least 45 species of Michelia, with my beloved banana shrub, Michelia figo, being one of the most common, althought the only ones I can find for sale are on the internet with large shipping and handling fees.

At the present time most information on Michelia skinneriana comes from university research sites, where it is currently being used in plant evaluation programs both at Auburn University in Alabama and the University of Arkansas. In Arkansas it is being grown at three sites, one each in zones 6, 7 and 8. Plant hardiness estimates at the Arkansas sites shows it does best in zone 8, and does worse in zone 6, so it is only moderately hardy.

The Green Nurseries website says it is a " . . . new and improved Michelia figo, similar in most respects, but more vigorous, more evergreen, more cold-hardy, and with a longer bloom season." They list it under Heirloom and Winter Interest Plants, as it supposedly blooms starting in February.
The plant I just bought is about three feet tall and is covered with small buds. The nursery owner said it would eventually grow to about eight feet. I'm going to plant it in a partly sunny spot and wait for that waft of banana smell in late winter.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Pelham, Alabama
Lafayette, California
Brandon, Florida
Branford, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Ocala, Florida
Old Town, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Trenton, Florida
Barnesville, Georgia
Marietta, Georgia
Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaii
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Coushatta, Louisiana
Mandeville, Louisiana
Gulfport, Mississippi
Saucier, Mississippi
Davidson, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Conway, South Carolina
North Augusta, South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina
Frisco, Texas
Houston, Texas
La Porte, Texas
New Caney, Texas
Tacoma, Washington

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