Update on growing tort food outdoors in Northern Va

Skip K

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Mar 4, 2020
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378
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia
Dealing with a 4 season climate and trying to grow tort food outside year round is a challenge. I have found 3 food sources that supposedly can withstand our winter months. A banana palm ( musa basjoo), opuntia cactus (Cacanapa) and hibiscus ( Rose of Sharon). The Rose of Sharon already survived a winter but is a mid summer bloomer so still waiting on the flowers. Started the cactus and palm inside last fall and moved them permanently outside this spring. Cactus is not dying..but not growing so far...while the inside cactus continue to grow...albeit slowly. The banana palm is thriving and today I put my first leaf in the torts enclosure and the torts immediately started munching it. So while I wish the cactus would take off...and am waiting for the hibiscus to start blooming...at least the torts have a new addition to their diet.
 
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Maro2Bear

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Location (City and/or State)
Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
Dealing with a 4 season climate and trying to grow tort food outside year round is a challenge. I have found 3 food sources that supposedly can withstand our winter months. A banana palm ( musa basjoo), opuntia cactus (Cacanapa) and hibiscus ( Rose of Sharon). The Rose of Sharon already survived a winter but is a mid summer bloomer so still waiting on the flowers. Started the cactus and palm inside last fall and moved them permanently outside this spring. Cactus is not dying..but not growing so far...while the inside cactus continue to grow...albeit slowly. The banana palm is thriving and today I put my first leaf in the torts enclosure and the torts immediately started munching it. So while I wish the cactus would take off...and am waiting for the hibiscus to start blooming...at least the torts have a new addition to their diet.

Yes, it’s a bit hard to keep a large supply growing. Don’t forget, you can feed the green hibiscus/Rose of Sharon leaves as well.

Do you have your cactus in pots & outside, or in the ground. I have a few pots of opuntia outside, but bring them back inside once frost hits.

Same with the banana. Really really large leaves & flowers now, I’ll cut back & bring inside for Winter.

Good luck!
 

Skip K

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2020
Messages
378
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia
Yes, it’s a bit hard to keep a large supply growing. Don’t forget, you can feed the green hibiscus/Rose of Sharon leaves as well.

Do you have your cactus in pots & outside, or in the ground. I have a few pots of opuntia outside, but bring them back inside once frost hits.

Same with the banana. Really really large leaves & flowers now, I’ll cut back & bring inside for Winter.

Good luck!
I have two types of opuntia cactus. One “supposedly” cold weather tolerant and one not. I have both types growing indoors and one cold weather one transplanted outside ( not in a pot). The growth you see in the pic happened indoors during the winter. No new growth since being outside ( about a month). The hole I dug was about twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball...with about a 2 to 1 mixture of miracle gro cactus soil ( what it was started in indoors) and native soil. The banana palm is also planted in the ground.
 

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Maro2Bear

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Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
The advantage to raising these plants in pots is that they don’t get that deep freeze effect in Winter. I keep our banana in a semi-dormant stage in the garage (watering ever so slightly). The cactus, in pots, stay in the sun room (slight water). As soon as temps warm in Spring....out they go. Banana took a few frost nips late, but bounced back.

New Banana Flower
5EB0799B-0374-49BF-AFE8-7290F7A9663B.jpeg
 

Skip K

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2020
Messages
378
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia
The advantage to raising these plants in pots is that they don’t get that deep freeze effect in Winter. I keep our banana in a semi-dormant stage in the garage (watering ever so slightly). The cactus, in pots, stay in the sun room (slight water). As soon as temps warm in Spring....out they go. Banana took a few frost nips late, but bounced back.

New Banana Flower
View attachment 327221
With the cold weather musa basjoo...there are many directions for growing outdoors. I only decided to try it because I saw some in the neighborhood over the years and they are 12+ ft. And don’t die back in our winters. In the north they say to ...with the onset of winter...cut the palm stalk about 12” from the ground and cover with a mountain of mulch. Less extreme climates...they say to leave the palm alone but cover the base with mulch. I think the person who has them here doesn’t do jack to prepare them for winter. I will mulch the base in fall anyway...and keep my fingers crossed.
 
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