Bananas are tropical plants that thrive in hot weather. In the winter, the banana tree stops growing and needs different care to preserve it until spring. In tropical and semitropical climates, banana trees can remain in the ground over the winter as long as the trees receive protection during cold weather. Below 60 degrees F, chilling damage may occur; freeze damage occurs below 32 degrees F, according to the University of Florida IFAS extension. In colder climates, dig the plant up and bring it indoors for the winter.
Decrease watering in the winter. Banana trees need only enough water to keep the ground moist in the winter.
Stop fertilizing bananas in cold weather. When temperatures drop below 55 degrees, banana trees stop growing and do need fertilizing, according to the University of Arizona.
Erect a wind barrier if possible to protect banana plants from high winds in the winter. Banana leaves and trunks are easily shredded by high winds. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch to the banana mat. Mulch will help insulate the roots and protect them from cold.
Mound additional soil around the banana tree trunk when cold weather is expected. Extra soil insulates the trunk and helps protect the rhizomes from freezing, allowing the plant to recover in the spring, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
Thoroughly water the soil around bananas when freezing weather is expected. After the freeze, check the soil and water again if needed.
Cover banana trees with blankets or tarps when freezing weather is expected. If possible, erect a structure or use tall stakes to hold the blankets off the plant. Anchor the covering at ground level with bricks, rocks or a mound of soil. If using plastic, vent or remove it during the day to prevent heat buildup.
Add an string of outdoor Christmas lights or a small lamp under the plant coverings when severe freezes are expected. According to the LSU Agricultural Center, a small light will provide extra heat without burning the plants.
Resist the urge to prune banana plants after a freeze until you are sure what to remove. Freeze-damaged leaves look soggy and limp. Trunks that have died will be brown, broken or bent to the ground. Remove only the dead foliage. The banana plant will often come back from the trunk or rhizome.