- Growing bananas in Southern California
- Planting and Care
- Banana Tree Fruit – Tips On Getting Banana Plants To Fruit
- Banana Tree Fruit
- How to Get Banana Trees to Produce Fruit
- Banana Tree Fruit Issues: Why Do Banana Trees Die After Fruiting
- Do Banana Trees Die After Harvest?
- Reasons for Banana Tree Dying After Bearing Fruit
For much of its history, the banana industry was notorious for environmentally destructive and socially irresponsible farming practices. As companies attempted to keep production high and costs low, they tended to cultivate only single crops in their plantations. The lack of biodiversity made the plants susceptible to disease, which farm managers controlled using frequent applications of pesticides that would leak into drinking water, pollute irrigation canals, and endanger the health of workers, their families, and communities. In 1991, the Rainforest Alliance, along with local nonprofit organizations, scientists, and farmers established the first standards for responsible banana production. Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms meet a rigorous set of standards that protect wildlands, wildlife, soil, and water, reduce agrochemical use, and improve the quality of life for farm workers and their families. The environment and the communities surrounding Rainforest Alliance Certified banana plantations benefit from both on-farm improvements and off-farm recognition, setting the pace for the rest of the banana sector.
Growing and Fruiting Bananas
By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin
Banana ‘Super Dwarf Cavendish’
Banana ‘Dwarf Red’
Banana ‘Double Mahoi’
Flowers beginning to emerge
Young bananas are forming
Banana ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’
Whether the banana is a dwarf banana, a tall banana, a red banana or a variegated banana, in the genus Musa the basic cultural needs are the same and growing your own bananas is an exciting and rewarding process, especially when you harvest your first delicious homegrown fruit.
Bananas are really bulbs much like a daffodil. The vegetative part is made up of leaf petioles tightly stacked together to form a trunk or pseudostem. Like all flowering bulbs, the bud itself is under the soil and as the cycle of flowering approaches the bud emerges from the bulb or the base of the plant and rises up through the trunk or pseudostem to emerge at the top and create a flower or inflorescence and in time bananas.
The Secret to Flowering or Fruiting a Banana
When you grow bananas for fruit, the environment has to be ideal many months before the bud is visible, therefore, a young plant must have optimum conditions for successful flowering and fruiting. Also, pay attention to the variety of banana for some bananas are more tolerant of less than optimal conditions.
Optimal Conditions- Four Important Ingredients
- Full Sun
In the optimum environment, when all four of the above ingredients are given in abundance, the banana plant will thrive and reward the gardener with lush growth and fruit. However, if any of these ingredients are missing, the banana will still grow just at a slower rate. Most bananas can take lower light and cooler temperatures as well as reduced fertilizer without stopping the flowering process; it just slows it down and can reduce the amount of bananas produced.
Container Grown Bananas
Container grown bananas can be wintered over in a sunroom, an above freezing garage or cellar. Banana plants grown in a garden can be dug and lifted out of the ground before winter and stored in an above freezing area. The plant will have yellow leaves but the trunk and some of the roots will be alive waiting for the next growing season. This is one way to grow bananas in the north. This method also helps to contain their size so they are manageable.
Two Groups of Bananas
Bananas can be classified into two groups: the ornamental variety is grown for its foliage and flowers, and the fruiting variety is grown for its edible fruit as well as its tropical foliage.
Factors for Flowering and Fruiting
Getting bananas to flower and fruit does take time depending on location. In tropical areas, it often takes a year or more for the young shoot to develop into a tree and produce fruit. In the north that same plant could take 2-3 years due to the disruption of winter with shorter day length and cooler temperatures. Once the flower and fruiting stalk appears, allow the green bananas to fully develop and fill out. This usually takes 3-4 months. Then the entire fruiting stalk is cut off the plant and may be hung upside down in a cool, shady location to fully ripen and turn yellow. Bananas ripen quickly usually within a week or two at the most.
Variety Matters for Production
Varieties range from a few feet to up to 20′ tall and the flowering cycle is also variety dependent. The variety ‘Viente Cohol’ is one of the fastest fruiting varieties or short cycle bananas that can fruit within a year, even in the north. In contrast, the ‘Dwarf Red’ can take three or more years to fruit under the same conditions in northern growing conditions.
Offshoots- Remove or Keep?
Another characteristic is the production of offshoots from the main bulb. This is one way that bananas reproduce and the gardener can take advantage of this for propagation. When a banana goes through the flowering and fruiting cycle, the main plant will die and it’s the offshoots that take over, starting another new plant.
Generally, the old trunk is cut off and the plants can be divided if more are desired. As a rule of thumb for bananas grown in the ground, three offshoots are allowed to grow once the main trunk is removed. Remember it is important to give the young plants plenty of light, water and fertilizer so the flowering and fruiting potential will be maximized. Developing offshoots that are growing in low light and are given little fertilizer, generally won’t reach their full yielding potential when in fruit or flower. For bananas grown in pots, this is often seen with fewer bananas on the flower stem.
Temperatures and Fertilizer
When temperatures are warm and bananas are in their active growth stages, they are heavy feeders requiring a nutrient rich soil. This can be accomplished in pots by adding small amounts of a soluble fertilizer to the water or topdressing with a slow release or granular fertilizer. Any balanced fertilizer, where the NPK numbers are close to even, will work, but banana plants can be supplemented with additional potassium and magnesium for best growth and fruiting. When grown in the garden, the same is true with a feeding routine using a granular organic fertilizer sprinkled around the base of the plant several times during the summer. As with all plants, feeding can be over done so it’s better to apply smaller amounts more often.
Water is also necessary in copious amounts as long as the soil or potting mix is well drained. In the garden with heavy clay soil or in high rainfall areas, less is needed but it is much like the watering done in any food-producing garden. Drought slows down the growth. When grown in pots in the summer, attention needs to be given daily to the plant’s water needs. Many varieties are large growers and once they have filled out the largest container that the gardener can handle, then the fertilizer and watering requirements must be done with greater accuracy.
Bananas come in many sizes from 3′ to 20′ tall and the size of the container needs to be proportioned to the final size of the banana. Depending on how big a pot you want to handle, bananas can be grown anywhere from a 5-gallon container to a 25-gallon container or even bigger. With regards to pot size, a smaller pot will restrict growth and this also means that the final fruit count will be smaller.
How to Measure Height
The height of a banana is measured from the soil up to where the leaves are emerging from the pseudostem. So for example a 5′ banana would have a 5′ trunk plus the height of the leaves which could be another 4′ so for height purposes that 5′ banana will grow to 9′ tall at maturity.
How to Manage Height
When grown outside of their gardening zone, bananas can get very large during the summer and when brought inside there is often a problem of fitting them into their winter space. One option is to cut the pseudostem back to a manageable height. This removes the leaves as well as part of the trunk. As all the leaves are coming from the bulb in the soil, the plant will, in no time, replace the leaves and continue to grow, providing there is light and warmth. It also can shorten the height of the plant to some degree. The only down side to this procedure is that if the plant was in the midst of flowering and the flower stem was rising up through the center of the trunk, the fruit and flower would be lost. Generally, it best to do this on a plant that’s a year old or less.
Growing bananas in Southern California
Among the first words out of my two year-old son’s mouth every morning are, “Can I have a banana?” He’ll eat five a day if allowed. So I’m hearing the call to get better about growing them in the yard.
Here in Southern California? Can they really produce?
Good climate for bananas
Bananas can be grown well and easily throughout most of Southern California between the mountains and the ocean, specifically Sunset Zones 24 down to 21 (find your Sunset zone here). Think of the areas that the marine layer consistently rolls over each summer night. This is where it’s a suitable combination of humidity and winter warmth.
I’ve grown bananas within this ideal band. I used to live near the San Diego Zoo where, incidentally, many bananas are also grown.
I’m now in the foothills, Sunset Zone 20, where we get at least a touch of frost every winter. Bananas don’t like frost, of course. Here I’ve learned to put my bananas near a south-facing wall for the best frost protection. (Mere frost won’t kill a banana plant, but it does slow down its fruit production by damaging leaves.)
Nevertheless, bananas can be grown to decent production even in many parts of the valleys and foothills. The bananas in the photo above come from a plant in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. And in fact, a friend who lives near me in the hot and dry foothills of San Diego County is producing these wonderful bananas:
I’ve seen good banana bunches on plants farther north too. Here’s a producing mat of banana plants that caught my eye a couple weeks ago as I was visiting Carpinteria, in Santa Barbara County.
It’s generally helpful for bananas to grow where the wind is not strong. This is for two reasons: they look better (leaves get tattered in wind), and the wind draws moisture out of the leaves. But being out of the wind is certainly not necessary for fruit production.
How banana plants grow
Banana plants aren’t individuals like, say, tomato plants. Neither are banana plants trees like, say, orange trees. Banana plants are more like giant stalks of grass that grow out of a bulb-like base called a rhizome. That rhizome continually sprouts up new banana plants. People usually call the group of banana plants emerging from a common rhizome a “mat,” but some call it a clump, and I sometimes think of it as a family.
What does it matter how bananas grow? You want to know that when you put in a single banana plant, in a few years you will have many banana plants.
That’s good and bad. The bad is that you may need to control the spread of the banana mat according to the space you have. You can do this easily by chopping off the baby banana plants with a shovel as they pop up.
The good is that your original banana plant is always multiplying itself. If you want more banana plants in another part of your yard, or if your neighbor wants some, you can grab a shovel and chop a small plant out of the mat and give it away or transplant it.
Starting banana plants
Bananas are an “over the fence” type of plant, as they say. Even though I’ve grown many banana plants, I’ve only bought one. All others have been given to me by friends and neighbors, or I’ve transplanted pups from my own banana mats.
These bananas are growing in my aunt’s yard in Encinitas, started from a pup given to her by my uncle who lives in Covina.
There is nothing tricky to transplanting a banana pup, also called a sucker. You need only to attempt to slice a chunk of rhizome along with the base of the sucker, as well as some roots if possible. The transplanted sucker may lose a couple leaves in its first weeks in the new spot, but that’s no big deal. You can even cut off all the leaves and the plant will soon start shooting out new ones. My habit is to chop the leaves in half just so the plant isn’t struggling to keep them alive, but I don’t really know if that’s the best way compared to doing nothing or cutting off all leaves. I only know that it works.
The sucker I chopped out above, now transplanted with leaves cut in half.
Within a year, that transplanted sucker will multiply into a mat, a family of banana plants.
I’ve always tried to limit my banana families to a mother, who is fruiting, and only two or three children. Four plants total seems to be an effective number for a banana mat. If more are allowed to grow, it’s said that they won’t fruit quite as well. I’ve never tested this personally, but from observing the banana mats of others it does seem true.
I also know that many commercial banana plantations only allow two plants in a mat. Obviously, they primarily care about maximum fruit production.
How long until a banana plant flowers and fruit ripens
In Southern California, it takes a banana plant longer to fruit compared to the tropics since we have a cool winter in which our banana plants nearly stop growing. Most banana plants I’ve seen will send out a flower sometime around two years after planting — depends on the weather, variety, soil and watering. Then it takes some more — frustratingly slow — months for the bananas to grow fat and ripen on the flower stalk. Therefore, planting to eating ends up being around two years plus.
What time of year does a banana plant flower? Whenever it feels like it. Bananas are a non-seasonal crop.
And so also bananas become ready to eat whenever they feel like it. Much flowering and fruit ripening happens spring through fall around here, but that’s only because banana plants in Southern California are very active in the spring through fall. Sometimes a plant will start fruiting in fall and then the baby bananas just sit there like statues all winter until it warms up in spring, when they resume maturing.
So what do you do when your banana plant flowers? Watch a most fascinating spectacle. A long thick stalk with a purple spearhead at the end thrusts out from the top of the trunk (technically called a pseudostem) and then groups (usually called “hands”) of bananas form along the stalk.
The number of bananas that grow on this single stalk can be upwards of 50, and the weight of them can get so heavy that the plant topples over. This only sometimes happens. If it seems likely, you can build a prop to support the stalk. A simple prop can be made with 2×2 wood that is connected in one spot with a bolt, such that it can be opened into the shape of an X. The X is wedged under the leaning plant.
The bananas can be picked once they are plump (no longer so angular) but still green, as commercial bananas are, or you can leave them on the plant until they turn yellow and ripe.
You can either cut off one banana at a time (starting at the top where the most mature ones are), or you can harvest the whole bunch at once and hang it somewhere, like in your kitchen. This latter method can be more convenient with varietes that are tall and hard to reach.
Chopped down the plant in order to harvest this bunch.
Sadly, a banana plant that has fruited is a banana plant that has fulfilled its end in life and will begin to die. So you can, after harvesting all the fruit, cut off that particular plant. A machete works well for this.
Gladly though, this mother plant has pups coming from the rhizome to take its place. The “family” is not dead, only that single mother plant that just fruited.
Watering and soil conditions that bananas like
To keep a banana plant happy in Southern California, the main thing you need to do is give it water in the dry months of the year. Bananas need little water during the winter here, when they’re almost dormant, but in the summer they love to drink. Give a banana ample water when the air is warm and it will unfurl new leaves before your very eyes.
The other thing bananas appreciate is fertile soil. Sure, many plants appreciate fertile soil, but bananas appreciate it more than most. They’ll grow and fruit even if you never fertilize them. I know this because I’ve done it and I’ve seen friends and neighbors do it. But I’ve also seen how much faster bananas grow in fertile soil, and how much bigger bunches they produce in such conditions.
Bananas’ love for soil fertility was once illustrated to me when I grew some around a compost pit. I had dug a pit and filled it with food and garden scraps, and then planted four bananas around the edge. Some months later I dug one of the plants out and found that it had far more roots on the side facing the pit, where it could feed on the compost.
A friend does something similar by occasionally digging a hole near his bananas and filling it with food scraps, covering it again with mulch. He also uses a fertilizer called ClassiCote 15-8-23. I’ve never used this product, but judging by the results he gets, it is doing no harm.
Zoom in to see that he has multiple large bunches on multiple mats.
Banana varieties for Southern California
You may be surprised to learn that there are oodles of different kinds of bananas out there. The ones we buy at the grocery store are only one type called Cavendish. But when you grow your own, you’ll likely grow a different type and you’ll be able to experience new banana flavors and textures. You may like them more or less, but they won’t be just like the ones from the store: maybe smaller, maybe not as sweet, maybe firmer, maybe fatter, maybe with bigger seeds, maybe harder to peel, maybe with whiter flesh.
So I’ve decided to focus on growing more bananas to feed the beast that is my younger son. But we know what’s going to happen: By the time I’m bringing in bunches from the yard he’ll start waking up each morning asking, “Can I have an apple?”
Learn more about growing bananas in Southern California:
-Watch a talk called “Let’s Grow Bananas” given by Carol Graham, Master Gardener and member of the California Rare Fruit Growers; Carol has decades of experience growing bananas in north San Diego County
-Look through a slideshow called “Banana Basics” made by Jon Verdick, also located in San Diego County, and also a member of the California Rare Fruit Growers; see the handout that accompanies the slideshow here
You might also like to read my posts:
Growing banana trees, like growing sugarcane, is normally a task left to those in the tropics. But at HomeFixated, we’re not really about being normal. A few years ago I decided buying bananas at the store was over-rated and embarked on a virtual and real-world journey to learn whatever I could about how to grow bananas. . . in San Diego. Granted, San Diego isn’t exactly Minnesota, but it’s also not tropical. But I didn’t let that stop me.
First, lets cover some basics. Bananas are yummy. Well, actually “dessert” bananas are yummy. They’re the kind you’re accustomed to eating, and are generally eaten when they are yellow and ripe. Plantains are best eaten cooked, which is generally done when the fruit is still green. Both versions are tasty, however I prefer to grow “dessert” varieties. Oh, and there are also ornamental trees, which blossom a very nice flower, but don’t produce edible fruit. India is the biggest producer of bananas globally.
Now, lets cover the esoteric. It turns out bananas are radioactive. Straight from Wikipedia:
Bananas are naturally slightly radioactive, more so than most other fruits, because of their high potassium content, and the small amounts of the isotope potassium-40 found in naturally occurring potassium. Proponents of nuclear power sometimes refer to the banana equivalent dose of radiation to support their arguments. Banana shipments often set off the radiation monitors installed at US ports to detect illegal shipments of radiologic materials.
Um, I feel slightly less excited about this now. Apparently I find radioactivity yummy. Maybe the one medical doctor that reads HomeFixated can chime in about relative levels of radiation in fruit in the comments. In the meantime, I’m going to stick with the notion that bananas are safe and desirable to eat.
Also in the esoteric category, bananas are actually very large herbs. If you cut through their “trunk”, you’ll find it actually is all just tightly wrapped stems of the leaves. This gives a whole new vibe to “growing herb.” Another random factoid: Banana Hearts (the large Hershey’s Kiss-shaped end below where the bananas grow), is supposedly edible and tastes similar to artichoke. I think that’s the plant equivalent of “it tastes like chicken.” I haven’t tried it yet.
Many people I talk to are shocked to realize that the bananas we buy here in the US are typically a single variety known as Cavendish. While you might assume Cavendish is what we buy because it’s the best, it’s actually what’s available because of its shelf life and ability to weather extended travel time after being picked unripe. It turns out there are many varieties of bananas that are much tastier, they just don’t export as profitably. As long as you’re in a place temperate enough to grow them, you don’t need to worry about how robust they are for travel, or shelf life. Another little known fact is that banana trees die after they fruit. But don’t worry, they also produce offspring called pups to carry-on. Need more banana facts? Check out the California Rare Fruit Growers (you’re a member, right?) Banana Fact Page.
Flowers from Ornamental Bordelon Variety
Alright, enough random facts, let’s get into how to grow bananas. Back when I began my journey, I kept finding references to a man named Jon Verdick here in San Diego. He lives just about 6 miles inland from downtown San Diego, and it turns out, he’s really serious about bananas! Jon runs Encanto Farms Nursery, which not only is home to one of the most impressive collections of banana trees, but also happens to be run from his home/suburban jungle. Banana trees are available at about $15-$35 each. If you’re in Southern California and are serious about growing bananas, I highly recommend you schedule a visit with Jon (by appointment only). Jon also has some shipping options available if you’re outside the area.
Almost everything I learned about how to grow bananas came from Jon. That’s why I’m quoting a huge portion of the info sheet he graciously provided to me back in 2006. He has a more updated version of it, available here as well. Here are some key points:
Most bananas are propagated from rhizomes, called pups. Ornamental varieties are propagated from seed, as were the wild ancestors of modern bananas. Pups can be removed from the parent plant and replanted to produce additional fruit and plants. Pups are also removed to maintain a good balance between the number of plants, and the root mass available. Pups are removed by using a digging tool to sever the connection to the parent corm, and to wiggle and pry it out of the ground.
Bananas are shallow rooted, and will adapt to most soils, as long as they receive the correspondingly appropriate amounts of water. I have planted directly in my clay and cobble, and also in huge beds of pure compost, and they have been fine either way.
Bananas supposedly like a temperature range of 55-90°, and grow most actively in this temperature range. . The “Reds” are generally more cold sensitive than other varieties. Orinocco and California Gold are thought to be the most cold hardy. Plants are very frost sensitive.
From April to October, when growth is active, bananas need plenty of water, fertilizer and compost. From November to March, when growth is minimal, keep bananas moist, and do not fertilize. Excess water during dormancy causes the roots to rot.
I have deliberately tried to over-fertilize my bananas, with out success. Some will grow too fast, and their leaves will become tangled as the exit they stalk, but none have died or been “burned”. Supposedly they like a N-P-K formula of 9-3-27, but I have not been able to distinguish performance between that formula and 16-16-16 (the cheap stuff at Home Depot), I add about 12” of compost (in two or three applications) on the root area of my plants each year (a 6-12’ diameter).
To maximize plant energy, fruit size and quantity, do not remove any portion of the plant, which is green. Only remove yellow or brown portions of leaves and stems.
Bananas bloom “when they feel like it”. However, given similar growing conditions, they will generally flower at the same height, so being familiar with the characteristics of your particular variety is important. If blooming is close to occurring late in the Fall, it may be delayed till growth resumes in the Spring, but not always, here in San Diego. The first groups of flowers are female and produce fruit (varying from 3 or 4 hands, to 20 or more). A few flowers, which are hermaphroditic, and may produce very small vestigial bananas, follow these and finally the rest of the flowers are male (and like most males, don’t do anything). There is no consistent opinion on whether the male portion of the flower should be removed. I allow about 8-12” of bare stem, and then remove the terminal bud. My thinking is that energy going into flowering isn’t going into fruiting.
Knowing when to pick your bananas is also dependent on knowing the characteristics of your particular variety. Kanderian ripened in 12 weeks, and Saba took about 10 months. I approach a new variety as follows: when the first hand appears, I write the date on the side of the stalk with a felt pen. After 6 months, if they have not shown any color change, I cut off the top (oldest) hand, and allow it to ripen (usually a couple weeks). If it is OK, I continue removing hands as I need them. Eventually the rest will ripen on the “tree”. Picking when green spreads out the harvest (who wants to try and eat 100 bananas in a week?). There are other factors which indicate when ripening is close. Most varieties will increase in diameter, and the “corners” will become rounder. In some varieties, this is almost imperceptible. In others, it is quite dramatic, with the bananas nearly doubling in diameter.
Jon has much of this info available along with many photos on the growing tips portion of his WeBeBananas site.
If you are not blessed with a warm place to live, a guy named Joe Real put together a list of cold-hardy banana varieties after spending $2000 on 85 culivars of bananas and then leaving them outside for the winter. His list represents the twenty four plants that survived the cold after his wife evicted him (and his bananas apparently) from the third car garage. I personally think his wife should be brought to justice with 61 counts of banana tree murder.
Growing banana trees isn’t for everyone, but if you’re in a climate that’s warm enough, it can be a lot of fun. Thanks to the prolific way they propagate and the high speed at which they grow, it’s also very easy to quickly fill a landscape with banana trees. Just between you and me, I still buy bananas regularly at the store (our yard isn’t quite big enough to support continuous harvest). But when we do have a tree with mature bananas on it, they taste that much sweeter. We hope our how to grow bananas guide helps you experience your own home-grown herbs too!
Musa basjoo is one of the most cold-hardy bananas.
Bananas are wonderful plants that are grown both for their edible and ornamental qualities. They can be grown in nearly all areas of the state, though they will be damaged by frosts and freezes.
Bananas are plants that can easily lend a lush look to your landscape, thanks to their oversized leaves. They look great paired with gingers or other tropical ornamentals.
From an ornamental standpoint, several banana varieties are favored for their ability to withstand colder temperatures. These plants may lose their leaves during cold winters, but will usually put out new growth in the spring.
The cultivar ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ (Musa acuminata) is widely available and can be grown throughout Florida. It can produce tasty fruit if it doesn’t freeze back in the winter.
Pink velvet banana (Musa velutina) produces fruits that have a bright pink outer peel.
The most cold-hardy option is the Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo), which can survive in areas that receive sub-zero temperatures.
One more cold hardy banana is Black Thai (Musa balbisiana). Keep in mind that many of these are ornamental bananas, and aren’t good for eating.
And of course, bananas can also be grown for their tasty fruits. Although supermarkets usually carry just one or two types, bananas come in a range of cultivar types that vary greatly in plant size and fruit flavor. Popular cultivars for eating include ‘Lady Finger,’ ‘Apple,’ and ‘Ice Cream.’
If temperatures drop below freezing, all of these plants will turn brown. However, they typically come back in the spring.
And although not technically bananas, Abyssinian banana (Ensete ventricosum), musella, and ensete all look like bananas and can take the cold.
Planting and Care
Bananas will perform best when they’re planted in a moist, fertile soil in a wind-protected location that receives full sun. Since most soils in Florida are sandy and have low fertility, bananas need to be fertilized frequently (4 to 6 times per year) to have high growth and production rates. Young plants should be fertilized with one-half pound of 6-2-12 fertilizer every two months, and increasing gradually to five pounds at flowering and fruiting time.
Bananas also need regular watering and prefer to receive one to one and a half inches of water each week. If bananas don’t get enough water, they can be slow to fruit, will produce small or otherwise inferior fruit, or have low yields. At the same time, it’s important not to overwater, since continuously wet soils can harm the plants.
A key feature is the banana’s rhizomatous root system, which puts up new stalks each year. For good fruit production, it helps to limit the plant to three or four stalks that are different ages. The oldest and tallest one should be flowering and/or fruiting. The second one should be one-half to one-third the size of the first. And finally, there should be one or two young plants that are six inches to three feet tall.
Bananas in South Florida should also be watched for signs of nematode damage or symptoms of fusarium wilt and sigatoka disease.
For more information about bananas, contact your local Extension office.
Banana Tree Fruit – Tips On Getting Banana Plants To Fruit
Banana trees are a staple of many hot weather landscapes. While they’re very decorative and are often grown for their tropical leaves and bright flowers, most varieties also produce fruit. Keep reading to learn more about how to get banana trees to produce fruit.
Banana Tree Fruit
Can a banana plant grow fruit? Of course, it can – they’re called bananas! That being said, not all banana plants produce fruit that you can eat. Some varieties like the red banana, the dwarf banana, and the pink velvet banana are grown for their flowers. They do make fruit, but it’s not edible. When you’re choosing a banana plant, make sure to pick one that’s bred to make tasty fruit.
Bananas should flower in spring to early summer, and banana tree fruit should set in early summer. The fruit grows in clusters, called hands, along a single stalk. A stalk full of hands is called a bunch.
It takes between 3 and 6 months for the banana tree fruit to mature. You’ll know the bananas are mature when they take on a fuller, rounder appearance. Don’t let them turn yellow on the plant, as they’re likely to split open and spoil. When most of the fruits in the bunch are mature, cut the whole stalk off and hang it in a dark place to allow the fruits to ripen.
Banana tree fruit will be ruined by below freezing temperatures. If frost is in your forecast, cut the stalk and bring it inside whether it’s mature or not. The fruits, though small, should still ripen. Once you’ve harvested your fruit, you should cut down the stem it grew on. Each stem will produce only one bunch of bananas, and cutting it down makes room for new stems to come up.
How to Get Banana Trees to Produce Fruit
Maybe there’s no fruit on a banana plant in your garden. What gives? The problem could be one of a number of things. Getting banana trees to fruit takes certain conditions.
If your soil is poor, your tree may grow fine but not produce fruit. Your soil should be rich, non-saline, and have a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.
Getting banana plants to fruit also requires continuous warmth. A banana plant can survive down to freezing, but it won’t grow or set fruit below 50 F. (10 C.). The ideal temperature for banana fruit set is in the mid 80’s.
Be very careful about pruning your banana plants. The stalks that produce the fruit grow up slowly inside the stems. Cutting back a stem in the fall may mean no banana fruit the following summer. Only cut stems that have already fruited.
Banana Tree Fruit Issues: Why Do Banana Trees Die After Fruiting
Banana trees are amazing plants to grow in the home landscape. Not only are they beautiful tropical specimens, but most of them bear edible banana tree fruit. If you have ever seen or grown banana plants, then you may have noticed banana trees dying after bearing fruit. Why do banana trees die after fruiting? Or do they really die after harvesting?
Do Banana Trees Die After Harvest?
The simple answer is yes. Banana trees do die after harvest. Banana plants take around nine months to grow up and produce banana tree fruit, and then once the bananas have been harvested, the plant dies. It sounds almost sad, but that isn’t the entire story.
Reasons for Banana Tree Dying After Bearing Fruit
Banana trees, actually perennial herbs, are comprised of a succulent, juicy “pseudostem” that is actually a cylinder of leaf sheaths which can grow up to 20-25 feet (6 to 7.5 m.) in height. They rise up from a rhizome or corm.
Once the plant has fruited, it dies back. This is when suckers, or infant banana plants, begin to grow from around the base of the parent plant. The aforementioned corm has growing points that turn into new suckers. These suckers (pups) can be removed and transplanted to grow new banana trees and one or two can be left to grow in place of the parent plant.
So, you see, although the parent tree dies back, it is replaced by baby bananas almost immediately. Because they are growing from the corm of the parent plant, they will be just like it in every respect. If your banana tree is dying after bearing fruit, don’t worry. In another nine months, the baby banana trees will be all grown up like the parent plant and ready to present you with another succulent bunch of bananas.