There are plenty of banana tree varieties to grow, depending on your growing zone. All of these are sub species of the genus Musa. Though you might think of them as a tree, similar to most other fruit trees, in reality, it’s a herbaceous plant. It’s not a tree because it does not have a woody stem. Tree or not, you’ll love having this wonderfully unique addition to your garden. Upright stalks with large fresh green leaves give shade throughout the year. If you have the right growing conditions throughout the year, beautiful flowers appear in spring, giving way to big bunches of bananas!
Depending on the climate it’s growing in, bananas may or may not give fruit. Nonetheless, many gardeners grow it as an ornamental, adding more variety to their garden. You can even grow one indoors. However, when grown indoors in pots, the palm will stay smaller and is unlikely to bear any fruit.
Banana Plant Care
If you’re planning to have a banana plant in your garden or already have one, it’s worth learning how to care for them to get the most out of the beautiful palm. Here’s what you need to know.
Banana plants ask for plenty of sunlight. When growing the plant outdoors, choose a spot that gets at least 4 to 6 hours of full sun every day – the more the better. Make sure that the location is sheltered from strong winds. Winds can damage the plant’s leaves. Also make sure that the plant has enough space to spread vertically and horizontally. As the plant grows, it needs plenty of room to spread its long leaves.
If you’re growing the palm indoors, place it next to a south-facing window that receives multiple hours of direct sunlight each day.
For successful growth, banana palms need rich, fertile soil. Amend the planting site with organic matter before planting. Additionally, make sure the soil is well-drained to prevent waterlogged conditions. The palm prefers the soil pH to be slightly on the acidic side, between 5.5 to 6.5. A home pH testing kit will tell you the existing pH of your garden soil.
Banana plants need lots of potassium for proper growth. When grown in containers, amend the potting soil with well-balanced slow-release fertilizer to keep the plant nourished.
Native to the tropics, bananas are thirsty plants. They grow best with plenty of water. Because of the bigger surface area of the large leaves, transpiration is high. The loss needs to be replenished with a steady amount of irrigation throughout the growing season. Irrigate the palm regularly, offering about 1 to 2 inches of water each week. However, avoid overwatering as it can cause root rot.
Bananas prefer a warm climate. Even the cold hardy varieties grow best when they receive consistently warm temperatures between 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold temperatures slow down growth. The tops die back if they experience frost.
Banana plants are heavy feeders. It needs plenty of fertilization throughout the growing season to sustain the large leaves. Apply a balanced (10-10-10) or phosphorus-rich fertilizer (10-8-10) every month throughout the growing season to keep them well fed. In addition, side dress the palm with well-composted manure each year to replenish the organic matter in the soil.
Banana plants need extra protection for the winters for proper overwintering. You can either dig it up, plant it in a container and keep it indoors through the fall and winter months, watering it minimally. Alternatively, if you want to leave it outdoors, cut off the plant to 6 inches above the ground and apply a thick layer of mulch around the pseudostem. Once new growth emerges in spring, spread out the mulch to reduce it in thickness around the pseudostem.
Pests and Diseases
Keep a watch out for pests and diseases as banana plants are susceptible to a number of these.
Curled and shriveled foliage may be a sign of aphids. If left untreated, they can attract other diseases that can also affect the fruit produced. Treat the plant with insecticidal soap to get rid of aphids before they become a problem.
Nematodes are also common in banana plants and can rot the plant and fruit if not addressed in time. Other problems include root rot, powdery mildew and wilt. Commercial fungicides and pesticides are typically sufficient to cater to most problems.
How To Propagate a Banana Plant?
Banana plants can be propagated from divisions. Banana plant gives off suckers from the base of the plant. They can be removed from the parent plant and grown as a new plant. Separating the suckers, also called ‘pups’ from the parent plant is also necessary to maintain the health of the parent plant. Let the ‘pup’ grow to at least 1 foot before separating it. Dig around the sucker and seperate it from the parent plant, keeping some roots intact. Grow it in fresh soil. Water the new plant frequently and fertilize it to give it a good start.
Is Banana Plant Toxic?
Banana plants are non toxic. This means that you can grow them outdoors or as a houseplant without any fear of risking your kids or pets’ health.
As long as they get the optimal conditions, banana plants will thrive whether you grow them in your garden or as a houseplant. There are several varieties to pick. Choose a cultivar that grows best in your climate. Though most are accustomed to growing in warm climates, cold-hardy banana plants can grow in USDA zones 4 to 11 as perennials.