How To Grow Bananas

Last Updated on April 6, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

Will bananas grow and produce fruit outside of sub-tropical areas?
Although bananas are tropical and sub-tropical fruits, they can be grown in cooler regions provided they are not subjected to any frost.

They will, however, grow much more slowly in these regions and the fruit tends to develop more slowly and does not get as big.

But if you have a warm, sheltered spot, edible bananas make interesting garden plants.

Which Banana Varieties to Grow

Is More Than One Variety of Edible Banana Available?

Yes — but you may have to go to a nursery specializing in sub-tropical fruit to find them.

Edible bananas are all hybrids from Musa paradisiaca and a number of named varieties are available.

‘Williams’ is the most widely grown hybrid and both it and ‘Cavendish’ are resistant to Panama disease which is a soil-borne fungus disease.

Other hybrids include ‘Lady Finger’and ‘Sugar’.

When Is the Best Time To Plant Bananas?

The best time of the year to plant banana trees depends on where you live, and your climate.

While the plants need all year round warmth, they do need specific conditions to grow properly. In places like South Africa where the climate is warm all year round, then there is no real best time.

However, if you live in a place where the weather is cooler, then the best time to plant banana trees is when the climate is mild, and the soil is moist.

Do They Need Regular Feeding?

Yes. Bananas are very greedy plants and must be well-fed from the time they are first planted.

Feed them regularly every six weeks from March-September with 3:2:1 fertilizer at a rate of 1lb per plant.

Spread it evenly around each plant, lightly work it into the soil, and then water thoroughly.

Since bananas also need plenty of moisture throughout the year, they should be kept well mulched with compost.

When Should Banana Fruit Be Picked off the Tree?

Bananas should be picked when the remains of the flowers fall off easily when touched and the fruit itself is well-rounded, with no sharp ribs.

Although they can be left on the banana plant until they start to turn yellow, they are likely to be damaged by fruit-eating bats.

Although you can put bananas in your compost, it’s better if you can rather eat them!

Consequently, it is better to allow them to ripen indoors.

Ideally, the temperature of the picked fruit should be 20° C — if it is lower the fruit will take longer to ripen and the flavor will be impaired.

The bunches can be wrapped in newspaper to help them ripen, or they can be put into sealed, polythene bags, together with a couple of ripe tomatoes or apples.

These fruits give off ethylene which stimulates the ripening process.

Commercially grown bananas are often ripened by being exposed to ethylene, propylene or acetylene.

After the bunches have been picked, the stems of the fruiting plants should be cut back to about 3-feet from the ground in order to stimulate the growth of the banana sucker which is going to be retained for the follow-on crop.

After about 4-6 weeks, the old stems should be cut to about 6-inches above the ground. In this way, and by regular feeding and watering, you should have a steady supply of fruit for many years.

Remember that if they are not properly maintained, banana plants quickly lose their vigor and fruiting capabilities.

How Do You Propagate Bananas?

Do Bananas Actually Produce Banana Seeds?

Edible bananas do not produce seeds, but are reproduced mainly from the suckers which develop from near the base of the plant.

Suckers for planting should be about 2-feet high.

Remove the sucker carefully from the parent plant so as not to disturb the roots and then replant it in a hole about 16 inches (40.64 cm) wide by 12 inches (30.48 cm) deep.

Each plant should be about 8-10 feet (3.05 m) away from each other as banana trees need plenty of growing room.

Another method of propagation is by means of small pieces which are cut from the corm or swollen base of the plants. These pieces — known as ‘bits’ — must each contain a bud which, when placed in the soil, will shoot out, thus creating a new plant.

This is a fairly slow propagation method, so if you have healthy disease-free plants, suckers are the easiest way of making new ones.

Removing Suckers From the Base of a Banana Tree

Not all the suckers should be removed or you will not get any more fruit the following year.

Leave one or two of the healthiest ones and then cut all the others off just above ground level.

Rooted suckers can be used to produce new plants.

The reason for cutting off suckers is to allow the maximum amount of light, water and nourishment to be absorbed by the mature plant so that it can produce top-quality fruit.

Growing Ornamental Banana Trees

Where is the best place to plant ornamental bananas and are they easy to grow?

There are several kinds of ornamental bananas. Musa rosacea has pink flowers and makes an attractive plant in warm, moist places.

The wild banana, Ensete ventricosum, is a large, popular plant that is easy to grow in a warm position.

The large, soft leaves are easily damaged by the wind and it should therefore be planted where they receive as little wind as possible.

In areas which experience mild frosts, the plants will often die off during the cold weather and then shoot out again in spring.

To give them as much protection from the cold as possible, plant them against a south-facing wall or similar warm spot, they do not like to be grown in shade.

The plants need a fairly deep, rich soil that has had plenty of nutritious compost added.

Since they need warm, humid conditions for maximum growth, they should be given a regular supply of water.

Plants which are in an exposed or cool situation never have leaves as large and as luxurious as those in warm situations.

Because of their love of warmth and humidity, they make ideal plants to have next to a sheltered swimming pool area.

They flower after 10 years and then die back.

You can achieve a tropical effect to your landscaping by buying palm trees and planting them along with the banana trees.

What Are Sometimes Described as ‘Wild Bananas’?

These plants are probably giant strelitzias (Strelitzia nicolai).

They are frequently called wild bananas (although related to bananas, botanically they fall under a different family).

Since they are much more hardy to wind and dry conditions, they make an excellent alternative to the edible and ornamental bananas.

They produce blue and white flowers of the same type as the brightly colored, orange crane flower (Strelitzia reginae).

What Could Be the Cause of My Banana Plants Withering?

There are two possibilities: The first is the banana weevil borer — a small grub which tunnels through the corm until it decays completely.

Dig up withered plants and carefully examine them. If these grubs are the problem, destroy all the infected plants and retain only vigorous, pest-free ones.

Plant these in a new position and allow the old site to rest for a season or two.

Panama Disease

The other possible cause of your problem may be Panama disease — an extremely serious fungus growth.

Panama disease is a soil-borne fungus that has been taking the banana industry by storm, causing millions of dollars in destruction and has all but destroyed the commercial banana industry in many parts of the world.

The fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, also known as Foc, is a parasite that infects the roots of the banana plant, often aided by soil nematodes.

It can live and grow in the soil for as long as ten years.

At present there is no satisfactory cure, so in areas where this disease is a problem it is vital to plant resistant varieties.

Because of this and a number of other serious banana diseases, banana plants are not allowed by law to he transplanted indiscriminately in some regions for fear of spreading diseases to otherwise disease-free regions.

In order to avoid diseased plants, new ones should always be purchased from a registered nursery.

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