This article is about how to make banana tree. I have written till now, this is final chapter of this article series. we will also see, How To Take Proper Care Of banana tree
Banana tree is one of the most popular plants in the tropical countries due to its edible fruit. It requires a little care when making a banana tree but not exactly hard. Here we will learn how to make banana tree in our home by using the simple steps.
Growing Bananas (Musa Spp.)
How To Grow Banana Plants And Keep Them Happy
Growing bananas does not take much effort, but it does require that you get a few things right when you first get started…
Banana plants can offer many benefits:
- They make great windbreaks or screens,
- they can keep the sun of the hot western side of your house,
- they utilize the water and nutrients in waste drains (think washing water or outdoor shower),
- the leaves can be fed to horses, cows and other grazers,
- the dried remains of the trunks can be used for weaving baskets and mats.
Oh, and they give you bananas. Lots of bananas!
But when I look around friends’ gardens then I see some pretty sad looking banana plants growing there. It helps to understand what bananas like and dislike if you want them to be happy!
Banana plants like:
- Rich, dark, fertile soils.
- Lots of mulch and organic matter. LOTS. Just keep piling it on.
- Lot of nitrogen and potassium. (Chicken manure!)
- Steady warmth, not too hot and not too cold. (Bananas are sissies when it comes to temperatures…)
- Steady moisture, in the ground and in the air.
- The shelter of other bananas! That’s the most overlooked aspect by home growers…
Banana plants dislike:
- Strong winds.
- Extreme heat or cold.
- Being hungry or thirsty.
- Being alone and exposed.
More detail on all that below.
Cavendish is the variety that you know from the supermarket. If you live near a banana growing region, this is the variety you see in the plantations. It is a stout plant that produces large heavy bunches.
Lady Fingers are very tall and slender plants and have smaller, sweeter fruit. They are often grown by gardeners as ornamental plants with the small fruit being a bonus.
Plantains are cooking bananas. They are drier and more starchy. You use them green like you would use potatoes, and they taste similar.
80% of all bananas grown in the world are plantain varieties! They are an important staple food in many tropical countries.
There are many other exotic varieties, but those above are the most popular and most commonly grown.
What I describe below and most of the pictures on this page refer to Cavendish bananas but the advice applies to all other varieties as well.
How Do Bananas Grow?
Bananas are not real trees, not even palm trees, even though they are often called banana palms. Bananas are perennial herbs.
(Gingers, heliconias and bird-of-paradise flowers are distant relatives of bananas. They are in the same order, Zingiberales.)
Banana trunks consists of all the leaf stalks wrapped around each other. New leaves start growing inside, below the ground. They push up through the middle and emerge from the centre of the crown. So does the flower, which finally turns into a bunch of bananas.
Here is a picture series showing how the flower looks at first, and how the bananas appear and curl up towards the light.
Those pictures were taken over the course of a few days. You can pretty much watch this happen. But now it will take another two months or so, depending on the temperature, for the fruit to fill out and finally ripen.
A banana plant takes about 9 months to grow up and produce a bunch of bananas. Then the mother plant dies. But around the base of it are many suckers or pups, little baby plants.
At the base of a banana plant, under the ground, is a big rhizome called the corm.
The rhizome has many growing points and those turn into new suckers/pups. The suckers can be taken off and transplanted, and one or two can be left in position to replace the mother plant
Great, so now you know what to do once you have bananas growing in your garden, but how do you start?
How To Get Started Growing Bananas
First you need to make sure that you can in fact grow bananas where you are.
You need a tropical or warm subtropical climate. Bananas can handle extreme heat (if they have enough water), but they don’t like it. They can handle cool weather for a short while, but they don’t like that either. Below 14°C (57°F) they just stop growing.
If the temperatures drop any lower the fruit suffers, the skin turns greyish and the leaves can turn yellow. Frost kills the plant above ground, but the corm can survive and may re-shoot.
The ideal temperature range for banana growing is around 26-30°C (78-86°F).
You need a lot of water to grow bananas. The huge soft leaves evaporate a lot and you have to keep up the supply. Bananas also need high humidity to be happy.
Where I live the commercial banana growers water their plants two or three times a day with sprinklers to keep up the humidity in the banana plantation!
You need very rich soil. If you don’t have good soil to start with, make some. Incorporate lots and lots of compost and plenty of chicken manure before you plant your bananas. Wood ash for extra potassium doesn’t hurt either. Then mulch them very thickly. And keep mulching and feeding them!
And you need room so you can plant enough of them together. Bananas need shelter from wind. Growing many banana plants together increases the humidity in the middle, evens out temperature changes a bit, and it shades and cools the trunks. You don’t want to cook the flower that’s forming in the middle
If you get a chance, look at a commercial banana plantation somewhere. The outside rows, especially the western side, always look sad. The best bananas grow on the inside.
You should plant bananas in blocks or clumps, not single rows and definitely not single plants. If you have very little room you can grow a few banana plants together and grow something else on the outside to protect them. But you do need to give them that sheltered jungle environment if you want them to be happy.
(Now, please don’t send me any more emails letting me know that you are successfully growing a solitary banana plant in a tub on your patio or in your greenhouse or wherever. This is a permaculture site. We are not talking about keeping plants alive outside their natural growing conditions. We are growing food.
Having said that, understanding what makes a banana plant happy will help you grow it just for fun and under sub-optimal conditions as well.)
You can not grow the usual bananas from seeds. These banana plants don’t produce viable seeds like wild bananas do.
The best way is to start with the above mentioned suckers or pups. Know someone who grows bananas? Talk to them. Every banana plant produces a lot more suckers than you need, so people usually have plenty to give away.
Only take suckers from vigorous banana plants. The suckers should have small, spear shaped leaves and ideally be about four feet high. Smaller suckers will take longer to fruit and the first banana bunch will be smaller.
Cut the sucker from the main banana plant with a sharp shovel. Cut downwards between the mature plant and the sucker. You have to cut through the corm. It’s not easy.
Make sure you get a good chunk of corm and many roots with it. Chop the top off the sucker to reduce evaporation while you move it and while it settles into its new home.
Remember, the growing point is at the bottom of a banana plant. You can decapitate the sucker. It will grow back.
Another option is to dig up a bit of the rhizome and chop it into bits. Every bit that has an eye can be planted and will grow into a banana plant. But it takes longer than growing banana suckers.
Plant your bits or suckers in your well prepared banana patch, keeping two to five metres between them.
The spacing depends on your layout. My bananas grow in a block of several double rows. Within the double rows the spacing is two to three metres, now with two plants in each position, suckers of the initial plant. My double rows are four to five metres apart.
I also have a banana circle around an outdoor shower with two metres at the most between individual plants, and they are growing in a haphazard way.
If you have just a single clump of a few banana plants you can put them even closer together.
Keep your banana plants moist but not too wet in the early days or they may rot. They don’t have leaves yet to evaporate water, so they don’t need a lot of it.
Maintaining Your Banana Patch
The most common cause of death for bananas is lack of water.
The most common cause for not getting fruit is starvation.
Banana plants blow over in strong winds.
Protect them and feed them and water them and all will be well. Other than that bananas don’t need much maintenance.
Just remove any dead leaves and cut down the dead plants every now and then.
You get bigger fruit if you remove all unwanted suckers, only keeping the best one.
After the initial planting you can leave two on healthy, vigorous plants. Beyond that it is better to keep one sucker per plant on average. Otherwise your patch will become too crowded.
The best suckers are the ones with the small, spear shaped leaves, NOT the pretty ones with the big round leaves!
Why? A sucker that is still fed by the mother plant does not need to do much photosynthesis, so it doesn’t need to produce big leaves.
And a sucker that is well looked after by the mother plant will produce better fruit and be stronger than one that had to struggle on its own.
A mature plantation is pretty much self mulching. Just throw all the leaves and old trunks etc. back under the plants. You can also grow other plants in the understory to produce more mulch. (I use cassava, sweet potato and crotolaria).
You just need to sprinkle on some fertiliser every now and then, to replace what you took out of the system when you took the bananas. Bananas are high in potassium, so ideally the fertiliser should be, too. Keep the fertiliser close to the trunk as bananas don’t have big root systems.
Growing Banana Fruit
You may see your first flower emerge after about six months, depending on the weather. Leave the leaves around it, especially the one protecting the top bend of the stalk from sunburn!
As the purple flower petals curl back and drop off they reveal a “hand” of bananas under each. Each banana is a “finger”.
You may get anything between four to a dozen or more full hands. Then, under the next petal, you’ll see a hand of teeny weeny excuses for bananas. Those are the male fingers.
How to Grow Banana Plants
Having your own access to delicious, healthy bananas can be wonderful if you’re prepared for an extensive growing period. If you live in a warm climate or have a good indoor growing location, read on to learn about the yearlong journey of banana plant gardening.
Part1Selecting a Planting Site
- 1Look up your area’s temperature and humidity. Humidity should be at least 50% and as constant as possible. Ideal daytime temperatures are between 26–30ºC (78–86ºF), with night temperatures no lower than 20ºC (67ºF). Acceptable temperatures are warm and very rarely reach lower than 14ºC (57ºF) or higher than 34ºC (93ºF).
- Bananas can take up to a year to produce fruit, so it’s important to know what range of temperatures it will experience throughout the year.
- If the temperature falls below 14ºC (57ºF), your banana plants will simply stop growing.
- 2Find the sunniest area in your yard. Banana plants grow best with 12 hours of direct, bright sunlight each day. They can still grow with less (more slowly), but you should determine where in your yard receives the most sun.
- 3Choose an area with good drainage. Bananas require a lot of water, but are prone to rotting if the water does not drain adequately.
- To test drainage, dig a hole 0.3m (1 ft.) deep, fill with water, and allow to drain. Refill once empty, then measure how much water is left after 1 hour. Approximately 7-15 cm water drainage per hour is ideal for banana plants.
- A raised garden bed or adding 20% perlite to the soil assists drainage.
- This is especially important if you are using a banana plant that does not yet have leaves, or had the leaves removed for shipping. Leaves help evaporate excess water.
- 4Allow sufficient space. While banana plants are technically herbs, they are often mistaken for trees for a reason. Some varieties and individuals can reach 7.6 m (25ft.) in height, although you should check the source of your banana plant or local banana growers for a more accurate estimate for your locale and variety.
- Each banana plant requires a hole at least 30cm(1ft.) wide and 30cm (1ft.) deep. Larger holes should be used in areas of high wind (but will require more soil).
- Keep banana plants at least 4.5m(15ft) from trees and shrubs (not other banana plants) with large root systems that may compete with the bananas’ water.
- Multiple banana plants help each other maintain beneficial humidity and temperature levels, as long as they are planted at the correct distance. If you can, plant several plants in a clump with 2–3m(6.5–10ft.) between each one, or a large number of banana plants 3–5m(10–16ft.) from each other.
- Dwarf varieties require less space.
- 5Consider growing it indoors. If your outdoor environment is inadequate, you’ll need an indoor location with similar requirements (12 hours bright light and constant warm temperature and humidity).
- You’ll need a large planting container sufficient for its adult size, or be willing to transplant the banana into a larger pot whenever necessary.
- Always use a pot with a drainage hole in a location where water can drain well.
- Consider a dwarf variety if you don’t have sufficient indoor space.
- Use half the amount of fertilizer when growing a plant indoors, or cease entirely if you don’t have room for a larger plant. (This may be suitable for a houseplant you don’t intend to harvest fruit from.)
Part2Planting the Banana Plant
- 1Select your planting material. You can acquire a banana sucker (small shoot from the base of a banana plant) from another grower or plant nursery, or buy one online. A banana rhizome or corm is the base from which suckers grow. Tissue cultures are produced in laboratories to create higher fruit yield. If you’re transplanting a mature plant, prepare a hole appropriate to its size and have an assistant help you.
- The best suckers to use are 1.8-2.1m (6–7ft) in height and have thin, sword-shaped leaves, although smaller suckers should work well if the mother plant is healthy. Big, round leaves are a sign that the sucker is trying to make up for a lack of adequate nutrition from the mother plant.
- If the sucker is still attached to a mother plant, remove it by cutting forcefully downward with a clean shovel. Include a significant portion of the underground base (corm) and its attached roots.
- A rhizome (corm) without notable suckers can be chopped into pieces. Each piece with a bud (proto-sucker) will grow into a banana plant, but this will take longer than using a sucker.
- 2Trim the plant. Cut off any dead, insect-eaten, rotting or discolored sections of the plant. If most of the plant is affected, dispose of it away from other plants and find another planting material.
- If using a sucker, remove all but a few centimeters (1–2 inches) of the roots. This will limit the chance of disease. You can also remove any leaves in excess of five and/or cut the top of the plant off with a slanting cut to increase the amount of sunlight that warms the soil for root growth and rot prevention.
- 3Dig a hole for each plant. Remove any plants or weeds that are growing on the planting site, then dig a circular hole 30cm wide and 30 cm deep (1ft. x 1 ft.) A larger hole will provide greater support for the plant but require more soil.
- If planting indoors, instead use a planting pot this size or larger.
- 4Mostly fill the hole with loose, rich soil. Leave several centimeters (a few inches) of space at the top to encourage drainage.
- Do not use potting soil, nor your regular garden soil unless you are sure it is suitable. Soil mixes intended for cacti can produce good results, or ask other growers of the same banana variety.
- The ideal soil acidity for bananas is between pH 5.5 and 7. Acidity pH 7.5 or higher can kill the plant.
- 5Place the plant upright in the new soil. The leaves should be pointing upward and the soil should cover the roots and 1.5–2.5cm (0.5–1 inches) of the base. Tamp the soil down to keep it in place but don’t pack too firmly.
Part3Caring For Your Plant
- 1Fertilize monthly a short distance from the trunk. Use store bought fertilizer, compost, manure, or a mixture of these. Add fertilizer immediately after planting in an even ring around the banana plant and repeat at monthly intervals.
- Young plants require 0.1–0.2kg (0.25–0.5lbs) each month, rising to 0.7–0.9kg (1.5–2 lbs) for an adult plant. Increase gradually as your plant grows.
- If the temperature falls below 14ºC(57ºF) or if the banana plant hasn’t grown since last month, skip the fertilization.
- Fertilizers are usually labeled with three numbers (N-P-K) representing the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus (Potash), and Potassium. Bananas require very high amounts of Potassium, but the other nutrients are important as well. You can use a balanced fertilizer (three numbers roughly equal) or a fertilizer that addresses deficiencies in your soil.
- Do not use manure produced in the last few weeks, as the heat it releases while decomposing can damage the plant.
- 2Water frequently but avoid overwatering. Underwatering is a common cause of banana plant death, but overwatering can cause the roots to rot.
- In warm growing weather without rain, you may need to water your plant daily, but only if the top 1.5–3 cm (0.5–1 in.) of soil is dry. Test with your finger before watering.
- Reduce the amount of water per session if the plant is sitting in water for long periods. (That can cause root rot).
- In cooler temperatures when the banana is barely growing, you may only need to water once every week or two. Remember to check soil moisture.
- Leaves help evaporate excess moisture, so be careful not to soak (just moisten) a young plant that has not yet grown leaves.
- Water the ring of fertilizer as well to help it soak into the soil.
- 3Add mulch. Remove dead leaves and banana plants and chop them up to place around the live plants. Other yard waste and wood ash can also be added to return nutrients to the soil.
- Check the mulch regularly and remove any weeds that are growing. These can compete with the banana plant.
- 4Keep an eye out for discolorations, dying leaves, and pests. If diseased plants are discovered, identify and treat them immediately, or uproot them. Insect pests should also be controlled as soon as they are found. Nitrogen and potassium deficiencies are the two most common nutritional problems for bananas, so learn to recognize the signs.
- Signs of nitrogen (N) deficiency: very small or pale green leaves; reddish pink leaf sheathes; poor growth rate; small fruit bunches.
- Signs of potassium (K) deficiency: rapid appearance of orange/yellow color on leaves followed by leaf death; small or broken leaves; delayed flowering; small fruit bunches.
- Examples of major plant diseases include: Bacterial Wilt/Moko Disease; Panama Disease/Fusarium Wilt; Banana Bunchy Top; Blackhead/Root Rot/Toppling Disease; and Black Leaf Streak.
- Examples of major plant pests include: Corn Weevil; Banana Aphid; Mealy Bugs. Fruit pests include: Flower Thrips; Red Rust Thrips; and Scarring Weevil.
- 5De-sucker your plants. Once your plant is mature and has several suckers, remove all but one to improve fruit yield and plant health.
- Cut all but one sucker off at ground level and cover the exposed plant with soil. Repeat with a deeper cut if they grow back.
- The surviving sucker is called the follower and will replace the mother plant after it dies.
- Exceptionally healthy plants can support two followers.
- 6Support the plant to avoid toppling of the plant due to strong wind or bunch weight. There are 3 easy ways of doing it:
- Wire/Rope and Bottle Method: Cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle. Insert a very long wire/very strong twine through the mouth and bottom of the bottle. Crunch the bottle to make it bendable and soft. Prop up the banana stem on the bottle, and use the wire to pull the stem slightly more upright. Tie the write to a strong support.
- Single Bamboo Method: Use a 3m (10′) long bamboo pole or other strong, durable material. Cut a piece of Y-shaped wood 10cm (4″) thick and 60cm (2′) wide. Let the stem rest on the middle of the “Y” and push the bamboo upwards a little bit so the stem is wedged into the “Y” tightly. Bury the other end of the bamboo (the base) deeply into the ground. Tamp very firmly.
- Double Bamboo Method: Use two 3m (10′) long bamboo poles. On one end of the poles, tie them together with strong wire 30 cm (1′) from the end. Open up the poles to form a letter “X”. Let the stem rest on the short end, push upwards a little bit to create pressure, and bury the other ends of both poles. Tamp very firmly.
- 7Provide overwinter care. If temperature during winter months falls too low for your plant, there are several ways to care for it:
- Cover the stem with a blanket or soil. If there is no frost and the plant is still small, this may be adequate protection until the temperature rises high enough for it to grow again.
- Store the plant inside. Uprooting the entire plant, removing the leaves, and store in moist sand in a heated indoor area. Do not water or fertilize; the plant will go dormant until you’re ready to plant it outside again.
- Grow the plant inside. This will require a large pot with drainage hole. If you don’t want to grow your banana too big for your pot, you may need to cease or reduce the fertilizer treatments.
- Salvage pieces to plant later. If frost or cold has killed most of your plant, chances are the suckers and corm at the base are still usable. Cut these away from the dead portion and store them in their own small pots to plant outside later.
Part4Nurturing and Harvesting Fruit
- 1Wait for the purple flower to emerge. The typical banana plant flowers in 6-7 months under ideal conditions, but may take up to a year depending on the climate.
- Never remove the leaves around the flower, as they protect it from the sun.
- Do not confuse this with the Banana Bunchy Top Virus. See Tips below.
- 2Wait for the petals to withdraw and reveal bananas. This may take an additional 2 months or longer. Each connected cluster of bananas is called a “hand” and each individual banana, a “finger”. The entire stem containing several hands is called a bunch.
- 3Once all bunches are revealed, remove the extra portions. The remaining flower bud and/or tiny extra banana hand are the sterile male portions of the plant. The hand should wither off on its own, but removing the flower bud will cause the plant to put more energy into growing fruit.
- The male portion of the flower is called the “banana heart”. Some varieties of banana plants produce edible banana flowers that are popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, but not all are suitable for consumption. Most flowers will fall off and die before harvest.
- Use a stick to prop up the plant if the bunches are dragging it down.
- 4Cover the bunch with plastic covers. This will protect the fruit from insects and other dangers, but they must be open at both ends to allow adequate air and water flow.
- Tie the nylon or plastic sack with soft twine several inches from the first hand.
- 5Harvest bananas when the flowers or plant are dying. The small flower at the tip of each banana will become dry and easily rub off, or the banana plant will lose most of its leaves. This is a good time to harvest the fruit.
- Cut a notch halfway into the tree, opposite the side of the bunch.
- Carefully let the tree bend and cut off the bunch.
- The fruit will ripen quickly once harvested, so you may want to pick some well in advance of harvesting so you don’t end up with excess fruit that will go to waste.
- 6Cut the stem of the tree and prepare the next sucker. Remove the top half of the banana stem once you harvest the fruit. Desucker the base using the same process as you have while caring for your plant.
- Remember to leave one sucker to replace the now-dying mother plant.
Can You Grow A Banana Tree From An Actual Banana?
Have you ever wondered why bananas do not have seeds? So how does a banana tree reproduce? Because we also love this puzzling, yet tasty fruit, we researched how to propagate a banana tree to learn if you can grow a banana tree from a banana.
You cannot grow a banana tree from a commercially cultivated banana fruit. But, you can procure the seeds from a supplier to propagate a banana tree.
- Soak the seed for 24-48 hours.
- Plant each seed approximately 1-inch deep in permeable soil.
- Maintain soil temperature at 60-68°F.
- Keep soil moist.
- Be patient; germination can occur within 3-weeks, or up to 6-months, depending on the variety.
Growing bananas at home can be extremely rewarding. Not only are banana trees lovely, but the fruit is healthy and delicious. Keep reading, and we’ll explain in detail how to propagate a banana tree from seed.
Where is the Seed in a Banana?
If you are inspecting a commercially cultivated banana in search of seed, you won’t find one. That is because the bananas that we typically eat (Cavendish variety) have been genetically altered not to contain seeds. Commercially grown bananas are propagated by separating and re-planting offshoots called suckers, or pups.
Wild bananas do produce seeds contained inside of the fruit. Often seeds are so large that they take up most of the banana, making it difficult to eat the surrounding pulp. Both seeds and suckers propagate wild bananas.
How to Grow a Banana Tree from a Seed?
Growing a banana tree from seed is no easy task. In nature, wild banana seeds germinate only under specific circumstances. You will need to provide ideal conditions and be patient.
1. Soak the Seed for 24-48 Hours
Soaking the banana seed is an important step because wild seeds can only germinate when water reaches the internal embryo. Banana seeds have a durable outer shell, but it is leaky. Soaking the seed allows water to permeate the shell slowly, and the internal sexual organs of the seed absorb water to begin the germination process.
2. Plant Each Seed in Permeable Soil (1-inch deep)
Use a permeable soil to allow drainage. Otherwise, the seed will be prone to rot. We recommend trying potting soil for the best results.
3. Maintain Soil Temperature at 60-68°F
In the wild, non-dormant banana seeds can lie for several years, waiting for ideal soil temperatures as a cue that it is time for germination. It is not yet understood how seeds sense temperature, but the fluctuation in soil temperature is necessary for successful germination.
Use a heating mat or a heat lamp to increase the temperature of the soil for several hours daily. Let the soil cool no less than 60°F.
4. Keep Soil Moist
Keep the soil moist to promote germination. If you are planting in a seed tray or pot, cover it with plastic to maintain a humid environment.
5. Be Patient
It takes between 3-weeks and 6-months for banana seeds to germinate. So, be patient and closely monitor the soil’s moisture level and temperature while you wait.
Even if you provide optimal conditions for germination, your banana seed might be dormant. A scientific study found that only 68-75% of freshly harvested, wild seeds germinated when given the right conditions.
Interested in learning other types of seed propagation? Check out our blog post, “How to Propagate Pachira Aquatica (Money Tree).”