Banana tree comes in many different species and varieties that fall into the Musa spp. Even though these plants are referred to as trees, they’re actually large herbaceous plants without woody stems.
Instead, they have fleshy stalks that stand straight upright and grow big, elongated, bright green leaves. Beautiful, showy flowers develop in spring, giving birth to fleshy, elongated, green, or yellow fruit that can be edible or inedible depending on the variety.
The huge leaves of banana trees, which are otherwise rather delicate, are a defining feature of the plant. The leaves of banana trees maintained outdoors typically appear torn and shredded, but this does not harm the plant itself.
There is a banana tree that will work in any yard or house, no matter how small or large. What’s best is that they can also be grown indoors if given enough light, but they don’t usually bear fruit. They’re known for their rapid growth rate and are best planted in the spring.
Even though the Musa genus is small, it does have a fairly wide distribution. It can be found naturally as far west as India and as far east as northern Australia. It likes to live in tropical and subtropical areas, which are part of what is called the ‘wet tropical biome.’ Some grow in forests at very high elevations, while others prefer shrubby zones along the coast.
Banana trees now naturally thrive in tropical areas all over the world. Since it was first cultivated, humans have had ample time to disperse bananas worldwide, and the fruit has sustained multiple civilizations throughout the years with evidence of being cultivated in Africa as far back as 4,500 years!
Botanical Name: Musa spp.
Common Name: Banana tree, plantain tree
Plant Type: Herbaceous, perennial
Hardiness Zones: 9 – 11 (USDA)
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Type: Loamy, well-drained
Soil pH: 6.5 – 7.5 (Acidic)
Maturity: 9 – 15 months
Bloom Time: Spring
Flower Color: White, orange, purple
Native Area: Asia, Africa, and Australia
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for Banana Trees
- Most banana tree species thrive in warm climates, but certain species are cold-hardy.
- They should be grown in an area protected from strong winds because it is prone to having their leaves damaged.
- Banana trees consume a lot of water throughout the growing season which is from spring to fall and will require daily watering, especially during summer.
- While these plants thrive in warm, humid environments they dislike temperature extremes.
- Fertilizing is important for banana trees since they are heavy feeders.
Banana Tree Care
While most banana tree species thrive in warm climates, there are a few cold-hardy banana trees. If you’re going to put the banana tree outside, the best way to make care easy is to choose the right place to plant it.
This plant should be grown in an area protected from strong winds because it is prone to having its leaves damaged. Prepare your planting area by incorporating new compost into the soil. Also, make sure you have enough space to accommodate the height and spread of your specific species.
Banana trees consume a lot of water throughout the growing season which is from spring to fall. To maintain the proper soil moisture, you might need to water every day, especially during the summer.
Throughout the growing season, the plants will also require regular fertilization. Late summer is when hands, or clusters of bananas, appear. When the fruit is green but plump, remove it from the stem and place it in a cool, dry area to finish ripening.
Most banana plants prefer full sun, which means at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Some varieties, however, scorch easily and perform best in partial shade.
These plants prefer deep, organically rich soil that drains well and has a pH that is somewhat acidic. In general, they have a low tolerance for the salt that is present in the soil.
Since banana trees are tropical and come from rainforests, they require a lot of water and moisture in the atmosphere. They thrive when planted in groupings that are quite close together, as this helps the leaves retain moisture.
To keep the soil equally moist but not saturated, water frequently. Don’t overwater plants; this can lead to root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
These plants thrive in warm, humid environments but dislike temperature extremes. Temperatures between 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for even the hardy, cold-tolerant banana tree species.
Cold temperatures and dry conditions can cause plants to die back quickly. Mist the leaves every day to raise the humidity level.
Fertilizing is important for banana trees since they are heavy feeders. Throughout the growing season, apply a balanced fertilizer as directed on the label. Also, add compost to the dirt once a year to increase the amount of organic matter.
Prune the banana tree so that there is only one main stem before it bears fruit. Leave one sucker after it has been growing for six to eight months. A sucker is a little sprout at the stem’s base.
In the following growing season, this plant will take the place of the main stem. Cut the main stem to 2.5 feet once the fruit has been plucked. In a few weeks, remove the remainder of the stem while leaving the replacement sucker intact.
Types of Banana Trees
Banana trees come in about 70 species and even more varieties. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Musa acuminata: This type can grow to be 12 to 20 feet tall and is commonly grown for its attractive foliage since its paddle-shaped leaves can grow to be 6 to 10 inches long. The Cavendish banana comes under this specie and is your ‘typical’ banana found in most grocery stores and farmer’s. market.
- Musa ornata: This species, often known as the flowering banana tree, is mostly grown for its decorative appeal since its little fruits are not normally eaten. These are tropical evergreen perennials, mostly found in lowland regions with high humidity and temperature.
- Musa basjoo: This species, also known as the Japanese banana, is fairly weather tolerant and grows to a height of 6 to 14 feet. It’s a fast-growing, herbaceous perennial that has a tropical appearance.
Companion Plants for Banana Trees
Finding suitable companion plants for your growing banana tree is an important part of banana patch care and maintenance.
It is common practice to plant banana trees in a circle, with the center being a pit filled with compost that will provide the plants with all the nutrients they need to grow. Companion plants are a crucial component of the circle, particularly sweet potato plants that cover the ground and keep the soil moist.
Lemongrass, which naturally repels insects, is a great companion plant, as is comfrey, which enriches the soil with minerals that the banana plants can absorb.
How to Plant and Grow Banana Trees
How to Propagate Banana Trees
Division is the most effective means of plant propagation. To divide banana plants, use a pointed spade to separate the suckers from the rhizome which is the horizontal underground stem.
Wait until the suckers are at least 3 feet tall and have their own roots before you do this. Allow the surface of the rhizome section to dry for a day or so after separating a sucker from the parent plant. At this point, it’s ready to be replanted in any place appropriate location.
How to Pot or Repot Banana Trees
Banana trees can thrive in pots, but for best growth, they usually require at least a 15-gallon pot. Use a loose, organically rich potting mix and make sure the pot has drainage holes.
One advantage of potting your banana tree is that you may bring it inside to protect it from the cold and bad weather. However, it’s important to note that potted banana trees have higher watering and feeding requirements since they use up what is available in their limited soil faster than banana trees are grown in the ground.
Also, they probably won’t grow to their full size and might not have any fruit. Nevertheless, a lot of people favor them for their foliage. Most banana trees in pots need to be divided and repotted every three years. You should also remove any suckers from the parent plant.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Banana Trees
Banana tree owners must be aware of the various illnesses and pests that might affect their trees.
Nematodes are the most common pest in banana trees that makes both the plant and fruit rot. Another common pest for banana trees is aphids. They cause foliage to curl and shrivel and also transmit diseases that will affect any fruits produced.
Mealybugs and spider mites are other insects that can infest your banana tree and suck its sap. And if you notice jelly-like sap leaking from the plant, you might have black weevils, which can be controlled using pesticides. Thrips can also infest your tree and will discolor the plant and split the fruit peel.
Many diseases affect banana trees in large orchards and can be controlled with commercial fungicides and pesticides. When it comes to indoor potted banana trees, keep an eye out for root rot, leaf-spot disease, wilt, and powdery mildew.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa’s work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.