Bananas are very large herbaceous perennials that arise
from underground rhizomes. While there are many species of bananas, the edible types are crosses between two species: Musa
acuminata or the sweet banana and Musa balbisiana or the starchy banana or plantain.
They are usually sterile,
meaning the seeds which are normally like large hard peppercorns wind up only as little black specks. Some varieties
are fertile and contain these very hard seeds. They are considered inedible.
they are a tropical herb bananas will fruit in more northerly locations as long as their needs are met. Growing in a
greenhouse or under the eaves of a house can extend their range. Heavy frost will damage the leaves but they will resprout
when warm weather returns.
They are unusually heavy producers for the small amount of space they require.
Flowers. The banana flower emerges (or shoots) from
the center of the pseudostem 10 to 15 months after planting or after 26 to 32 leaves have been produced.
Temperatures. Bananas flourish in warm to hot weather.
Flowering is best at about 80F and fruit growth at about 85F. Temperatures above 100F are detrimental.
Plant growth slows below
60F and stops at 50F. Freeze damage occurs at 32F and below. Some varieties are more cold tolerant than others but generally plants
may be killed to the ground below 28F but they will usually resprout from the ground when warm weather returns.
are not flood tolerant but require significant amounts of water. Adequate water and warmth are the two most significant growth
factors. During colder periods reduce watering.
Light. Bananas are tolerant of some shade but for best
fruiting they prefer full sun. A little shade with younger or newly planted bananas is helpful.
Soil. Well drained, deep soils high in organic matter
with a pH of 5.5-7.0. Many varieties perform well on other soils as long as they are well drained and have adequate nutrition.
Fertilizer. Fertile conditions from the beginning are
key to the success of the bananas you produce. Soils poor in nutrition should be frequently amended. A granular fertilizer
every other month is sufficient. If using liquid, fertilize more frequently according to label. Young trees should receive
no more than 1/2 pound increasing proportionately to 5 pounds at maturity.
Potash is particularly important.
A ratio of 3-1-6 e.g. 6-2-12 or 9-3-18 is best. Fertilizer
that includes minor nutrients including calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, copper, and boron, are advisable when plants
are grown in very poor soils.
Pruning. There usually isn't just one banana plant
but many. They sucker freely and for the best production it is best to limit the number of pseudostems. New suckers should
be pruned immediately leaving only the main pseudostem a medium and a smaller pseudostem. Once the main stem produces bananas
it should be cut away since it only fruits once and the medium size will take its place.
Cold Protection. For fruit production it is essential
to protect the pseudostem. While a frozen plant may come back each year there may not be time for it to mature to the point
it can produce fruit before it refreezes next year. One method to protect the stem from freezing is to place a "cage" around
it (somewhat like a tomato cage) about 4 feet or more high and filling the space between the cage and the stem with pine straw.
This insulates and protects the stem and the future flowering stalk inside.