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Wellspring Gardens
Banana Trees
bananacomposite.jpg

Growing Bananas

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. 

  
Although 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.

 

Water.  Bananas 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.

 

 

Banana

Zone

Height

Fruit / Comments

1000 Fingers

8-10

8-12

Numerous 1 1/2 inches Seedless,sweet

Basjoo

3-7

12-18

Cold hardy enough to grow in all 50 states (inedible)

Brazilian

9-10

20

One of tallest, stout, sweet fruit, small bunches

Dwarf Brazilian

7-9

6-8

Small bunches, extremely sweet & tasty

Dw Cavendish

8-10

8-10

Great appeal, popular, very good fruit

Dwarf Orinoco

7b

6-8

Heavy bearer, Good eating quality

Gold Finger

8-9

14

Outstanding producer, delicious

Gran Nain

8-10

6-8

Large heads of delicious fruits

Ice Cream

8-10

15

Many rate this as best tasting (vanilla)

Kofi

9

7-8

Shorter variety, very robust

Kru

8-10

10-12

Rare and very delicious

Manzano

9-10

14-16

Considered one of best tasting (Apple banana)

Orinoco

7b

16-20

8-10 fruit, very delicious

Raja Puri

8-9

8-10

Medium size, very sweet

Sikkimensis

5?-9

12-16

Attractive landscape, inedible

Williams Hybrid

8-10

8-10

One of the main varieties of commercial bananas

Banana

Zone

Height

Fruit / Comments

Flowering Bananas
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Flowering Bananas (Ornamental - not edible)

Banana

Zone

Height

Flower / Comments

Beccarii

8-10

8-10

Strikingly beautiful. Recently introduced. New on the cut flower scene. Certainly worth having. Outstanding cut flower. Deep orange-red with greenish yellow tips. Grows well as a container plant. Slender upright species with long narrow bright green leaves.

Mannii

?

2-3

Rarely offered and a wonderful addition to any banana collection. From a small province in India comes this even smaller species that is very dwarf- 2-3feet tall. Stem and leaf stalks are a deep purple to almost black with a flower of red and purple. Its bloom is light crimson and erect.

Ornata Macro

?

5-8

Standard among cut flower bananas. A favorite for many. Also called Orchid Banana. Flower is large dark, lavender/pink and stunning. Excellent for cut flower. Adapts well to container culture. Vigorous grower which can bloom throughout the year. Makes an excellent cut flower. Can flower during the first growing season.

Ornata Bronze

9A-11

5-9

Majestic plant, light green leaves with pink overtones. Produces a beautiful orange-bronze flower. Magnificent plant for small spaces and containers / indoors or out.

Ornata African Red

?

?

Exciting new species with dark green leaves. Flower is blood red peeling back to reveal green / yellow ornamental bananas. Very desirable and spectacular.

Uranoscopus

Coccinea

?

Medium

Rare medium sized banana originally from Indonesia with slender green leaves and huge red inflorescence that lasts for months. A stunner. Probably the most ornamental Musa. Shocking color/great production make it a staple

Banana

Zone

Height

Flower / Comments

 

Banana Relatives

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Ensete ventricosum

A large and fleshy-stemmed plant that is quite spectacular in the landscape. This relative of the edible banana cannot tolerate heavy frost but can be planted under big trees in order to protect it or it can be grown in a pot. The pseudostem (trunk) is formed by the overlapping leaf bases as they have died . The slight swelling or broadening of the base gives rise to the species name of ventricosum. It bears flowers and fruits one time and then dies. The fruit is banana-like and produces numerous hard black seeds. This occurs usually around eight years of age.

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Musella lasiocarpa, Chinese Yellow Banana, Golden Lotus Flower
Said to be the rarest of all bananas. The flower of this banana relative is known as the Golden Lotus Flower, a sacred flower in Buddhism. It produces a large lotus-shaped flower that will last up to six months. In China it grows at elevations up to 5,000 feet where the climate is spring-like, similar to that of northern California and Oregon. 

The Chinese yellow banana is root-hardy to zone 6. It can resist light frosts but leaves die back when temperatures dip a few degrees below freezing.The Chinese Yellow Banana is very rare. The plant you will receive is 9 - 12 inches tall and is growing in a 3" deep pot.