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Banana Tree Flowering Stages

While bananas may be one of the most popular and most loved fruits in the world, have you ever thought about how they’re grown? While most fruits are cut and dry, there are several things about the banana tree flowering stages that are sure to blow your mind.

A large blossom pod -- the first stage of banana tree flowering stages.

Read on to find out more about banana tree flowering stages and what makes it so special!

What’s Unique About Banana Tree Flowering Stages?

A Banana Tree Isn’t a Tree At All!

Yes, you read that right. A banana tree isn’t actually a tree at all. It’s an HERB!

To qualify as a tree, a plant must contain wood. A banana tree’s trunk isn’t actually wood at all. It’s called a “pseudostem” and is actually made up of tightly packed leaf material. There’s a main stem in the middle that shoots out of the top and the fruit grows from that, but the actual “trunk” is really just a bunch of leaves!

Leafy banana trees.

Typically, herbaceous plants don’t grow to be very tall, but banana plants are an exception to that rule. The banana trees we get the bananas we eat from can grow up to 30 feet tall.

Then, there’s a variety that grows in Indonesia that can grow all the way to 50 feet tall! That’s as tall as a five-story building, and it’s all supported by leaf tissue.

Another thing that disqualifies the banana tree from being an actual tree is that it completely dies back at the end of its growing season, just like basil would do in your garden.

I’d say that makes the beginning of the banana tree flowering stages pretty incredible.

A male flower on a banana tree.

Banana Tree Flowers Don’t Need What?!

For most tree-bearing fruit, pollination is required. In fact, sometimes healthy fruit isn’t made without pollination from multiple varieties of the same fruit, called cross-pollination.

Not so with the banana tree flowering stages.

Banana tree flowers that produce the fruit you and I eat at home require absolutely no pollination.

The female flowers actually form first and they require no pollination from male flowers in order to produce fruit. In fact, the male flowers come later, once the banana “hands” have all started to form, and most growers choose to cut them off altogether in order to send the banana tree’s energy and effort into making the biggest, most delicious fruit it can.

Layers of female flowers on a banana tree that will eventually form into fruit.
The small female flowers develop into bananas.

All About Banana Seeds

Fruit seeds come in many different shapes and sizes. Apple seeds are small and black and can be found at the core of apples. Strawberry seeds are tiny and visible on the outside of the fruit. Then you’ve got avocados that have huge pits in the middle that can be planted to grow an avocado tree.

Banana seeds are different… there are no banana seeds.

Well, technically there are banana seeds in the bananas that you buy from the grocery store, but they’re the microscopic black specks in the center of the banana and they’re not good for anything at all.

So if there’s such a thing as banana tree flowering stages, but the flowers don’t need pollination and there are no seeds, how do banana trees grow?!

I’m glad you asked. Banana trees actually come from offshoots of mature banana trees that are called “pups.” These pups are actually a part of the mature tree and are a way for the plant to collect more water and sunlight.

Banana tree pups.
Banana tree pups.

Once the pups are around four feet tall, they’re mature enough to be moved on their own and they’ll grow to be their own, mature banana tree that produces its own pups.

This method of reproduction is great in the sense that the plant does it on its own and needs very little — if any — help from humans, but it gets tricky when it comes to disease. Since pups are essentially just clones of the parent tree, if one tree is diseased, all of the pups will be, too.

You can buy banana seeds for other varieties of banana plants, but if you want to grow the conventional bananas you find in the grocery store, you’re going to be starting it from a pup!

Basics of Banana Tree Flowering Stages

Now that we know what makes the banana tree flowering stages so unique, let’s look at the three different stages: vegetative, flowering, and fruiting.

Vegetative Development

As we talked about before, banana trees aren’t actually trees at all. They’re the world’s largest herbs. Which means they grow and die back a little every single year. So the first stage of banana tree flowering stages is going to be vegetative development.

A young banana tree in vegetative development.

In this stage, the banana tree is going to grow. After initially planting a pup, this stage will last about 15 months. That’s how long it will take your plant to reach its mature height.

After that initial year, it will only take your plant about six months to reach its full height. You’ll notice the banana leaves at the bottom are much larger than the ones on the top. Don’t forget that you can make some delicious treats with those, too!

Flowering

Once your banana tree has hit its fully mature height, it will start the next banana tree flowering stage, which is actually flowering.

When the tree first enters this stage, a large purple pod will appear. That pod is a banana blossom and is full of what will be flowers and eventually bananas.

A large banana blossom pod.
A banana blossom pod with a layer of female flowers emerging.

As time goes by, the pod will begin to open and female flowers that will turn to fruit will begin to pop out. Pieces of the pod that look a little like deep purple leaves, called bracts, will slowly slough off the blossom as more flowers are ready to bloom.

Remember, the female flowers bear fruit without needing to be pollinated, so this stage is really just about the banana blossom opening up to make space for the flowers and hands of bananas.

The banana bloom will continue to drop off bracht after bracht as the female flowers develop. This can even happen at a daily rate at the peak of the flowering stage.

A view of a male flower below young bananas beginning to form.
A large male banana flower forms after the fruit begins growing.

Since male flowers aren’t needed to pollinate the female flowers, they’re typically cut off once they start growing so the plant doesn’t waste energy.

The flowering stage takes about three months in most tropical environments.

Fruiting Stage

The last stage of the banana tree flowering stages is the fruiting stage. This is where the fruit actually begins to grow and it ends when it’s ready to harvest.

Hands of young bananas and  male flower on a banana tree.
Young bananas and a male banana flower.

It will take about three months for the banana tree flowers to produce a fully ripened banana, ready to harvest.

Bananas will grow in rows, also called hands, in bunches where the banana blossom had appeared originally. Each bunch can grow up to 200 bananas! Each hand, or ring on the bunch, grows about 20 bananas.

Green bananas on a tree.

Banana bunches can’t stay on the tree until they’re fully ripened, or else you risk them splitting down the seam. It’s best to harvest the entire bunch before they’re completely ripe and then they can ripen the rest of the way off the plant.

That’s why the bananas you get in the grocery store are still green and a little hard. They’re not fully ripened. They do that, sometimes at lightning speed, on your kitchen counter!

Wrapping Up the Banana Tree Flowering Stages

Not only do the various banana tree flowering stages bring us one of the world’s most popular fruits, but they’re also endlessly fascinating! Next time you’re enjoying a banana, just think of the amazing things that happened to get that banana grown, harvested, and into your kitchen!

Closeup of the tip of a banana blossom pod.

Want to know even more about bananas? Check out our Banana Trees page for articles about different varieties of bananas and guides on how to grow your very own banana trees… which aren’t actually trees, but you get the idea!