When you hear about a banana tree, you probably imagine a tall, leafy, tropical plant more suited to a dense rainforest than your living room. Yet growing a banana tree, or Musa oriana, indoors is not just possible, but easy if you follow our guide! With the right light, water, and soil, you don’t need to live in a warm climate to bring the tropics—and one of the trendiest trees of 2022—to your home.
How Growing a Banana Tree Indoors Differs from Outdoors
While you can find everything you need to know about growing a banana tree outdoors in a different post (such as the correct temperature, nutrients, and season for planting to ensure the health of your tree) here you’ll learn about the needs of your indoor banana plant.
One major difference is size: while the stem of an outdoor banana tree can grow to thirty feet tall, indoor banana trees are most manageable if you buy a dwarf variety, which grows to between five and thirteen feet. Only some banana trees actually produce fruit, while other indoor banana tree varieties are less likely to due to sensitivity to lower temperatures.
The palm-shaped leaves of banana trees make the indoor banana trees incredibly decorative. Growing a banana tree indoors will also be a useful for keeping your kitchen stocked with nutritious fruits ready to be snacked on or included in one of my delicious banana recipes, like the One Bowl Blueberry Banana Bread.
Planting Your Indoor Banana Tree
It is easiest to begin growing a banana tree indoors from a plant. Later on, you can propagate the banana tree by removing the approximately one foot tall pups which grow at the stem around the base of the plant and repotting them once they have their own root systems. This should be done in the spring or autumn, though you can begin growing a banana tree indoors anytime of year.
It is also possible to grow a banana tree from a seed, but they only germinate under specific conditions. First, soak the seeds for one to two days in water. Then, plant each seed one inch deep in potting soil and lock in moisture and heat with a plastic cover over your pot and a heat lamp maintaining a local environment of 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds can take anywhere between 3 weeks to 6 months to grow, but it will be worth your wait!
What Will You Need When Growing a Banana Tree Indoors?
The Correct Soil and Fertilizer for an Indoor Banana Tree
If you begin growing a banana tree indoors from a plant rather than seed, first, you will need to buy a young dwarf banana tree online or from a local nursery. Other varieties include the Dwarf Red, Dwarf Brazilian, Williams Hybrid, and Dwarf Lady Finger. Note that not all plants available on these sites are fruit-bearing, though all have the ornamental foliage for which indoor banana trees are favored.
You’ll need a large pot, ideally 6 inch to 8 inch, with a drainage hole. Pots vary in price depending on if you choose one that is ceramic, wood, plastic, or metal, but the decision is more aesthetic than practical. As long as the pot is deep enough to accommodate the roots of the plant, ideally around 5 gallons, your indoor banana tree will thrive in any material.
Next, you’ll need the correct soil. A well-drained, organically rich, peat, perlite, and vermiculite—heavy mixture with a pH of 5.6 – 6.5, similar to that used for palm trees—is ideal for growing a banana tree indoors. If your soil is too alkaline, sulfur can be used to decrease the pH. Keep in mind that banana trees, including indoor banana trees, prefer rich and moist root zones, and tend to have a low tolerance for salt in the soil.
Water soluble fertilizer with a Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium (NPK) ratio of 10-10-10 applied weekly, particularly doing the growing period, should help your indoor banana plant thrive. You can also use a 20-20-20 fertilizer, which has the same ratio of nutrients in a higher concentration but can be used in smaller quantities with the same effect. If your plant shows burnt leaf tops, dilute the fertilizer.
Lighting and Temperature
Most varieties of indoor banana trees require six to twelve hours of direct sunlight each day, though the exact amount varies by variety. If the outdoor temperature is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you can move your banana plant outdoors a few hours daily to achieve this total, but if not, you can use an artificial growing light. If your banana tree’s leaves are turning yellow, it is not receiving enough sunlight. Younger plants tend to be more sun-sensitive, so remember to water adequately when growing a banana tree indoors to prevent scorching!
As tropical plants, indoor banana trees require consistent watering. This is especially the case when growing a banana tree indoors, because it will dry up faster than in outdoor conditions. However, it is possible to overwater your banana tree, resulting in root rot, so aim for moist but not soggy soil. Root rot is easy to prevent, but once it has set in, is difficult to reverse, so it is worth taking care to prevent the problem. After watering, let excess water drain from the soil and pot.
Alternately, thirsty banana trees will visibly wilt and develop a gray-brown distorted growth. It’s important to strike the right balance!
The quality of the water is also important for your banana tree’s health. Just as in the soil, salt should be avoided in the water you use to care for your banana tree. Using distilled or filtered water, or even leaving tap water in an open container overnight, will prevent any salination-related issues.
Preventing Pests and Diseases When Growing a Banana Tree Indoors
While banana trees are non-toxic to children, cats, and dogs, factors in your environment might be harmful to your indoor banana tree. There are several common pests that can afflict a banana tree, causing shriveled foliage and transmitting diseases that affect the fruit. Black weevils, for example, can cause oozing sap at the base of the stem and rhizome because they bore tunnels.
Nematodes, a banana tree’s most common pest, will rot the plant and fruit, while scarring beetles target only the banana tree’s fruit. Aphids can cause shriveled leaves. Sap-sucking insects, like mealy bugs and red spider mites, are also common to banana trees. Keep an eye for Panama disease, too.
To spot these pests on indoor potted banana trees, inspect the tree for root rot, leaf-spot disease, wilt, and powdery mildew. Pesticides and fungicides, and manually picking off anything you spot crawling around on your tree, can help you get rid of any unwanted organisms and prevent damage to your indoor banana tree. Watering your banana tree the right amount is also an important step to keep diseases away.
The size of the pot that your indoor banana tree grows in will determine the size of the plant, so if you want your banana tree to continue to increase in length, it will need to be repotted, ideally every year once the young plant, or pup, matures, at which point repotting very third spring should be enough.
When repotting, mixing homemade compost or horse manure into the soil will help with growth. It’s important to the health of the roots that the compost is fully decomposed, which you can determine by checking to see that it is dark brown or black, has an earthy smell, and crumbles at touch. Avoid using coffee grounds, which are too acidic for the ideal soil pH balance of banana trees. This is also a good time to trim down aged and damaged roots.
When repotting, if the banana tree has not yet produced fruit, cut it until there is only one main stem. After about half a year, one sucker, or shoot at the base of the stem, should be left to replace the first stem in the next growing season.
Once the tree has produced fruit, and the fruit has been plucked, the main stem should be trimmed to two and a half feet, then removed completely after another few weeks, so that the replacement sucker can grow. The above-ground stalk will appear to die, but the roots will survive and send up another stalk from which fruit can again grow.
Inedible Fruit or No Fruit at All
If the fruit of your banana tree is inedible, or no fruit appears at all, there are a couple of possibilities to consider. One is that you might have planted a variety that doesn’t produce fruit, or that the tree is still too young. It is also possible that the soil and temperature are off, in which case you should refer back to those sections in this post to double check that your pH levels and moisture are in the correct range. Pruning the wrong stem might also damage the tree and prevent it from bearing bananas.
Bananas with Cracked Skin
This can be a serious problem and is likely due to too-high temperatures or humidity.
Start Growing Your Banana Tree Today!
Growing a banana tree indoors is a rewarding project. With its ornamental foliage and reoccurring supply of fresh fruit, your banana tree is well worth the effort of its maintenance and is a useful, as well as trendy, addition to your home. With the right soil and fertilizer, as well as light and water, you can take on this tropical tree with confidence. Next, keep reading to learn everything else about banana trees!