Bananas are one of the ubiquitous fruits that characterize our diets. From nutritious breakfasts to quick snacks, and even baked goods and smoothies, bananas are a beloved kitchen staple.
In the absence of seeds in the fruit from the store, you’re likely wondering how to grow a banana tree. Keep reading to learn how to find banana seeds and nurture them to bear fruit.
What is a Banana Plant?
Before we get to answering the question “how to grow a banana tree,” let’s clarify exactly what a banana tree is.
Bananas are the softer and sweeter relative of plantains, both from the genus Musa. Banana plants are verdant and quick-growing. They are easy to care for, and add a tropical aesthetic to home and garden spaces.
That said, it takes a tropical climate (or similar growing conditions) to encourage fruit to grow on these beautiful plants.
Do Bananas Grow on Trees or Bushes?
This is an important fact to get strait when learning how to grow a banana tree! Although colloquially known as banana trees, as referenced by this article, banana plants are neither trees nor bushes! They are a fruit-bearing herb, with a distant relation to ginger.
Though they can appear shrub-like, and have trunks like trees, they are distinctly herbaceous because their trunks consist of tightly wound banana leaves rather than wood.
Banana Tree Characteristics
In an ideal outdoor environment, you can learn how to grow a banana tree up to be 10 to 30 feet tall.
The fan-like leaves can grow to a massive nine feet long, and can become as broad as two feet wide. These leaves, though large, are delicate and subject to damage by strong winds. Planting banana trees in areas with some shelter improves their ability to survive without risk of being uprooted.
In the wild, banana plants bear springtime blooms in white, purple, and orange shades. These heart-shaped flowers eventually give way to the delicious fruit you know and love.
Banana fruits begin by bursting from the center of the flowers. Individual banana fruits are called “fingers.” Each finger weighs roughly four ounces at full maturity.
Banana fingers grow in rows on the stem, known as tiers. Clusters of 10 to 20 fingers are called “hands,” and each hand may include between three and 20 tiers depending on the banana cultivar you choose. A hand of bananas can weigh as much as 100 pounds.
When planted in pots indoors, banana plants may thrive but not set fruit. However, it is still possible to learn how to grow a banana tree and generate a harvest from potted banana plants, with the right conditions.
Types of Banana Trees
There are more than 1000 banana tree varieties stemming from around 70 different species in the Musa genus.
It’s important to note that some varieties of banana plants bear edible fruits, while others do not. Musa basjoo and Musa ornata are examples of ornamental banana cultivars not suitable for consumption.
Edible bananas are considered either dessert bananas or cooking bananas. Dessert bananas include the familiar yellow bananas that can be consumed around the clock for their soft sweetness. Cooking bananas are larger, thicker-skinned, and starchier. They are ripe when the peel is black, and must be cooked to enjoy their flavor.
Not all bananas are yellow! The Cavendish banana is the typical banana found at grocery stores. Some of its more colorful relatives include the Cuban Red, a dark red cooking banana, and the Blue Java, a blue-skinned dessert banana.
Lady Finger dessert bananas are a cold-tolerant variety, while the Manzano dessert banana tastes like an apple when ripe. Learning how to grow a banana tree can diversify your enjoyment of this vast family of fruit.
How to Grow a Banana Tree
What Is A Banana Pup?
Banana trees do not grow from the fruit of commercially-produced bananas, because they have been genetically altered to be seedless. Wild bananas contain bulbs that take up most of the inner fruit.
Banana trees grow from a bulb, and then send out pups, also known as suckers, from the mature stem. Banana pups are offshoots from the base of the banana plant that produce their own roots. At three feet tall, with healthy roots, pups can be separated from the main tree and replanted to grow more bananas.
If you are learning how to grow a banana tree with grafts, it is best to prune the pups and compost them. Banana trees produce more pups when conditions are poor to increase their intake of water and light. Ensure that your banana trees are in good condition whenever pups begin to grow.
You can inspect the quality of banana pup root growth by gently removing soil to reveal the root system. The pup is only ready to survive on its own if it has well-developed roots.
Banana bulbs, pups, and young trees can be found at plant nurseries, specialty stores, or purchased online.
How to Grow a Banana Tree in the Ground
Correct temperature, adequate lighting, sufficient humidity, and abundant nutrients are required to learn how to grow a banana tree in the healthiest way possible! Outdoor banana trees are best planted in the spring.
Bananas naturally grow in tropical regions, although they can be grown in the US in plant hardiness zones nine through 11. A few cold-resistant varieties can survive in regions as cold as zone five, if they are well-protected.
Temperature and Humidity
Bananas grow best in 78 degree Fahrenheit to 86 degree Fahrenheit weather, and require 10 to 15 frostless months to begin flowering. Temperatures below 57 degrees Fahrenheit discourage growth, and freezing temperatures kill the foliage. You can protect banana trees from frost by placing a blanket over your plants, or creating a small greenhouse with a frame and clear plastic sheeting.
Banana trees slow down their growth at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and stop growing bananas entirely by 100 degree Fahrenheit weather. High temperatures greatly increase the watering requirements of banana trees.
Bananas prosper in high-humidity environments. If you live in an area with low humidity, you can promote plant health by misting your banana leaves daily.
If you’re going to learn how to grow a banana tree, you must recognize that banana trees require full sun to thrive. This means they should enjoy at least six hours of direct sunlight on a regular basis. However, consistently high temperatures with bright sunlight can burn banana foliage. So some more delicate banana varieties are best grown in partial shade rather than full sun.
Location and Planting
Once you’ve selected a well-lit, protected location in your garden, you can begin truly learning how to grow a banana tree.
The seed of a banana tree is called a “bulb.” To activate the growing potential of a banana bulb, soak it in water for one to two full days. When ready, plant each bulb an inch deep in soft soil.
For a young banana tree that began in a pot, dig a hole that’s almost twice as big and deep as the root system of your plant. Place your young banana tree in the hole, and fill it in with dirt. High-quality potting soil and leaf compost are healthy additions to banana-planting soil.
Pack the dirt somewhat, to ensure that the heavy upper portion of the plant is stabilized. Plant banana trees five to six feet apart, ideally in small groups. Planting banana trees together helps them to share moisture and maintain well-hydrated leaves.
Bananas require ample nutrients, and thrive when fed once monthly with a high-phosphorous fertilizer. Most balanced garden fertilizers are suitable. However, prevent fertilizer from contacting the trunk of the plant.
These rainforest plants are thirsty, and require daily watering. They thrive in high-humidity conditions. The soil should be evenly moist, with regular deep watering during warm weather. Use sprinklers or mist to water your plants two or three times a day for optimal humidity.
It’s important for bananas to be planted in compost-rich soil. Avoid salty soil. Most varieties also prefer loamy soil that is slightly acidic, with a pH between 5.5. and 6.5. Good drainage is essential to prevent rot from standing water. Adding mulch to your soil helps to conserve moisture.
Banana bulbs detect temperature, and are prompted to germinate in soil that is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Patience and Pruning
Banana bulbs need between three weeks and six months to germinate. Maintain optimal soil conditions in the meantime. Roughly 25% of wild banana bulbs are dormant, so germinating more than one bulb at a time ensures greater success.
Whether growing bananas from a bulb, pup, or young tree, banana plants typically require eight to 15 months to bear fruit. If you have an especially warm climate and ideal growing conditions for your chosen variety, young banana trees can fruit within five to seven months of planting.
Keep an eye out for diseases like the Panama disease.
Banana fruits form toward the end of summer, and mature by springtime. Prune your trees before they fruit, to maintain a single primary stem. After six to eight months of growth, allow only one pup to remain on the stem so that it can replace the main stem next season.
Harvesting and Storing Bananas
Bananas are ready to harvest when they are green and somewhat hefty, before total ripeness. Cut the bananas from the stalk and hang in a cool, shady spot to finish ripening. For long-term storage, peel and freeze the bananas.
After bearing fruit, banana stems die and are replaced by new pups shooting out of the bulb. With all the fruit harvested, cut the stem down to two or three feet. As the stem dies, remove the remaining portion so that the replacement pup can grow.
Wrapping Up How to Grow a Banana Tree
Now you know the essentials of how to grow a banana tree from pup to fruit. Growing bananas is rewarding for their nutrition, flavor, and beauty. These tropical plants require warm and moist conditions to thrive, and can be easily cultivated by gardeners with the right environment. Get your banana harvest started with your own Gold Finger Banana Tree.
Next, check out how to Winterize Banana Trees!