Banana plants are a real eye-catcher. Some varieties can even tolerate frost in moderation. Here you can learn everything important about the banana plant.
Banana plants (Musa) are a genus of the banana family (Musaceae), which includes about 70 different species. The exotic plants, which used to be called figs of paradise, are becoming more and more popular in our house or even planted out in the garden. However, there are a number of things to bear in mind when buying them, as the species’ requirements for their location differ significantly. What they have in common, however, is their love of the sun. We tell you what else to consider when caring for evergreen perennials.
Buying Banana Plants: Here’s What To Look Out For
Bananas are often advertised as trees, but appearances are deceptive. The perennials, like palms, have only a pseudo-stem, which consists of massive unwoody leaf stalks or sheaths. This can reach heights of between half a meter and ten meters. However, the differences do not stop at the height of growth. The 70 different species of the genus have very different requirements, which must be considered when choosing a suitable banana for the house or garden. You should ask yourself these questions before buying:
- Do you want to plant the plant out or keep it in a container?
- Do you want the plant to overwinter outdoors or indoors?
- How much space do you have available for the plant?
Banana Varieties: “Winter Hardy” Banana Plants
As mentioned earlier, the needs of your banana vary significantly depending on the variety. However, this doesn’t just mean that you need to consider your choice carefully. The wide variety also means that there is a variety to suit almost every household and taste.
Bananas quickly grow more than three meters high. So even the highest ceilings in old apartments are of little use. That’s why you can find more and more planted bananas in our country. Since the exotics originate mainly from tropical to subtropical Asia and the western Pacific region, our weather conditions are very hard on most banana varieties. However, there are a few hardy varieties that will resprout in the spring with additional winter protection. Currently, the hardiest banana varieties belong to the species of Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo).
Here, several cultivars such as ‘Nana’ and ‘Sapporo’ have improved frost resistance (down to -54°F). They are also called ‘garden banana’. The varieties are easy to care for and grow up to three meters high. The plants also score high with showy flowers, large leaves, and small ornamental fruits. Few other species are also conditionally hardy, as you are from the Japanese high mountains and therefore accustomed to occasional snow and light frost. They can be planted out in regions with mild winters with an uncertain outcome. Of course, again, be sure to provide appropriate winter protection.
- Musa sikkimensis
- Musa itinerans
- Musa balbisiana
- Musa cheesmanii
- Musa yunnanensis
Propagate Banana Plants Themselves
Bananas can be very well self-propagated. Either to increase their stock or to compensate for failures. This is because banana plants die after only a few years.
Sowing Banana Seeds
In their original habitat, banana flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and bats. These are rarely encountered here. However, even without pollination, fruits form that contain seeds as long as they have not been bred away. These fruits or seeds from the trade can be used to propagate exotic perennials. Simply proceed as follows:
- Lightly roughen seeds with emery paper or a file.
- Soak seeds in water overnight for up to three days
- Fill small pots with a mixture of peat and sand
- Sow seeds
- Cover pot with foil hood
- Germination temperature: above 77°F to the max. 85°F
- Keep substrate always slightly moist
- Germination period: 2 – 4 weeks
The easiest way to raise the seeds in the summer. At this time it is better to provide the necessary temperature for germination. The black seeds are lenticular to irregularly spherical and vary in size depending on the variety. Varieties that produce seeds include:
- Ensete glaucum (snow banana).
- Ensete ventricosum (ornamental banana)
- Musa coccinea (Red dwarf banana)
- Musa ornata (ornamental banana)
- Musa velutina (Pink dwarf banana)
- Musella lasiocarpa (Yunnan dwarf banana)
Propagating Banana Plants Via Cuttings
Propagation via cuttings is faster than raising seeds. In the sweet edible banana that we all know from the supermarket, the seeds that interfere with eating have been bred away. Such seedless bananas can only be propagated vegetatively. However, botanically speaking, the term offshoot is not appropriate here. Actually, they are runners that sprout from the underground rhizomes. Simply remove these runners and place them in their own pot of soil. Cut the baby banana with a sharp knife perpendicular to the mother plant. The little plant not only looks like her mom, but it is also cared for in this way.
Most banana species come from subtropical to tropical latitudes. They are used to warmth and plenty of sunlight. You should definitely consider these two aspects when choosing a suitable location. It does not matter whether the plant is to grow indoors or in the garden. Both locations offer both advantages and disadvantages, which must be considered when choosing a suitable place. Easier is the choice of the right soil. In fact, not many requirements are made to it: Only loose and water-permeable it should be.
The plants are extremely sensitive to waterlogging, which can quickly become a problem, especially when planted in containers. Otherwise, pretty much anything from garden soil to commercial potting soil is suitable as a substrate. However, slightly loamy soil of coarse sand and gravel is optimal.
Banana Plants Indoors
If a banana is to bring the tropics into your living room, there are a few things to consider. This way you will have something from your banana plant for a long time:
- Sunny, but no blazing summer sun.
- Airy, but no drafts
- Humidity min. 50
- Temperature min. 59°F; optimal is 68°F
A window place with a tilt option is ideal. Only in summer the blazing sun at the window becomes too intense and can cause sunburn to the plants. However, the plants will thank you anyway if they are allowed to spend the summer outside in a wind-protected spot. When moving the plant outside, slowly acclimate it to the sun, otherwise, it will quickly become sunburned as well. Also, keep in mind that bananas can’t really be pruned back and will reach extreme heights very quickly, even in a container. You can get around this problem by going for small-growing varieties like dwarf bananas. However, these also grow to about two feet tall already.
Banana Plants In A Pot: The Ideal Planter
Due to its ability to store water, a clay pot is ideal for your banana plant. It is best to lay a drainage layer of clay shards or gravel at the bottom of the pot. There should also be a drainage hole because your banana will die very quickly if it is waterlogged. Bananas usually grow between three and ten feet tall. Where a pot is enough at first, a large planter will soon be necessary.
Planting Bananas In The Garden: Location And Procedure
Banana shrubs are becoming increasingly popular when planted out in the garden. For the location applies:
- As much sun as possible, but no direct sunlight.
- Protect from strong wind from all sides
In their native countries, bananas are usually part of rainforests and rarely stand alone. Especially young banana plants are sensitive and therefore do not tolerate direct sunlight. Therefore, do not place your banana outside until it reaches a height of about one meter. In addition, the flat leaves tear quickly in the wind or heavy rain. This somewhat frayed appearance is protected against adverse weather conditions. However, in the garden, this appearance is usually undesirable, which makes it necessary to find a nice sheltered place.
When planting in the garden, be sure to use a hardy variety. These will sprout again the following year. Bananas that are to be overwintered outdoors are planted out no later than August. Keep the following in mind when planting:
- Planting hole: 39 x 62 inches deep.
- Do not plant the banana too deep and loosen the soil well before planting.
- Banana must have a firm stand
Water And Fertilize Banana Plants Properly
Plants grow up to one inch per day and produce about one leaf per week. Such vigor requires a corresponding amount of nutrients and water. But too much watering or fertilizing the banana is not well tolerated. Therefore, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Watering: Neither too much nor too little; no waterlogging; never let the soil dry out completely.
- Watering water: If possible soft as well as not too cold
- Fertilize: All year round, regularly & in moderation; spring to fall: weekly; winter: Monthly
Fertilize with liquid fertilizer in the water for watering. Use an organic fertilizer, because bananas are sensitive to overfertilization. These fertilizers are not as readily available in the soil as mineral variants and are easier to dose. This is simply administered via irrigation water and ensures strengthened and healthy roots.
If the perennial is too dry or the humidity is too low, dry and brown leaf edges or spots can form. For potted plants, the following also applies:
- Spray regularly with water to provide the necessary humidity.
- Water from above
For planted specimens, water heavily several times a week during prolonged dry spells in the summer. Keep in mind that the large leaves provide a tremendous evaporation surface, so plants dry out very quickly.
Repotting Banana Plants
Banana plants grow at an impressive pace, so time flies accordingly before a larger pot is due. About every one to two years it is time for this. But don’t take a pot that is too big either. Otherwise, it will take too long for your banana to root well and gain the necessary stability in the pot. Pay attention to the following:
- It is best to use a clay pot/pot with a drainage hole.
- Layout a drainage layer at the bottom
- Fill the pot with substrate
- Do not plant too deep
- Press down the soil properly so that the banana sits firmly in the pot.
Banana plants have a very manageable life span. After a few years, the leaves first turn yellow, then brown, and eventually the plant dies. This time can be used to remove the dying mother plant, cut off any runners that have formed and place them in a new pot. However, it is not only at the deathbed of your banana plant that runners form. Don’t let the baby bananas that form grow too large, remove them in time, and give them a home of their own.
Plants don’t want to live with mom forever either, they want to stand on their own roots.
Banana Plants Successfully Overwinter
There are only a few hardy varieties that survive the winter when planted out in our climate. In these, the above-ground part dies in winter and the plant overwinters in the form of an underground rhizome. However, even this survival form needs nice, warm winter protection. How to successfully overwinter your garden banana and other valuable tips on overwintering can be found out here. You can also dig up your banana in the fall, put it in a container, and place it in a protected, frost-free winter location. Here, the warmer the plants are, the more light they need.
An unheated adjoining room, conservatory, or a bright cellar are therefore best suited. For potted bananas that are placed in a heated house, our short winter days often become a problem. When there is a lack of light, they drop their leaves. Unfortunately, even a nice, bright window spot is often not enough. You should therefore think about an additional, artificial light source. The dry air from the heating system also causes problems for the exotics. Therefore, spray the plants several times a day with a water sprayer.
Cutting Banana Plants
Pruning is not necessary. Unless the fast-growing perennial takes up too much space in the home or winter quarters. Most banana varieties tolerate light pruning of leaves well if the wound areas are sprinkled with a little ash. Leaves infested with pests or diseased are simply removed altogether. If the plant is completely infested with pests, it should be severely pruned back. Here, the stem is cut back to about two to three inches. However, this is only an emergency measure. In the spring, the banana plant usually sprouts again.
Cut Off Yellow Leaves On Banana Plants
In autumn, when the days are getting shorter, it is quite normal that some of the leaves of your banana turn yellow. However, yellow leaves on young plants are also a sign of lack of nutrients, light, or drought. Adjust fertilization, exposure, or watering schedule to prevent more leaves from changing color. The already discolored leaves will die sooner or later, even under optimal conditions. So that the plant does not unnecessarily put energy into the leaves, whose fate is already sealed, cut them off.
Cut Back Shoots Of Banana Plants
Shoots are cut back before wintering outdoors. If necessary, you can also cut back the shoots if the plant has grown too large, but then the banana will not sprout again until the following spring.
Did you know that banana peels as fertilizer? You can read how this works in our special article.