I presented on “Growing Bananas 101” on the Home & Family show recently and want to share some information from the segment.
Banana plants make beautiful ornamental landscape and indoor plants as well as provide one of the world’s most nutritious and delicious fruits – bananas!
I feel a close connection to this fruit since my family is from Honduras, a country nicknamed the “Banana Republic!”
There are so many varieties of bananas to explore, besides the classic Cavendish variety most of us buy at the market.
Let’s get started!
Watch my “Growing Bananas in a Container” video from the Home & Family show on the Hallmark Channel
Is it true that bananas don’t grow on trees?
Yes, bananas don’t grow on trees!
Banana plants are the world’s tallest herbs and grow from underground rhizomes.
Banana plants can grow 7 to 30 feet tall, depending on the variety.
Unlike trees, which have woody trunks, the “trunk” of a banana plant is a single stem composed of layers of overlapping leaves that grow from an underground corm.
This is called the “pseudo stem,” or false stem.
If you were to cut through the middle of a banana plant stem, it would look like you sliced through celery or an onion.
It has lots of tightly wrapped leaves.
No wood trunk = not a tree!
The banana fruit is actually a berry and is related to lilies, palms and orchids.
A single flower stem grows through the center of the stalk producing a huge bract with dozens of flowers.
Interestingly enough, this flowering stem is referred to as a “true stem.”
The dark red banana bract, or inflorescence, is composed of many leaves (similar to an artichoke) that unfurl and reveal clusters of small flowers that later become the bananas!
While female, male and neutral flowers grow, only the female flowers bear fruit.
Banana clusters are cut off the stalk and hung to ripen in order to protect the fruit from rodents and other varmints.
Clusters of up to 20 bananas grow on each tier and are called “hands.”
The individual bananas are referred to as “fingers.”
Once the banana stem bears fruit, the whole stalk starts to die and the small “pups” or “daughter plants” growing at the base of the banana plant continue to grow in its place.
Where can you grow a banana plant?
Bananas are grown all over the world but countries with tropical climates dominate as commercial growers.
Whereever you live in the United States, you can grow a banana plant; however, you may not be able to grow fruit unless you meet specific climate needs!
In order to bear fruit, air temperatures must stay within the 65 to 85 degree range consistently for 10 to 15 months.
Bananas need full sun exposure.
Thirsty plants, bananas thrive where humidity levels are in the 50% + range and rainwater is plentiful.
If you are not blessed with lots of rain, you will have to water your plant when the top half-inch of the soil feels slightly dry to the touch.
Container-grown bananas dry faster than in-ground plants so water every few days.
The banana plant has huge leaves that require routine doses of fertilizer in order to stay green and healthy.
Nitrogen and potassium-rich fertilizers should be applied every month.
In-ground plants need approximately 1 pound of fertilizer per month, per stalk.
Container-grown plants do well with half that amount.
How to Plant a Banana Plant in a Container
When you order a banana plant online, you will most likely receive a small plant about 12-inches tall or smaller.
Prepare your 8 to 10-inch container with well draining soil.
Add perlite to the soil to ensure that there are plenty of air pockets so your plant doesn’t sit in saturated soil.
Place your plant into the soil and cover the corm and root area with more soil.
Cut off any leaves on the plant so that it can concentrate on rooting and establishing itself.
Don’t be afraid of ending up with a little stub; this is a good thing.
Leave about 3 to 6 inches of stalk and water your plant regularly as the soil becomes slightly dry to touch.
Follow the instructions for care as written in previous paragraph.
Banana plants make excellent container plants for indoors and outdoors and are highly decorative.
Banana Varieties With Interesting Color and Foliage
Zebrina (Musa acumilata) has green and dark red mottled leaves and is available through Monrovia Plants.
How long before a banana plant bears fruit?
Tall growing banana varieties need 10 to 15 months before fruit can be harvested.
There is a variety of banana plant named “Veinte Cohol” that has a lot of garden industry professionals excited.
Veinte Cohol, a muss hybrid, is a dwarf, fast-fruiting banana plant that bears fruit in as little as 9 months!
It is also more cold hardy than most other banana varieties.
You can order Veinte Cohol online at Logees Nursery, an excellent resource for fruit trees.
Varieties for Container Grown Bananas
- Super Dwarf Cavendish– 4 feet tall
- Rajapuri– grows to 10 feet
- Musa Basjoo– cold hardy to 15 degrees
Banana Varieties To Buy in Markets and For Growing
Since the banana plants I featured in my television segment didn’t have any fruit, I brought some banana samples provided by Melissa’s World Produce.
Melissa’s is the leading exotic fruit and produce distributor in the country and I’m proud to call them my friends!
Bananas are rich in potassium and good for heart health. They are a source of vitamin B6, vitamin C and manganese.
Bananas For Cooking and Baking
I recommend you try many different varieties of bananas since there are subtle as well as dramatic flavor differences.
PLANTAINS are a cooking banana that can be prepared ripe or green.
When green, plantains can be sliced into thin strips and fried as a substitute for potato chips.
Plantains are not edible uncooked because they taste very dry and starchy.
RED BANANAS are sweet and creamy with raspberry highlights.
I like them best for baking sweet and savory dishes.
The red banana is a rich source of betacarotene.
BURRO has a very dense banana flavor when ripe.
It provides excellent flavor for baking in banana bread.
Bananas to Eat Out of Hand
Wait and eat MANAZANO bananas when overly ripe for rich, creamy pineapple-strawberry banana flavor!
“BABY” bananas are the perfect size for kids and are full of fiber, low in calories and delicious as a treat or packed for lunch.
They are most delicious when VERY ripe!
Don’t be afraid to allow Baby bananas to become very dark before eating.
Banana leaves are used in international cuisine to wrap fish, pork, chicken, tamales and vegetables.
This multi-use leaf is material for thatched roofs, food plates and paper, including toilet paper!
You’ve got to love multi-function materials!
Do you have any questions for the Foodie Gardener about growing banana plants?