CLIMATE AND SITE FOR GROWING BANANA
- Bananas grow best in humid tropical regions.
- In the United States bananas can be grown in USDA Zones 9 through 11.
- A few cultivars can survive in cold regions with protection, as cold as Zone.
- The optimal temperature for banana growing is 78° to 86°F.
- Plants require 10 to 15 months of frost-free weather to produce a flower stalk.
- Most varieties stop growing when temperatures drop below 57° Freezing temperatures will kill the foliage.
- Conversely, bananas will also begin to slow growth at 80°F and stop growing at 100°F.
- In very hot weather, bananas must receive ample water.
- Bananas grow best in full sun, but the leaves and fruit will sunburn and scorch in bright sunlight when temperatures are high.
- Check the growing requirements of the variety you choose to grow; in some locations, some varieties are best planted in partial shade.
- Plant bananas in compost-rich, loamy, well-drained soil.
- Bananas prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
- Protect bananas from wind for maximum yield.
- Bananas are susceptible to wind damage; they can be uprooted and blown over by the wind.
- It is best to plant bananas in a block or clump of several plants.
- Block planting allows shallow-rooted plants to support one another; block planting also increases humidity around plants; plants in the center or blocks tend to fruit the best because they are protected from the wind.
- A block might be 5 rows of 5 plants in each row; each plant spaced about 5 feet apart.
- Banana inflorescences have both male and female flowers.
- Here’s how pollination happens:
- Banana stalks spiral upward from an underground rhizome; the stalk is comprised of a series of concentric layers of leaves.
- A flowering stem grows from the center of the stalk about 10 to 15 months after planting.
- A long, tapering, oval-shaped purple-colored bud emerges from the tip of the stem.
- The purple covering of the bud encases slim, tubular flowers in clusters of 15 rows.
- The first five rows are female flowers; then come male and sterile female flowers.
- Male flowers in the cluster open and pollinate female flowers.
- Female flowers with banana-shaped ovaries produce the banana fruits.
- The fruits grow in clumps; the clumps are called “hands” and the individual fruits are called “fingers’.
- In some cultivars, the fruit develops without pollination.
- Space banana plants 5 to 6 feet apart.
- Bananas are best grown in blocks or clumps.
- Plant several plants together at 5 to 6-foot intervals.
- Bananas are grown from root divisions or cuttings (see Propagation below).
- A portion of the root is sliced off a mother plant and replanted; the division may or may not include leafy growth, called suckers.
- Using a root division with leafy growth is best.
- Choose a sucker from a vigorous banana plant.
- Choose a sucker that has small, spear-shaped leaves.
- A sucker about 3 or 4 feet tall is optimal.
- Smaller suckers take longer to fruit and the first banana bunch will be smaller.
- Cut the sucker from the main banana plant with a sharp spade.
- Cut downwards between the mature plant and the sucker.
- If a spade is not sharp enough, cut the sucker away with a pruning knife or saw.
- The sucker must include roots.
- Replant the division so that the roots are covered at about the same level they were growing with the mother plant.
- If you replant a root division only with no leaves attached, set the division 1 to 2 inches below the ground.
CONTAINER GROWING BANANAS
- Dwarf banana varieties grow well in containers.
- Choose a container at least 24 inches wide and deep.
- Use a potting mix formulated for citrus or palms.
- Repot bananas at least once every three years.
- Do not let the soil dry out; keep it evenly moist, not wet.
- Feed container-grown bananas one a month; use a light solution of fish emulsion.
- Bananas in containers can be grown indoors if there is ample light and the temperature is warm enough.
BANANA CARE, NUTRIENTS, AND WATER
- Keep the soil evenly moist. Regular deep watering is essential during warm weather.
- Bananas thrive in humid conditions; water two or three times a day with sprinklers to keep humidity high around plants.
- Be sure the soil is well-drained.
- Standing water or constantly wet soil can cause root rot, especially in cool regions.
- Mulch to conserve soil moisture and protect shallow roots.
- Bananas are heavy feeders; feed bananas once a month with a complete fertilizer slightly higher in phosphorus such as 8-10-8.
- Do not let fertilizer come in contact with the leafy trunk of the plant.
- Protect plants from frost; place a plant blanket over plants.
- Or build a frame around the plant and cover it with clear plastic sheeting when frost threatens.
- Bananas fruit from a stem growing from the plant’s rhizome roots. Several stems will form.
- Allow only one strong stem to fruit; prune away other stems as they develop; this directs the plant’s energy to fruit production and away from leafy growth.
- When the main stalk is 6 to 8 months old, allow a new sucker or stem to begin to develop as a replacement stalk for the following season.
- When fruit is harvested, cut the fruiting stalk back to about 30 inches above the ground; the stub will die back and can be removed after several weeks.
- Leafy trunk growth commonly dies back after fruiting; clean up and remove from the garden this leafy debris.
- New growth will emerge from the plant’s undergrown rhizome.
HARVESTING AND STORING BANANAS
- Banana plants flower about six months after planting.
- Purple flowers appear at the end of stalks.
- In time the flower petals curl back to reveal a “hand” of bananas (see Pollination above).
- The fruit is ready for harvest 15 to 18 months after planting.
- Stalks with fruit form in late summer and then winter over; in spring the fruit will plump up and will ripen by mid to late spring.
- Occasionally, fruiting stalks may form in early summer and ripen in autumn.
- Harvest fruit by cutting off the fruiting stalk when bananas are plump and still green.
- The fruit, called “fingers”, grow plumper as they ripen.
- The fruit is ripe when the longitudinal ribs are evident and the flower at the end of the finger is dry and shriveled.
- Bananas ripen from the stalk end to the flower end turning from green to yellow.
- Tree ripened fruit can be harvested one at a time. However, do not let ripe fruit linger on the plant; rodents are attracted to ripe fruit.
- Hang harvested “hands” in a cool, shaded location to finish ripening.
- Commonly all the fingers on a hand will ripen at the same time.
- Unripe bananas can be placed in a plastic bag; the ethylene gas emitted by the fruit will help ripen the fruit.
- Shortly after the fruit is picked, the plant will die.
- Cut foliage back to the ground and allow a sucker growing from the rhizome to form a new plant.
- Bananas can be peeled and frozen for future use.
- Seeds of banana plants are not fertile.
- Bananas are propagated by division.
- Here’s how division works: banana rhizomes (roots) produce suckers called pups.
- Several suckers or pups will develop around the base of a banana plant; the suckers or pups grow from the rhizome root.
- Pups surrounding the mother plant help balance and anchor the mother plant.
- Pups can be removed from the mother plant and replanted to grow new plants; this is propagation by division.
- When there are three or four pups surrounding the main plant, cut one from the base of the mother plant with a spade.
- Choose a pup with leafy growth at least 3 feet tall that has formed its own roots; when you slice the pup away from the mother be sure it includes its own roots.
- Replant the pup to grow a new plant. If you take a root division that does not have leafy growth, let the surface of the rhizome section dry for two days before replanting.
BANANA PROBLEMS AND CONTROL
- Bananas stop growing when temperatures drop below 57°F; if temperatures drop lower banana skins turn greyish-brown and the leaves will yellow.
- Frost can kill all leafy growth, but the rhizome root will survive and may send up new shoots.
- Root rot can attack bananas in cold, wet soil; make sure the soil is well-drained.
- Snails can climb into plants and eat foliage; trap snails and destroy them.
- Panama Wilt can cause lower leaves to yellow; Panama Wilt is a fusarium fungal disease.
- Treat plants with a fungicide. Panama wilt often kills infected plants.
- Bacterial leaf spot can cause yellow patches on leaves; these spots will darken and can eventually darken and kill the leaf.
- Make sure the soil is well-drained; remove diseased foliage.
- Anthracnose is a fungal disease that can attack leaves and fruit turning them black; spray with a fungicide; ensure the soil is well-drained.
- Crown rot can rot the stalk from the soil line; make sure the soil is well-drained.
- Aphids and mites can attack bananas and suck sap from leaves; look for clusters of aphids on the stems and under leaves; knock them off with a strong spray of water or spray with insecticidal soap.
- Banana weevils tunnel into plant roots and stem; remove infected stems and foliage; spray with Spinosad.
What is Optimal Temperature for Banana Growing?
The optimal temperature for banana growing is 78° to 86 °F.
What is the best soil PH for Banana?
Bananas prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
How much plant to plant space for banana growing?
Space banana plants 5 to 6 feet apart.
What are best varieties for growing banana in containers?
Dwarf banana varieties grow well in containers.