Banana Plants Banana Trees
Give Your Place that
Tropical look with
beautiful live growing
Banana plants and
Banana trees with
many kinds of fruit
Check out the ‘Basjoo’ its the
world’s cold hardiest banana. It
is hardy planted in ground to -3°
F and with protective mulching
it can survive temperatures
reaching down to -20°F. Its
inflorescence is one of the
most beautiful of all bananas. It
is a great landscape plant, it
lends a tropical appearance to
This is a great addition for
gardeners living in cold
temperate areas. 'Basjoo' also
does very well in containers
and makes a good interior plant.
Broad, long, graceful leaves and rapid growth-commonly
reaching full size in just a few weeks-make banana a favorite
plant for providing a tropical look to pool and patio areas. The
development of bananas following a frost-free winter is a source
of both pride and amazement to those unfamiliar with banana
Banana is a tropical herbaceous plant consisting of an
underground corm and a trunk (pseudostem) comprised of
concentric layers of leaf sheaths. At 10 to 15 months after the
emergence of a new plant, its true stem rapidly grows up
through the center and emerges as a terminal inflorescence
which bears fruit.
The flowers appear in groups (hands) along the stem and are
covered by purplish bracts which roll back and shed as the fruit
stem develops. The first hands to appear contain female flowers
which will develop into bananas (usually seedless in edible
types). The number of hands of female flowers varies from a few
to more than 10, after which numerous hands of sterile flowers
appear and shed in succession, followed by numerous hands of
male flowers which also shed. Generally, a bract rolls up and
sheds to expose a new hand of flowers almost daily.
Banana is a tropical plant which grows best under warm
conditions. Frost will kill the leaves; temperatures in the high 20s
can kill the plant to the ground. The plant will regrow from below
ground buds. In colder areas where banana is used mostly as an
ornamental, new plants are obtained and planted each spring.
Soil and Site Selection
Banana grows in a wide variety of soils, as long as the soil is
deep and has good internal and surface drainage. The effect of
poorly drained soils can be partly overcome by planting in raised
beds, as the plant does not tolerate poor drainage or flooding.
The planting site should be chosen for protection from wind and
cold weather, if possible. The warmest location in the home
landscape is near the south or southeast side of the house.
There are numerous named varieties and several unnamed
types. For purely ornamental use, both unnamed seedy types
and named varieties will suffice. Most are tall-growing and have
green leaves, but 'Dwarf Cavendish' only reaches about 6 feet in
height, and there is a mottled or splotchy red-leafed ornamental
which can sometimes be located in the nursery trade.
From the standpoint of fruit production, 'Dwarf Orinoco' or 'Horse'
banana has a coarse-looking fruit about 6 inches long by 2 inches
in diameter that is primarily used in cooking. 'Dwarf Cavendish'
is a short, compact variety that produces fruit typical of those in
the supermarket. Because of its size, wind damage is less
'Lady Finger' is a standard-size plant which bears thin-skinned
fruit about 1 inch in diameter and 4 inches in length. Its flavor is
superior to supermarket bananas.
'Apple' or 'Manzana' is very similar to 'Lady Finger' in all respects
except that its fruit imparts an aftertaste very much like the taste
of a fresh apple.
Plantains are cooking bananas. Other varieties which may be
found in the nursery trade include 'Cavendish', 'Ice Cream' and
Propagation and Planting
Suckers are used for propagation, being taken when they have a
stem diameter of 2 to 6 inches. The leaves are commonly cut off
in nursery trade, but decapitation at 2 to 3 feet is satisfactory.
The sucker should be dug carefully, using a sharpshooter or
spade to cut the underground base of the sucker from the side of
its mother rhizome. Large suckers can be decapitated at ground
level and halved or quartered (vertically) to increase planting
Nurserymen transplant from the field into containers for retail
use, so planting these bananas is much the same as planting any
container-grown plant. Sucker transplanting should be at the
same depth as the sucker was growing originally.
For ornamental purposes, bananas may be planted as close as 2
to 3 feet apart, but those planted for fruit production should be
spaced about 8 to 10 feet apart.
Weed and grass competition should be eliminated prior to
planting. Mulching is useful to prevent weed regrowth, but turf
grass may need to be controlled by hoeing or with herbicides.
Irrigation should be applied periodically to thoroughly wet the
soil. Avoid standing water, as bananas do not tolerate overly wet
Fertilization requirements For new plants, one quarter cup
of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0), watered in, after the plant
commences regrowth should be applied monthly for the first
three to four months. The rate can be increased over time to two
cups per month when fruiting begins.
Established plantings of several plants together should receive
about two cups of ammonium sulfate every couple of months
throughout the year.
Cold protection of the top is possible by use of coverings and
heat sources, but such is not often practical. However, in colder
locations, soil can be banked around the trunk just before a
projected cold spell to better protect the underground buds,
which will allow the plant to regenerate in the coming spring.
Unprotected but well-established bananas with some
exceptions, regenerated after the last twp freezes.
Some people dig the entire plant,
rhizome and all, remove the leaves and store the plant, dry, in a
heated area over winter. To assure survival, it is easier to dig
small suckers, severed very close to the parent rhizome, and pot
them for overwintering indoors.
Pruning is normally practiced only to provide suckers for
propagation, as most banana plantings are allowed to grow freely
in mats of several plants of varying age and size. For fruit
production, some pruning would be desirable to limit the number
of plants per mat to 5 or 6. Suckers can be quickly dispatched
with a sharpshooter or machete when they are only a few inches
tall; however, the sucker must be severed from its mother plant
underground. Brown leaves are trimmed when seen.
After fruiting, the mother plant which bore should be cut off near
ground level, as it can never produce again. The old trunk will
quickly decompose if cut into three or four pieces, with each
piece then being split lengthwise. Use the remains in a mulch
bed or compost heap.
After a major cold period in which there is no doubt that bananas
were killed to the ground, cut the plants off at ground level within
a couple of weeks of the freeze. Dead bananas are not very
attractive and they are much easier to cut off before
Tattered older leaves can be removed after they break and hang
down along the trunk.
Production, Maturity and Use
Most bananas will produce the flower bud within 10 to 15 months
of emergence as a new sucker, depending mostly on variety and
extent of cool/cold weather. Most production north of the lower
Rio Grande Valley occurs in the spring and summer following a
particularly mild winter.
The reddish purple bracts of the flower roll back and split to
expose a hand of bananas, usually at the rate of one per day.
After all hands with viable fruit are exposed, the bracts continue
to roll back and split for several weeks, leaving a bare stem
between the fruit and the bud. There is no advantage to leaving
the bud longer then necessary; it may be broken off a few inches
below the last viable hand of fruit.
Well-tended bananas in commerce produce fruit stems
approaching 100 pounds, but such yields are rare under Texas
conditions. The more delicately flavored, small-fruited varieties
may attain stem weights of 35 to 40 pounds. Most producers
readily accept production of stems having only two or three
hands, although six to eight hands per stem is common for
Bananas do not always attain best eating quality on the tree. The
entire stem (bunch) should be cut off when the individual
bananas are plump (full) and rounded. Although green in color,
the fruit is mature and will ripen to good eating quality. The stem
of fruit should be hung in a cool, shaded place to ripen. Ripening
will proceed naturally in a few days (if properly harvested), but
can be hastened by enclosing the bunch in a plastic bag with a
sliced apple for about a day. Once ripening starts on the oldest
hand, the entire bunch will ripen within a couple of days.
Ripe bananas are consumed fresh out-offhand, in salads,
compotes, ice-cream dishes and pudding. Overripe fruit can be
pureed in the blender for use in ice cream and baking. Both
dessert and cooking bananas may be fried or baked, but the
cooking bananas are generally more starchy until nearly spoiled
ripe, and their fresh flavor is not so good. Green (mature but not
ripe) bananas and plantains can also be sliced thinly and fried for
a starchy treat.
Popular Asian cuisine has introduced an increased variety of
edible banana products to the marketplace. The banana heart,
the tender core of the trunk, is a delicious addition to dishes
when peeled and sliced, but does require a saltwater soak for a
few hours before use. A note of caution, however, as the sap
from the banana trunk seriously stains clothes and hands and
resists removal. Gloves and coveralls are recommended when
cutting into the trunk. The banana shoot is also an edible morsel.
Sprouting near the base of the plant and treated much like white
asparagus, thick long white spikes result when allowed to grow
without sunlight. However, the sprouts are covered with a pot,
not dirt. Indonesia cuisine roasts banana shoots in hot ashes.
Exotic banana leaves, although inedible, make ideal wraps for
boiled, grilled, steamed or baked foods. Festive banana leaves
deliciously give a delicate flavor to foods.
The beautiful and stately banana "tree" grows about one
hundred pounds of bananas. Bananas are cut and left in large
clusters just as they grew. Cut while still green and unripe, the
flesh of the banana is very dense and starchy. As the banana
ripens, the flesh becomes somewhat sticky and deliciously
sweet. A very popular fruit, a ripe banana offers a satisfying
soothing flavor and a wonderful creamy texture.
The banana tree, rather banana plant, adds a festive touch and
dresses up a tropical party or a special occasion. The fruit of the
banana plant is easy to peel and is delicious simply eaten out of
hand. Not only superb fresh, bananas can be broiled, fried,
baked, sautéed, grilled or pureed. Slices make an attractive
edible garnish. Overripe bananas make yummy cakes, muffins,
cookies and quick breads. Make luscious pies, desserts, sauces,
custards, puddings and curries. To delay ripening, bananas may
be refrigerated. The flesh will stay firm but the skin will darken.
To speed ripening, place in paper bag; keep at room
temperature. Conveniently packaged, the banana comes in its
very own biodegradable container.
Jonathan H. Crane and Carlos F. Balerdi
Scientific name: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana
Common names for banana: English - banana, plantain; Spanish -
banano, platano, guineo, cambur
Common names for plantain : English - plantain, horse banana;
Spanish - platano
Relatives of banana within the Order Zingiberales : Numerous
ornamental plants including traveler's tree, bird-of-paradise,
heliconia, and ginger.
Bananas are vigorously growing, monocotyledonous herbaceous
plants. There are two species of banana, Musa acuminata and M.
balbisiana , and most banana cultivars are hybrids of these
species. Banana cultivars vary greatly in plant and fruit size, plant
morphology, fruit quality, and disease and insect resistance. Most
bananas have a sweet flavor when ripe; exceptions to this are
cooking bananas and plantains.
Plantains are hybrid bananas in which the male flowering axis is
either degenerated, lacking, or possesses relicts of male flowers.
Plantains are always cooked before consumption and are higher
in starch than bananas. The two groups of plantains, French and
Horn, produce fewer fruit per plant than sweet bananas. The
groups differ in whether the male parts of the inflorescence are
persistent or absent.
History and Distribution
The banana and plantain are native to southeast Asia, where they
have been cultivated for thousands of years. Bananas are
believed to have been introduced to Africa in prehistoric times.
Recent evidence suggests bananas were introduced into the New
World (Ecuador) by southeast Asians around 200 B.C., and more
recently by Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the early 16th
century. The Portuguese introduced bananas into the Canary
Islands and the Spanish to the Island of Hispaniola during the
Susceptibility to frost keeps the banana from spreading beyond
the tropics and the warm subtropics. However, bananas are
grown commercially in a number of subtropical areas such as
Australia, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Israel, the Canary Islands,
and south Florida. In some areas, bananas are grown inside
plastic or glass covered structures.
Plantains are an important food source in parts of Africa, southern
India, and throughout tropical America. This is because of the
ease and stability of production and the highly nutritious nature of
Bananas have been grown in scattered locations throughout
Florida since their introduction during the 16th century. Limited
commercial production has occurred since the late 1800s. Florida
is considered a climatically marginal area for commercial banana
production due to our subtropical climate and occasional freezes.
However, small scale commercial production does occur in
southern Florida and producers supply local and regional markets.
Bananas are eaten fresh and used in salads, desserts, breads, and
candy. Bananas are a good source of ascorbic acid (Vit. C),
Vitamin B 6 , and potassium. Plantains are cooked before use and
may be baked, fried, or grilled. Plantains have similar nutritive
value as fresh eating bananas plus Vitamin A, and are an
excellent source of carbohydrate (starch).
Whole plant : The banana is a fast-growing plant consisting of one
or more pseudostems (upright, trunk-like structures) formed by
tightly packed concentric layers of leaf sheaths, an underground
rhizome, and a fibrous root system. The entire plant is called a
mat. The pseudostem constitutes the functional trunk which
supports the leaves and the flower and fruit bearing stalk.
Rhizome : A rhizome is an underground stem with numerous
meristems (growing points) from which the pseudostems,
flowering and fruiting stalks, and fibrous roots arise.
Sheath and leaves : The banana leaf consists of a long, tube-like
structure called a sheath, a stout petiole (leaf stalk), and a lamina
or leaf blade. The tight packing of numerous sheaths form the
pseudostem. One pseudostem may have over 40 leaves during
Roots : Numerous (200-500) fibrous roots arise from the rhizome.
In well drained, deep, fertile soils, roots may extend 5 ft (1.5 m)
deep and 16 ft (4.9 m) laterally.
Flowers and fruit : The banana inflorescence (flowering stalk)
emerges from the center of the pseudostem 10 to 15 months after
planting; by this time 26 to 32 leaves have been produced. The
process of banana flowering is called shooting. The flowers
appear spirally along the axis of the inflorescence in groups of 10
to 20, covered by purplish-to-greenish fleshy bracts which shed
as flowering development progresses. The first flowers to
emerge are functionally female. In the edible cultivars, the rapidly
growing ovaries develop parthenocarpically (without pollination)
into clusters of fruits, called "hands." Although most banana
cultivars produce seedless fruit, some are fertile and can set
seed. The last flowers to emerge are functionally male. In
plantains, the male part of the inflorescence and/or male flowers
may be absent or greatly reduced. The time from shooting to fruit
harvest depends upon temperature, cultivar, soil moisture, and
cultural practices and ranges from 80 to 180 days.
Drought and flooding:
Temperature and soil moisture are the most important factors in
banana production. Lack of water at anytime may cause a
reduction in fruit number and size and ultimate crop yield. Banana
cultivars with Musa balbisiana genes tend to be more drought
tolerant than cultivars of Musa acuminata . Symptoms of drought
stress include folding of the leaves, pale green to yellow leaf
color development, and premature leaf death. Severe drought
stress may cause choking and pseudostem collapse.
Banana plants are not flood tolerant. In general, plants may
survive 24 to 48 hours of flooding caused by moving water.
Stagnant water kills plants quickly. Bananas should not be planted
in flood-prone areas. In areas where the water table is high and/or
frequent soil saturation or very brief flooding occurs, planting on
beds is recommended. Symptoms of continuously wet but not
flooded soil conditions include plant stunting, leaf yellowing, and
Shade: Banana plants are reported to be moderately shade
tolerant (up to 50%). However, shading delays plant and fruit
growth and development. In more subtropical areas like Florida,
full or near-full sun is recommended for best production.
Excessively shaded plants are stunted and produce small, poor
Altitude: Depending upon the local climate, bananas may be
grown from sea level to 6,562 ft (2,000 m).
Bananas do best on flat (slope 0-1%), well drained, deep soils high
in organic matter with a pH of 5.5-7.0. However, many cultivars
perform satisfactorily on the sandy, loamy, muck, and calcareous
marl and rocky soils found in south Florida. The most important
factor is soil drainage. In those areas susceptible to wet or
flooded soil conditions, sufficiently high beds should be
constructed and proper engineering (sloping) of the land for water
drainage should be done. The beds will place most of the root
system above the saturated soil layer and proper sloping of the
ditches between beds should allow for drainage of excessive
water off the land.
The most common propagation material is suckers, or pieces of
the rhizome. There are 3 types of suckers: maidenhead, a large
non-fruiting pseudostem (plus roots and some rhizome); sword
sucker, a sucker attached to the original (mother) rhizome with
narrow sword-like leaves, and; a water sucker, a sucker next to
but only superficially attached to the mother rhizome with broad
leaves. Water suckers produce inferior fruit and are therefore not
recommended. Large sword suckers and maidenheads are the
preferred planting material. Sword suckers should be removed
from vigorous clumps with a spade when they are 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5m)
tall. The largest leaves are cut off, leaving only the youngest or
none at all. Suckers should have many healthy roots, without
symptoms, such as nodulations and internal lesions, of nematode
or borer damage. The pseudostems of maidenhead suckers are
cut down to 8 inches (20 cm) high and the remaining rhizome is
cut into "seed" pieces for planting. In the event that healthy
propagating material is not available, the sucker is cut off and its
rhizome is pared of all damaged roots and dark tissue, or is cut
into pieces containing only white, healthy tissue and a few buds.
If nematodes are a problem in the area, it is strongly
recommended that nematode-free or hot water treated (described
under nematodes) propagating material be used.
Bananas have recently begun to be commercially propagated
from meristems by tissue culture. The advantage of this system
is that plants are uniform and free of nematodes and most
diseases. The disadvantage is the time it takes for small plants to
be grown to a sufficient size for field planting and their lack of
availability. Another tissue culture technique which uses somatic
embryos has not been entirely successful because of the
production of off-type plants.
Planting holes should be large (3 ft wide by 2 ft deep; 0.9 m x 0.6
m) if possible. Addition and mixing with the native soil of
completely composted organic matter or a sand-peat moss
mixture may be desirable. Plants should be watered-in
thoroughly, and a heavy layer of mulch placed around the suckers
immediately after planting will assist in keeping the soil moist and
will suppress weeds.
Banana Plants Banana Trees Greenearth Inc. Melbourne, Florida