Growing Banana Plants:
Growing Bananas Organically

Growing banana plants adds a beautiful, ornamental display to your garden along with delicious and nutritious fruit as long as you live in a sub-tropical climate. This page will teach you how growing bananas can be done successfully (and relatively easily) at home the organic way.

Growing Banana Plants (Musa acuminata): Plant Snapshot

Growing Banana Plants
  • Recommended Varieties:
    • Dwarf Cavendish - abundant fruit
    • Lady finger - superior flavor
    • Manzano - tart apple aroma
    • Orinoco - great cooking variety
  • Group with crops from: n/a (herbaceous perennial)
  • Low winter temperatures that damage fruit plants: 32°F (0°C)
  • Time until plant bears fruit after planting: one to two years from planting a one year old sucker plant
  • Approximate yield per plant: 35 to 40 lbs (16 to 18kg)
  • Life of plant: 2 to 3 years, generating new suckers to create new plants each year
  • Companion plants:
    • Companions: n/a
    • Avoid: n/a

Before you continue reading below, check out the following overview pages if you haven't done so already. They contain important general instructions that apply to most types of fruit trees...

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Planting Banana Trees

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

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Choose an area for planting that is sheltered from winds, has good drainage and gets maximum sun. A south or southeast facing location is best.

If you intend on growing banana trees for ornamental purposes, it’s fine to space them about 3 feet (1m) apart. If you’re hoping to grow fruit, your plant will need more space. Allow about 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3m) for each plant.

Bananas are available from nurseries as a year old container plants. These will be new suckers that have developed from a more established banana rhizome (or “mat”, as they’re usually called). Their leaves will be cut to between 2 and 3 feet (60 to 90cm).

Bananas need a large planting hole, preferably about 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep (1m x 0.6 m). Back fill the hole with a mix of compost and soil until you can plant your container plant level with the ground. The loose soil that has refilled the hole will make it easier for the banana’s rhizome roots to establish.

Add fertilizer at this stage. Bananas are heavy feeders that need lots of potassium. Choose an organic potash fertilizer and follow the instructions closely as over fertilizing can damage leaves.

Water every few days after planting, especially if the weather is dry. You can reduce this to once per week after the plant has been established for three or four months.

Snapshot: Planting Banana Trees

  • Easiest to grow from: small one year old sucker plant
  • Planting timeframe range (varies by climate): From late spring to early summer
  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.5 to 7
  • Spacing in rows: about 8 feet (2.5m)
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Banana Tree Growing: Care & Pruning

Where to Find Growing & Plant Care Supplies...

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Banana plants, called mats, develop lots of new suckers over time. To maximize fruit production, prune these to 5 or 6 suckers per mat. Use a sharp garden knife or machete to cut through any unwanted suckers, being sure to make the cut into the plant under the soil rather than just cutting off surface growth.

Suckers only produce fruit once. After this you should cut it off the main plant near soil level. After you’ve removed these they are a really beneficial addition to your compost heap as they’re full of nutrients.

Your banana plant is herbaceous, meaning it will renew itself with new growth each year. Although suckers only last for two or three years, your plant will continue to renew for over ten years if well cared for.

Remember that bananas are not flood or drought tolerant. They need regular watering particularly when they are in the flower or fruit development stage. Water weekly in dry spells.

Fertilize your banana plant weekly during the growing season using an organic potash fertilizer.

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Harvesting Bananas

Cut off full bunches of bananas from the tree once they appear plump and round. Use a sharp clean knife making a cut where bunch meets the main stem. They will still be slightly green at this point. They are ripe for eating at this stage, although their flavor may improve as their skins yellow.

Snapshot: Harvesting Bananas

  • Time to harvest: summer
  • Yield per plant/tree: 35 to 40 lbs (16 to 18kg)
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Storing Bananas and Freezing Bananas

Unripe bananas should be stored at room temperature. It may take between one and two weeks for them to ripen. To speed up ripening, store them with apples.

Once ripe, it is possible to refrigerate to add a few days of life, but the skins may darken and look unappealing.

You can also freeze bananas for later use in smoothies or baking. Choose ripe, firm bananas, remove their skins and mash. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice for each cup of mashed bananas, place in a sealed container leaving an inch (2.5cm) of headspace and put in the freezer.

And don’t discard your uneaten overripe bananas! They’re a great ingredient for cakes, breads and ice cream.

Snapshot: Storing Bananas & Freezing Bananas

  • Storage temperature:
    • Refrigerator 55 to 60F (13 to 15 C)
    • Freezer 0F (-17C)
  • Storage life (refrigerator): 1 week
  • Storage life (frozen): 4 to 10 months
  • Storage humidity: 85-90%
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Banana Plant Pests & Diseases

Aphids spread viruses and disease in banana plants. If your plant is suffering from an aphid attack, use a biological aphid control product to remove this problem. These use other living creatures to overcome the infestation (note: they’re not suitable for use in conjunction with chemical products).

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Bananas. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids

Common Diseases

  • Black Sigotoka
  • Panama disease
  • Viruses
  • Yellow Sigotoka
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Banana Plants

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