Let’s just say that where I live, it gets too hot and too cold to grow bananas trees as a perennial. Although many banana trees are hardy in zones 9 to 11, it takes the perfect growing conditions for it to produce bananas. Banana trees are not actually trees however. The stalks of the tree are actually tightly wrapped fibers of the leaves. The leaves start to grow on the inside of the tree, below the ground, where they push up through the top center of the crown. They are more of a fast growing plant than a tree. Banana plants send out underground rhizomes that will send up baby sucker plants below the parent plant.
Climate and watering
If your banana plant is producing bananas then you are probably somewhere closer to the equator than myself, enjoying your beautiful weather. Banana plants grow best in tropical to sub-tropical climates. That’s right, the ideal temperature range for growing bananas is between 76 and 86 degrees. Once temperatures dip below 60 degrees they will stop growing. Banana plants like high humidity and because of their large leaves, they need lots and lots of water. In the warm season you will need to water your banana trees deeply every day or every other day. Once the cool season arrives and temperatures reach the 50’s then the plants aren’t growing and not much water is needed.
Soil and Nutrients
A nutrient rich soil with plenty of organic matter is ideal for bananas. The natural environment for these trees is in the full sun rocky mountainsides and the lava sands of the tropics, in the ring of fire. A cactus or palm soil will work well for banana plants. Because bananas are high in potassium, adding wood ash and composted cow or chicken manure is recommended.
Edible bananas produce female flowers first and then set fruit. It is after this that the banana tree, which is not technically a tree but a succulent, produces a sterile male flower. Bananas do not require pollen to grow fruit, therefore they are self fruitful and a second type banana is not required. This is called parthenocarpy, which means virgin fruit.
Banana plants die after they produce 1 huge flower that provides a huge stalk of bananas. They reforest themselves with the sucker plants from the rhizomes below the parent plant. It is for this reason that they are considered a herbaceous perennial. Banana plants do not like strong winds as their leaves can become shredded and dead looking. Because these leaves shade the ground and prevent the plant from drying out, leave them on the tree until new leaves re-emerge. These plants produce fruit under the shade of their canopy and thrive when grown in clumps and not grown alone.
Bananas most commonly die to a lack of water. Their suckers below can be cut and divided with a sharp shovel and replanted. This is best done when the sucker is 2 to 4 foot tall. Once you have transplanted the sucker plant, you will want to cut off most of the leaf to help lessen water evaporation. If you are in zones 10 or 11 and your trees are producing fruit, eliminate all but the best sucker below to get bigger fruit.
Banana trees are low maintenance trees as long as they stayed watered and fed. You will need to occasionally cut down the dead plant to make room for the new suckers below.
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