Grow Bananas

How to Grow Bananas

If your grocer says, "Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today," it isn't surprising since the banana is the world's second favorite fruit, surpassed in popularity only by the apple. Once only grown in tropical climates, the good news is that several varieties can be grown in northern areas as well as in the south.

Because it takes nine months or more to reach maturity, some northern gardeners grow the banana plant only for its spectacular ornamental foliage. However, in the hobby greenhouse, even northern growers can achieve a fruit harvest and reap the added benefit of seeing the amazing way in which fruit is produced.

Probably because of its height, the banana plant is often incorrectly called a banana tree. Actually, though, the banana is the largest herbaceous perennial and belongs to the monocotyledons of the Musaceae family, which also includes palms, grasses, and orchids.

Bananas grow from rhizomes, which are stems that take root and send shoots (suckers) up through the soil. Banana plants may also be propagated through suckers (also called pups or ratoons) that grow from the main stem of the banana plant. If you have difficulty in finding banana rhizomes at your local nursery, you can find them in most garden catalogs as well as Internet garden outlets. Site and soil

The banana plant wil grow best in full sun in soil that provides excellent drainage. Good drainage is crucial since saturated roots may die in less than an hour. It is also important to shelter the banana plant from heavy winds that can tatter the banana plant foliage.

The banana plant is a very heavy feeder. Soil should be nutrient rich, slightly acidic, and loamy enough to retain moisture and keep nutrients from leaching below the shallow roots of the plant. Amendments of good organic compost and green sand or kelp meal will help maintain the banana plant's high mineral requirements.

Planting Banana Rhizomes

Dig a hole about a foot wide and ten to twelve inches deep. Set the rhizome in the hole so that the union between it and the sucker stem are about six inches deep. If your site isn't level, the eye of your banana rhizome should be on the uphill side of your hole. Fill the hole with soil and tamp down firmly to remove any air pockets. If planting more than one rhizome, plants need to be spaced at least ten feet apart so that each gets the benefit of full sun. Water your banana plant sparingly to keep the rhizome healthy until the plant is established.

Banana Plant Growth

Because of its rapid growth, the banana plant is one that you almost can sit back and watch grow. When the banana plant is about three-quarters grown, it produces several suckers at its base. Remove all of these, save one, by trimming them at ground level with a sharp knife. The saved shoot is called a follower. It will become your banana plant's main stem after the mother plant fruits.

The "trunk" of the banana plant is actually a densely packed group of concentric leaves, a pseudostem. After the banana plant has grown about thirty leaves, the fruit stem shoots through them from the rhizome and emerges as a terminal inflorescence (a group of flowers at the tip of the stem). The fruit stem matures three to four months after its emergence. Flower bracts soon cover the stem and then roll back almost daily, each exposing a "hand" of bananas. At the beginning of their development, the little hands grow downward, but as they grow, they turn their fingers towards the sun and appear to be growing upside down. This phenomenon is called "negative geotropism".

Banana Harvest

A banana bunch is ready to cut when the fruit is round and plump with no obvious ribs. At this point, the flower bracts will be very dry and easily break off from the fruit tip. To harvest bananas, the stalk of the bunch should be cut well above the top hand of bananas.

Bananas ripen by self-producing heat and ethylene gas. To maximize your banana harvest, pick individual green hands to ripen them for use. Seal the hand in a plastic bag with another ripening banana or a fruit like a red apple. The hand makes use of the gas produced by the ripening fruit and speeds up the process. Place the bag in a cool dark place, like a cupboard (a refrigerator is too cold!). After 24 to 48 hours, remove the ripening fruit. The hand of bananas should be able to finish the ripening process on its own.

After harvest, cut the mother plant down to ground level. The "follower" will take her place for next year's banana growing!

Linda is an author of Gardening Tips Tricks and Howto's of Gardening Guides and the Lawn Care section of the Lawnmower Guide.

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By Linda Jenkinson

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"hi, i bought a banana plant 3 months ago and kept it in a light kitchen and it is four foot tall but leaves are going yellow any help why this is happening? "


"I have had bananas growing in my back yard here in Florida for 13 years, and I have never done anything to help them grow, no water or fertilizer. This year I will begin to take better care of them. Organic fertilizers are certainly the way to go. Try using some sea solids and/or kelp, plus a good source of nitrogen like fish hydrolysate (5-1-1), such as Neptune's Harvest or Maxicrop. They both make kelp fertilizers too. These types of fertilizers (sea solids, fish hydrolysate, kelp) all originate from the sea, where ALL of the minerals required for optimal plant growth are present. You can find many great articles about organic gardening on the Acres USA website. Click the Toolbox button at the top left of the page. "


"Linda, My area to grow bananas is limited. Once I cut the mother to ground level and allow the kid to grow along side, how long will the mother stump remain? After years, the limited area will be cover with old mother stumps. What do you suggest?"


"I found several banana trees growing in the ravine at the back of my yard in Houston, TX. They are quite tall but only one has bananas. I was excited when I saw there were bananas so I got a tall ladder and picked a couple of them. They are about 5 inches long and still have ridges. I have them laying in a sunny place to see if they will ripen. I will try putting them in a plastic bag with an apple and see if that will ripen them. Approximately how long does it take for a banana to ripen on the tree? Should the other non-bearing trees be cut down? Thanks for the good information! It\'s very helpful. "

"Hi Linda! That was a very useful info you shared. You have mentioned about ripening the fruit fast... what about slowing down the ripening process? I mean to travel bananas but I'm worried it ripens too soon. I really would appreciate your help here. Thanks!"


"It can not be understood by a person who doesn't know much biology."


"My tree grew to nearly 12 feet and has many bananas on it. I expected it to be a smaller tree with small bananas, but I have large bananas. I'm not sure when I should pick them. I see some yellow on the skins now. Bradenton, FL"


"I live in east London and for the first time my banana growing in a large pot has produced a flower with bracts opening every day or so. This site has been wonderful as it is so informative. I bring it inside for the winter and will wait to see if the fruits actually mature."

Richard in Ilford

"I live in Florida and grow bananas in my back yard. I have found that it usually takes two years for a new plant to produce fruit. For greenhouses, you might consider dwarf Cavendish plants. They are only 3-4 feet high at maturity and produce small, delicious bananas. I usually don\'t have to replant. Once I cut the old plant, new ones pop up by themselves. If your soil is depleted, you may need to add fertilizer for a good growth. The fruit is great, but even when I don\'t get fruit, the plants are just great to look at. "

Bill M from Naples

"very useful, thanks :)"


"How can maximize the harvest when bananas hands stop developing and the flowers stoots just dry up to fall to the ground. How can keep the bunch growing to as many flowers produced? Once the flowers begin to drop to the ground, is there anything that can be done to stop it or to prevent from happening?"

"yes helpful but i have a question to ask my plant is very healthy but after producing aprox 3/4 hands the flowers drop off it did it last year too and it seemed to recupe toward the last 4/5 hands i had fruit at the top and fruit at the bottom ...also i live in spain so what food should i be giving ...thanks elli"

Elli Harrington

"hi! planted my banana 5 months ago but they is no growth. i have done the basic guidelines on how to grow bananas. am in lusaka, zambia and the weather is good for bananas. what can i do?"

Gavin Nkhata

"Planted my first banana plant four years ago here in sunny Brixton,the mother plant's been flowering since April!Hoping for a long hot Summer to ripen the fruit.It's AMAZING!It literally changes daily-the most exciting thing to happen in my garden!"

Paul Jowett.

"i live in the uk ihave 9 large bananas which at the moment are wrapped up but i need to move the can you please advise can i cut them down level ??to move them ?? "

steve broom

"Can you grow the plants using store-bought bananas?"

Broke Gardener

"this is a fantastic website my bananas are great now"


"Thanks for the great info. I have a banana tree that is fruiting, although they won't get to the stage of edible fruit as it's now mid october here in wet devon but I now know how to treat it and it's follower. Many Thanks"

Penny P

"how do you re-start another banana plant out of the sucker? do you just stick in soil?"

"If after the flower you get no fruit is it because you need a second plant to pollinate?"

Harvey Chichester



"Very helpful information. I learned alot. Thanks."

J.A.M. Lake Placid, FL

"excellent info i have just aquired a banana plant it arrived with the leaves turning black so i took a chance and trimmed the black off, it is now thriving."


"Thanks for the info very helpful maby get more types of bananas"


"Thanks to Linda for a detailed but clear explanation of the banana. I am about to move into a home in Hawaii with a large Apple banana plant, and will apply her good advice to nurture it properly. A local nursery worker adds that bananas need lots of potassium, and recomments chopping up the banana stems and making mulch from them to recycle the potassium, as well as mulching any banana peels."


"This is just the information that I was looking for, thanks much!"


"u shouls say were they grow at ."