Growing Bananas

Bananas are surely the best known tropical fruit and one of the most healthy and versatile.

Wonderful, luscious, tropical leaves act great as a backdrop or centre piece to your garden. Against

a house, around a pool or in a courtyard.

A good source of Vitamin A, C, B6, potassium and some calcium and iron. Bananas are also low in salt, fat and are cholesterol free.

In growing your own banana plant you can expect 1 bunch of bananas per stalk/plant. They will typically fruit from September through to November.

Grow banana plants in full sun with shelter. Fruiting is governed by sunlight and warmth on the trunk. To encourage the warmth, stack compost around the trunk well up the stem but not touching, as this mulch could create a lot of heat & burn the plant.

Strong winds may cause plants to topple. Continuous windy weather may cause severe left shredding, drying leaves, and plant crown distortion. Grown in the shelter of buildings is ideal. Can be grown in sheltered sites by the coast, but are not tolerant of saline conditions.

Banana plants are susceptible to frosts. Light frosts will burn the leaves but the plant will grow back. They need regular moisture especially during hot periods where the large leaves will transpire heavily.

Keep soil moisture up, as a lack of water at any time may cause a reduction in fruit numbers and size. Soil drainage is just as important, sloping land will help with this. Banana plants prefer a slightly acidic soil.

All growth will stop when temperature drops to 15 degrees Celsius or below but plants can survive at -2 degrees for short periods.

Apply high potassium fertiliser every 6 weeks during the growing months. The amount of fertiliser depends on size and age of stalk and the number of stalks per clump. To simplify, add regular compost and manure to feed and protect the shallow roots.

Remove all but 2-3 sucker growths. The best plants are those with a broad base and very fast taper to a point (almost pyramid shaped). The more slender suckers may not flower or will produce a much weaker flower. Removed suckers can be replanted elsewhere.

Ideal family is one mother plant with 2-3 daughters. Once a plant has fruited, cut it down and chop into pieces and add as mulch around the daughters

No major insect or fungal problems, though wildlife may seek out the ripening fruits. Cold wet weather can set the plants back and encourage root rot.

Once a bunch of bananas has developed remove the bell flower. This will make sure the energy is put into fruit development. Harvest the bunch once the oldest bananas start to yellow and hang up in a shed to ripen. or harvest fruit individually as they ripen on the tree in spring. This is ideal in cooler climates.

Large sweet tasty flavoured bananas 18cm long, but they can vary in fruit size.

This is a quick growing dwarf Cavendish variety, which grows around 2.5m high.

Pollination - Self-fertile. The flower stalk appears out of the centre once the plant is fully grown. It hangs down as the flower develops. The male flower develops at the end of the flower stalk creating a bell. The female flowers spiral around the stem. The female flowers are white tubular with rich nectar purple bracts and deep red within.