There are dozens of species and varieties of banana and plantain trees (Musa spp.). While these tropical fruiting plants are commonly referred to as trees, they’re technically huge herbaceous plants, meaning they don’t have a woody stem. Instead, they have fleshy, upright stalks from which large, oblong, bright green leaves grow. Showy flowers appear typically in the spring, giving way to the fleshy, elongated, green or yellow fruit.
No matter the size of your yard or home, there is a banana tree to fit. Plus, they can make good houseplants with enough light, though they typically don’t bear fruit indoors. Banana trees generally have a fast growth rate and should be planted in the spring.
Banana Tree Care
While most species grow best in warm climates, there also are somewhat cold-hardy banana trees. If you’re planting the banana tree outdoors, choosing the right planting site is key to making care easy. Grow this plant in a location where it will be sheltered from strong winds, as it is very susceptible to damaged leaves. Prepare your planting site by mixing some compost into the soil. And make sure you have enough space for the height and spread of your particular species.
During the growing season (spring to fall), banana trees are water hogs. You might have to water daily, especially during hot weather, to maintain adequate soil moisture. The plants also will need regular fertilization throughout the growing season. Bananas form in the late summer in a cluster called a hand. Once the fruit is green but plumped up, it can be cut off the stalk and placed in a cool, dry space to finish ripening.
Most types of bananas plants prefer to grow in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. However, some varieties can scorch easily and will do better in partial shade.
These plants love organically rich, deep soil with good drainage and a slightly acidic soil pH. They typically have poor tolerance for salt in the soil.
Banana trees are tropical and originate in rainforests, so they need a lot of water and plenty of moisture in the air. They do best when planted in groups fairly close together, as this helps to retain moisture in the leaves. Water regularly to make sure the soil stays evenly moist but not soggy. Avoid overwatering, which can cause root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
These plants thrive in warm, humid conditions, but they don’t like temperature extremes. Even the hardy, cold-tolerant banana tree species prefer consistent temperatures ranging between 75 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold temperatures and dry conditions can cause the plants to quickly die back. To increase the level of humidity, mist the leaves daily.
Banana trees are heavy feeders. Apply a balanced fertilizer regularly throughout the growing season, following label instructions. Also, mix compost into the soil annually to raise the level of organic matter.