Banana plants aren’t actually trees: They do not have woody trunks. Technically, banana plants are herbaceous perennials, albeit the largest flowering herbs in the world. Some varieties get over twenty feet tall. Learn how to prune a banana tree and why it is important to do so in this blog post.
Left to itself, a banana plant consists of a thicket of several stalks (called pseudostems). A mature stalk can produce a cluster (called a bunch) of banana fruits (technically they are berries) arranged in rows (called hands) only one time – then that stalk dies. But, numerous offshoots (called suckers or pups) have been popping up all around the mother stalk, so the actual plant never really dies: All of those suckers, or “stalks-to-be”, are parts of the same plant.
Banana stalk up close by Jason Graham | These fruiting stalks will only produce fruit once in their lifetime | Licensed by CC Banana trees produce pups at the base of the tree once the stalk has produced fruit. The pups job is to take over as the mother stalk once it is pruned | Photo by Jenni Konrad
Banana Tree PruningGorgeous Guatemalan banana tree by Dennis Jarvis | You can see the baby banana tree below the fruiting stalk that will take over once the banana fruit is harvested | Licensed by CC
- As banana growers, we want just one stalk on each plant (the mother stalk) growing to maturity and producing bananas, and just one offshoot standing in the wings to produce next year’s crop. All other offshoots should be cut down as they appear: They are just taking up space, water, and nutrients. Use a sharp knife or machete and cut them to the ground, chop ‘em up, and scatter ‘em around the mother stalk as mulch.
- If you dig out the base of the severed pups, they won’t regrow as quickly and you won’t have to cut ‘em off again so soon.
- Developing bananas need full sun to ripen, so cut off any leaves that are rubbing against the young bananas or completely shading them. Cut off any dead leaves to encourage new growth at the top of the tree.
- It takes more than a year for a banana stalk to set and ripen fruit. If your main stalk gets cold damaged, but not killed, do not cut it down! It most likely will recover and go on to produce fruit the following summer.
- After you harvest your banana crop, cut back that stalk to the ground, slice it up, and use it as mulch around next year’s stalk.
- Banana trees love mulch at all times of the year to protect them and insulate them from the winter’s cold and retain moisture during summer’s heat.
- These tropical plants are easy to care for and once you get the hang of the low maintenance care.
- The best time to prune a banana tree is during the active growing season and after it bears fruit. You do not want to prune the mother plant before it produces bananas.
The banana tree’s Perfect Plants offers are all ornamental and may produce inedible fruit to humans (although birds and wildlife love them!). Check out the Ornamental Banana Tree Grow Guide for more information on growing these pretty fruit trees. What kind of banana trees are you growing in your landscape? Are they edible? Ornamental? Do they have unique colored leaves like the Musa Bordelon banana?
Banana fruit and flower captured by Melvin “Buddy” Baker | Licensed by CC