Grow Guide for Ornamental Banana Trees
Even if you live where Jack Frost comes to visit, you can still enjoy the summertime ambiance of a lush tropical plant with huge leaves and exotic flowers that comes from southeast Asia. Consider planting an ornamental banana plant. Bananas are not trees, but rather large herbaceous perennials (the largest of all, in fact). Bananas are monocots, more closely related to gingers and heliconias than to fruit trees or sunflowers.
This guide will help you learn how to grow banana trees and care for them to keep them thriving.
Perfect Plants offers three varieties of high quality ornamental banana tree plants. These types of banana trees do not produce edible fruit, but they do produce beautiful foliage and flowers, they survive freezing temperatures, and they make a bold, tropical statement in any landscape large enough to accommodate them.
- Basjoo (Musa ‘Basjoo’) is a full sized banana leaf plant, 12-15 feet tall, that is hardy all the way to United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness Zone 4, surviving winter temperatures below 0°F, as long as the root mass is well mulched. This is best choice for a cold hardy banana tree. Temperatures below that may kill the plant.
- Another full sized musa banana species is the Bordelon (Musa ‘Bordelon’), which also gets 12-15 ft tall but is hardy only to USDA zone 8. Both produce green leaves and striking banana tree flowers.
- Golden Lotus (Musella lasiocarpa) gets just 5-6 feet tall. It is hardy to zone 7, where the plant dies to the ground in winter, and comes back the following spring. Golden Lotus begins flowering in mid-spring, and often continues to bloom until frost. This is a good variety for growing banana plants in a container on the patio.
Do Bananas Grow on Trees?
Bananas, including the ornamental kinds without edible bananas, are very fast growing. They send up suckers from underground roots near the mother plant, creating little jungles of tropical foliage. This enhances their visual appeal and provide strength-in-numbers protection for the plants.
The banana grove helps to maintain humidity and moisture in the air around the individual plants, as well as protecting them from cold temperature extremes and damaging winds. (The central, largest fruiting stalk dies after blooming, so never remove all of the suckers.)
Banana Tree Care
Bananas do best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH around 5.5 – 6.5. Choose a planting site large enough to accommodate a small grove of mature banana plants.
They prefer full sun to partial shade. You may need to provide supplemental irrigation during dry spells, so keep that in mind when selecting your banana’s location.
The broad, large leaves are easily torn in the strong wind, so a position protected from the strongest winds is advisable. Ornamental bananas will die back to the ground when it freezes, so select a position where they won’t be missed for several months of the year.
How to Plant a Banana Tree
Dig a large hole for your new banana plant and enrich the site with organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost with rich soil to get it off to a good, fast start. Mulch will help these plants grow to their fullest potential while retaining moisture that banana tree plants need. Amending the soil with a nutrient dense potting mix will help too.
Banana Tree Fertilizer and How Much Water
Banana trees should get 1-2 inches of water weekly and the well draining soil should stay evenly moist, never soggy nor completely dried out. Bananas are fast growing plants that need lots of nutrients for the plant and lots of water.
You should fertilize your ornamental banana 2 or 3 times a year during the growing season. Apply a complete, slow-release fertilizer such as one with an N-P-K ratio of 6-6-12 (plus micronutrients), as per label directions. Bananas need lots of K because they are susceptible to a potassium deficiency. The amount of fertilizer depends on the size of the plant and number of bananas so read the instructions carefully. Fertilizer will also help with leaf growth.
When the first freeze comes, cut the banana plant down to 8-12 inches above ground level, and mulch the root zone heavily. The following spring it will start growing again and pop through the mulch.
If you grow your ornamental banana in a container (a 15 gallon pot or larger is recommended) it will need more frequent watering and fertilizing than plants grown in the ground. During the growing season, when your potted banana is outside, you will need to water it every day.
When the temperatures drop in the winter you can move the plant indoors where it won’t need balanced fertilizer or very much water until it goes back outside again in the spring. Make sure you choose a pot with a drainage hole as these heavy feeders do not like wet feet. It can cause root rot.
Divide these perennial herb banana plants every 2 or 3 years or so to prevent overcrowding. Use a sharp spade to cut the suckers off the rhizome. You can replant the suckers or pups as new plants. It doesn’t matter if the banana leaves stay on during this transplant process. The true stem will flush out and emerge from the top of the plant. The banana plant will continue growing like normal. Once the banana plant flower develops the stem will die back to the ground where the rhizomes are.
Wondering when to plant banana trees? The best time to plant bananas is in early spring so they have the whole growing season to establish their root systems.
Check out our blog on pruning banana plants for more info on how to prune.
Is banana plant care easy enough? With little pest and disease issue, you can enjoy the luscious designs and tropical vibes of our 3 varieties of Ornamental Banana Plants! Once they start growing you won’t even know you aren’t in the tropics :)