Bananas are fast growing perennial plants with large leaves. Clusters of tubular white flowers appear at the tip of the fruiting stem. The flowers develop into clusters of fruits, called hands.
Where to plant
Bananas love heat, and protection from wind is advisable. They prefer rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5 to 6.5) but do not tolerate salty soils. Periodic deep watering to leach salt from the soil is recommended if the soil is salty.
Bananas require a god deal of water, especially during the warm season. Regular deep watering is required in the summer, but the soil should never be soggy. Good drainage is essential so there should not be standing water around the tree. A thick layer of mulch helps maintain soil moisture and protects the shallow roots.
Bananas are heavy feeders; they require monthly feeding with a balanced fertilizer. A balanced fertilizer is one that contains about equal proportions of Nitrogen-Phosphorous –Potassium, or N-P-K. This is stated on the label. Spread the fertilizer around the tree out to 4 to 8 feet (depending on the size of the tree), being careful to keep it away from the trunk.
Maturing fruit stalks are heavy, and you may need to add support so the stem does not break under the weight.
Each stalk produces one huge flower cluster and then dies. New stalks grow from the underground portion of the tree. Prune to one or two primary stems each season, cutting off extra shoots (suckers) as they appear, until the primary stem is 6 to 8 months old or flowering. At that point, allow one or two main suckers to develop as the replacement stalks for the following season. Remove last years’ flowering stems after the fruit is harvested.
Bananas in containers
Bananas can be grown in containers; smaller dwarf varieties are better suited than larger varieties. Use a large container that has good drainage, and fill with rich soil. Irrigate consistently and deeply to maintain even soil moisture without soggy, standing water. Periodic deep soaking to leach salts is also advised. Fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer, at about half the rate required for a tree planted in the ground.
The Dwarf Cavendish is a common variety grown in California gardens.
Read more about growing bananas.