Tall with broad leaves is the most common description of Banana Trees. However, more than their basic appearance makes these trees perfect, whether for eating the bananas as they grow or their exotic look near patios or poolsides.
What makes Banana Trees extra special? They have rapid growth and reach full size in just a few weeks. They’re perfect for people who want an immediate tropical look that guarantees admiration and astonishment every time you witness it.
This article covers: Varieties of Banana Trees, Banana Trees Requirements, How To Plant Banana Trees, How To Take Care of Banana Trees, Disease Susceptibility of Banana Trees, and, History of Banana Trees
Varieties of Banana Trees
Banana Trees have numerous varieties, and we owe it all to the people who mastered the cultivation of Banana Trees.
The varieties listed below are among the most popular types of Banana Trees.
Disclaimer: This list is incomplete – there are more species, but they are less popular.
Otherwise known as Musa paradiciaca, this variety produces banana fruits with higher starch content than regular bananas.
The fruits of this variety are preferred to be cooked either ripe or not.
In Southeast Asian countries, they like to cook them when they are still green. The ripe fruits are also outstanding when cooked.
They are sweet and a perfect ingredient for desserts. Usually, a simple glaze is enough to unlock the wonderful taste of banana fruits.
2. Cavendish Banana
Most people know and love the regular banana is none other than the Cavendish banana or Musa Cavendish.
They were initially found in Central America but eventually managed to become a staple food worldwide.
One good advantage of Cavendish bananas is their ability to be grown in different conditions.
You can either grow them as dwarves or large trees. But both methods require different caring and maintenance.
Nevertheless, this variety loves full sunlight and humid environments.
3. Musa Acuminata
This variety is among the hardy Banana Trees you can grow around your home. You can grow them in a container provided that the right conditions such as full sun and water are met. This variety consumes a lot of water; hence keeping the soil moist at all times.
Musa Acuminata can grow 12 to 20 feet tall, and they need to be transplanted before they reach such height. Apply fertilizer upon transplanting and see to it that the plant site has good access to sunlight, and water should be applied regularly.
4. Blue Java Banana
The name of this variety is a derivative of the peel color of its fruit. The blue peel of banana fruits and the vanilla flavor of the banana make this variety shine.
Another quality of blue java bananas is they are relatively hardy, which means they can be grown in cold regions without worrying too much about the fruit.
They prefer partial shade and well-draining soil for effective growth.
5. Hardy Banana
Also known as Musa basjoo, this variety is perhaps the strongest of them all. They can survive even the harshest condition in summer and spring and will continue to grow even when exposed to below-zero temperatures.
That being said, this variety does not require much attention to grow other than plenty of sunlight and mulching – which is enough.
6. Musa Velutina
This variety is a perfect choice for backyard planting because this Banana Tree does not grow over eight feet tall. Also, they produce lovely pink flowers before the fruits emerge.
However, their wonderful appearance does not agree with the fruit because the fruits are filled with seeds, making them unpleasant to eat. Nice to look at but nasty to eat.
Nevertheless, they still make a decoration in the backyard, by the lovely pink flowers and fruits of this variety are an eye-catcher. That maybe is a fair trade.
7. Red Banana
This variety is your second option next to the Cavendish Banana if you want a sweeter fruit. They have softer fruit and can taste like raspberries.
The name red banana is consequential from the color of the fruit that comes in red to purple peel.
Just like other Banana Trees, this variety prefers full sun and well-draining soil.
8. Musa Sapientum
As their name suggests, this variety is known as a dessert banana because the fruit is creamy and sweet.
Also, this variety has some similarities to Musa paradisiaca because they are sometimes mistaken to be the same. But they are entirely different plants.
Musa sapientum requires a little caring during the early stages, unlike other varieties. The seeds need to be grown in a relatively humid environment with a balanced temperature.
After they have successfully established, they are ready to be transplanted outdoors.
This variety is pretty common in the Philippines and they are mainly sold because of their trunks.
The trunks of abaca make a good fiber for rope making, and this practice has gone on for hundreds of years.
They are not common in the West, which is why you might never have heard of them until today.
Abacas can grow for up to 20 to 22 feet tall but may differ depending on their growing conditions. This variety is primarily grown as a commodity for rope making, and you seldom see it grown in the backyard.
10. Saba Banana
Another popular variety in the Philippines is the Saba Banana, locally known as ‘Saging Saba’.
The term saging literally translates to banana, and it is an umbrella term used to refer to all sorts of banana fruits.
The fruits of this variety are cooked when they are still green. The fruit becomes soft, and they are best paired with shrimp or fish paste. In contrast, the ripe fruit of saba banana is cooked mainly for desserts.
Banana Trees Requirements
After knowing the different varieties of Banana Trees, the next important thing to know is what conditions they need to grow.
This is the foundation for successful banana growth, so you need to take it seriously.
Tropical or Sub-Tropical Climate is Vital
Generally, Banana Trees prefer to grow in equilibrium—not too much sun and cold. Although they can handle both temperatures fine, they typically don’t like it.
For example, they can survive extreme heat conditions as long as enough water is in the soil.
While some varieties can survive in extremely cold weather, most do not. To be safe, know the weather changes in your area to know which variety is best for you.
Water is Gold for Banana Trees
If you try to squeeze the trunks of Banana Trees, you will get plenty of water from it. That is because Banana Trees are heavy drinkers, so you need a vast amount of water to sustain them.
You may have to increase the amount of water you give them during the summer season.
Besides the summer season, Banana Trees grown in pots also need more water than those planted in the ground.
Soil Quality is Important
Aside from a well-draining system, Banana Trees prefer soil with plenty of compost and manure. If you don’t have any of these, you better make some.
Apply mulch around the plant afterwards.
You will see a massive difference in the Banana Trees if grown in these environmental conditions.
Enough Planting Site
Depending on the number of Banana Trees you want to grow, you need enough planting sites to cater to all of them.
Banana Trees are best grown in huge batches because they can form a barrier to protect themselves from heavy winds. Not just that, they also help maintain the temperature in their favor.
However, if you want to grow a small number of Banana Trees in your backyard, be sure to plant them where they are protected from the wind. Planting them in an open area in your backyard is not ideal.
How To Plant Banana Trees
Now we proceed to the process of planting Banana Trees. Normally, Banana Trees do not grow from seeds but suckers or sprouts.
However, wild Banana Trees produce seeds to multiply in the forest.
These Are The Steps In Planting Banana Trees:
Get Your Suckers Or Sprouts
This might be difficult because where would you get suckers or sprouts in the world?
You better ask your gardener friend for some help. Your friend might have one of those or know someone you can go to.
Another solution is to go to your local plantation and buy some suckers from them. But this might be less interesting because you won’t have many choices except the ones they grow on their farm.
Your last option is to go to your local garden store and pray that they stock banana suckers or that they know someone that does.
Space The Plants Evenly
Depending on how many Banana Trees you want to grow, you need to space them evenly depending on the layout.
The ideal spacing is 2 to 3 meters and is careful not to plant them too far away from one another.
Remember, Strong winds can easily blow down Banana Trees, so they need to be planted in rows and columns for protection.
Keep The Soil Well-Drained
Even though Banana Trees are heavy drinkers, they do not wet environments. They prefer moist soil, so they need to be planted in well-draining soil.
On top of that, you can also add mulch around the plant to help retain moisture.
Remember, the common cause of death for Banana Trees is insufficient water application, or else they’ll starve. Water and fertilizer are critical to the survival of Banana Trees.
They generally do not need other maintenance besides those.
Propagation is the best and most viable way of multiplying Banana Trees. To propagate Banana Trees, you have to divide the suckers from the rhizomes using a sharp blade.
Be sure not to damage the suckers while cutting them from the rhizome.
Before propagating Banana Trees, wait until the suckers are at least 3 feet tall and have roots. After cutting the suckers, allow them to dry for two days before planting them.
This process is called “callousing” that helps prevent diseases from attacking the wound of the suckers.
Potting and Repotting
Banana Trees can be grown in individual pots as long as they are 15-gallon pots.
Growing Banana Trees in pots is common among dwarf Banana Trees for indoor planting.
But you can also place them outdoors, especially if you want to move them around as you decorate.
An essential step in potting Banana Trees is to ensure enough drainage holes. Do not forget the loose, well-drained, organically-rich soil for optimal growth.
After three years, you need to report the Banana Trees because new suckers have emerged by that time. You need to divide them and plant them in a separate pot.
The disadvantage of growing Banana Trees in pots is that they need more water and fertilizer than the ones grown directly from the ground.
The Banana Trees will consume all the water and nutrients faster in their limited soil.
On the other hand, the advantage of growing Banana Trees in pots is you can quickly transfer them to a safe location when the temperature is not on their side.
When harvesting banana fruits, you need to cut the whole trunk down because they can no longer reproduce. Harvesting can become tricky, especially for tall Banana Trees. Experts are necessary for this process.
How To Take Care of Banana Trees
After successfully planting your Banana Trees, the next thing to do is maintain them until they bear fruits.
Again, they do not require much maintenance except a regular supply of water and fertilizer. But it would be better to know how to take care of Banana Trees to be safe.
The majority of Banana Tree varieties prefer to grow in full sun but not in extreme conditions. Six hours of direct sunlight exposure is enough.
If the temperature is too high, add more water to the Banana Trees.
Please note that not all varieties prefer to grow in full sun because they get burned easily and instead like to grow in partial shade.
Again, a well-draining, rich in nutrients soil is vital for the survival of Banana Trees. Keep the acidity low and should be organic as much as possible.
Since Banana Trees are tropical plants, water and high humidity levels in the air are crucial. Water whenever the soil feels dry but do not make it soggy because it can cause root rot.
Apply water twice or thrice a week, depending on the temperature and situation of the soil.
Banana Trees thrive in warm and humid environments. This does not mean they can survive in extreme conditions. Exposing the Banana Trees to too much heat or cold will cause them to die.
If you live in an area with low humidity levels, take the necessary diligence to spray the leaves daily. This will increase the humidity levels around the Banana Trees.
Aside from heavy drinkers, Banana Trees are also heavy eaters, which means they need a regular supply of fertilizers during the growing season.
Equally important, apply compost into the soil annually to keep it organic.
Pruning Banana Trees is crucial before the plant bears fruit.
Usually, after harvest, new sprouts will emerge near the trunk. You need to prune one or two shoots to let the remaining nodes get all the nutrients and grow effectively.
When pruning, cut the weaker ones and leave the healthy ones alive. If all the sprouts are healthy, then prune any of them but not all of them.
Do this process every time there is new growth.
Disease Susceptibility of Banana Trees
Because there are so many varieties of Banana Trees in the world, it resulted in very little genetic diversity in the plant, making it susceptible to pests and diseases.
These pests and diseases can easily kill a Banana Tree if left untreated.
Here are the pests and diseases to watch out for when growing Banana Trees:
If the foliage is curling and shriveling, that means aphids are infesting the Banana Trees. These pests are dangerous because they can affect the fruit produced by the Banana Tree.
These pests are responsible for the jelly-like sap oozing from the plant. They can be destructive if not killed immediately. Apply pesticides to eliminate them.
This is the most common pest that infects Banana Trees. They are highly dangerous as they can rot both the plant and fruit.
Mealybugs and Spider Insects
These sap-sucking insects are pretty common to Banana Trees. Apply pesticides to eliminate them.
This pest infects several fruits, including banana fruits. Apply pesticide to eliminate them.
If you wonder why the peel of the fruits are splitting and having stains. That is the very annoying work of thrips. Apply pesticides immediately to kill them and save the fruits.
General Facts About Banana Trees
The thing with Banana Trees is that we typically know them as a source of sweet and delicious banana fruits.
Indeed, they are a great source of nutrients, especially potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
However, things have evolved, and today Banana Trees are no longer something that just provides healthy banana fruits.
In Asia, banana fruits are not the only thing that holds value. The banana leaves are also important in their culture because they have a long food preparation history.
It has been said that banana leaves enhance the flavor of the food, which genuinely makes it interesting.
History of Banana Trees
Banana Trees are herbaceous plants, and their point of origin is from Southeast Asia. Shortly after, the Banana Trees were exported to other parts of the world, and, eventually, they spread worldwide.
Banana trees’ cultivation increased until they became a staple food and were widely available in the food market globally.
Moreover, Banana Trees have an underground corm or rhizome and a trunk made of layers of sheets.
The trunk is then topped with a rosette of 10 to 20 leaves, reaching lengths of 3 to 3.5 meters and a diameter of 65 centimeters.
It is then followed by the ‘heart’ of Banana Trees, a colloquial term for the large flower spike that carries yellow flowers between the purple-red bracts.
This will bend downward and later form into individual delicious fruits.
The fruits of Banana Trees are grouped into 10 to 20 per section.
Depending on the variety, a single Banana Tree can have more than 10 sections of banana fruits.
The fruits are separated either by piece or double or maybe more during the manufacturing process, depending on the manufacturer.
Typically, the Banana Trees are cut down from the ground after harvest because a single trunk can only produce once.
The dead trunk is replaced with new shoots from the rhizome at six-month intervals.
Interestingly, the life of the rhizomes can go on for years producing shoots after every harvest but weaker shoots are pruned immediately.
Furthermore, when several shoots have grown from a single rhizome, one must be sacrificed. This process will help the shoots to grow effectively and healthily.
Allowing several shoots to grow in one rhizome will create competition in available nutrients, thus delaying their growth.
Final Thoughts on Banana Trees
Nowadays, Banana Trees are not just a great provider of delicious fruits because they can be decorative pieces for tropical designs. Indeed, they are versatile plants.
Whether you want them as a source of fruit or merely decoration around your pool or swaying in the cool breeze by the front porch, Banana Trees will live up to that.
Just remember, everything needed to be done, starting from planting to maintenance, and you’ll be fine.