How To Grow and Care for Banana Trees

Banana plantation

Banana trees aren't actually trees at all--they are very large perennial herbs. While you'd normally associate banana trees with warm, tropical climates, these plants can also be grown in other zones with success, as long as you prepare them for the cold weather.  No matter where you live though, there are a few things you'll need to know in order to keep your banana trees thriving.

  1. Banana plants prefer a light, well-draining soil. You can aid in the drainage quality of your planting beds by adding raised areas above heavier soil to allow the thin roots of the banana tree to spread.
  2. Choose the warmest location on your property for banana plants. They really need full sun; twelve hours a day is optimal. If you live in a temperate climate, your banana plants will also need protection from wind and cold. Banana trees do not like winter!
  3. If you plan to keep growing banana plants throughout the year and live in a zone with seasonal cold weather, choose cold tolerant varieties of banana trees such as Musa Basjoo, Saja, and Ice Cream.
  4. Some banana plants are strictly ornamental, while others bear fruit. Read tag descriptions carefully so you'll know what to expect. Almost all banana plants have the potential to grow very tall, except for dwarf varieties. Be prepared for this - young plants won't stay so small. If you want a short banana tree plant, you need to invest in a dwarf banana tree, like Musa Dwarf.
  5. Keep the area surrounding the banana plants free of weeds and other plants. Adding a layer of mulch will help to prevent weeds from returning to the garden.
  6. Water your banana trees whenever the soil feels dry. Avoid standing water, however. Mix some fertilizer with the water each time you water the area, and check the soil frequently to see how dry or moist it is.
  7. You won't need to prune your banana plants unless you want to scale them back for esthetic purposes, or if you wish to cultivate seedlings for new plants. Remove damaged or rotted leaves and fruit periodically.
  8. After fruiting, cut the banana plant down to the ground. The mother plant will no longer be able to produce fruit, so by cutting it down, you're essentially allowing the roots to regenerate and produce a new plant.
  9. In cold weather, you can store cold-tolerant varieties of banana plants for the winter. Cut the plants down to the ground and cover the area with a thick layer of mulch. Top off the mulch with a layer of strong plastic to provide insulation to keep the roots and soil around them as warm as possible.
  10. Alternatively, you can bring the entire plant or just the root system indoors for the winter. If the plants are on the smaller side, you can simply dig them up and replant them in containers. Keep them indoors near a sunny window without drafts, and tend to them as you would a houseplant.
  11. For larger banana trees, strip back all of the leaves before digging up the roots. Gently brush off any excess soil from the root system and replant the trunk in a large container filled with slightly dampened sand. Bring the plant indoors and store in a warm area of your home. Don't water or fertilize at all; instead, allow the plant to go dormant for the winter, and replant in your garden when the weather is warmer.


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