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Dwarf Cavendish Plant Care

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Dwarf Cavendish Plant Care

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Overview

A smaller-growing variety of edible banana, the dwarf Cavendish (Musa Dwarf Cavendish) needs a long, warm growing season to produce flowers and develop ripe fruits. Gardeners enjoy the exotic, lush foliage alone so the fact it may never flower makes no difference. Bananas are large herbs lacking bark and cambium like real trees. Each plant stem dies after fruiting but is replaced by a sprouting pup from the root clump.

Cold Hardiness

Although derived from banana species native to the warm southeastern Asian tropics, dwarf Cavendish grows outdoors year-round in both frost-free regions and those with mild, only gently sub-freezing winter climates. Winter frosts kills above-ground foliage and stems of the banana, but as long as the roots do not freeze in the soil, the plant rejuvenates in spring once warmth returns. A thick layer of protective mulch in frosty regions ensures winter cold cannot penetrate into the soil to harm the dormant roots. Grow dwarf Cavendish banana outdoors in the garden in USDA hardiness zones 8 and warmer.

Site Selection

All banana plants appreciate a fertile, loose soil that remains moist but well-draining. Acidic to neutral pH coils are best, and amend all soil types with compost to improve drainage and increase soil fertility. Bananas also need warm soils and abundant sunshine for fast, most luxuriant growth. No less than six hours of direct sunlight should reach the dwarf Cavendish plant daily, with some shading in the afternoon if your summers are hot. Too little light reduces the number of leaves and drastically slows rate of growth. A sheltered location prevents winds from shredding and tattering the large leaf blades.

Cultural Needs

Water the roots of the banana freely in the spring and summer when temperatures consistently warm over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil moist but never soggy. An organic mulch over the root zone helps retain soil moisture, especially in sandy soils. Fertilize with a well-balanced liquid fertilizer every three to four weeks during the growing season. In autumn and winter, allow only natural rainfall to water the plant; in general, a banana this time of year should be kept in a drier soil. Do not fertilize a banana from fall to spring when heat is lacking and sun intensity is weaker.

Fruiting Considerations

In order to coax flowering and subsequent production of fruits, an average temperature of 59 to 64 degree Fahrenheit is required, according to the A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Put another way, a frost-free growing season of at least nine months creates an environment advantageous for the eventual development of flowers. Stressed bananas may not flower, so ensure the soil is fertile and remains moist in spring and summer. No pollination is needed for the dwarf Cavendish's flowers to become yellow fruits that mature at about 8 inches in length. The seedless flesh is sweet and white. The cluster of bananas is called a "hand," and the fruits grow pointing upward in the long drooping hand.

Pruning/Rejuvenation

Remove yellow or brown foliage during the growing season as needed with hand pruners or machete. Don't cut off the growing tip from the stem or trunk top as it cannot sprout a new growing tip. To harvest fruit hands, chop the fruit talk from the stem. Then return to that stem and chop it down to the base and remove it, allowing space and light to reach the small emerging banana plants to replace it. Dwarf Cavendish stems grow only until they flower and fruit; thereafter they degrade and die. In cold winter areas where this banana variety is winter hardy but killed back by frost, allow the dead stems and foliage to remain across the winter to protect the roots. In spring once danger of frost passes, chop back the frost-killed stems and allow the newly emerging banana pup plants to rejuvenate the cluster. Mushy or rotting roots or stems must be fully removed.

Keywords: edible banana, growing bananas, banana winter care

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," non-profit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne.