Whether you want to add a bit of tropical atmosphere to your yard, or simply enjoy growing and eating bananas, banana trees are an excellent addition to most gardens. Bananas require very little care and are one of the easiest plants to grow. They thrive in warm, humid climates, but will do well nearly anywhere. Banana trees are not cold-tolerant, but you can bring them inside during the winter and return them to your yard in the spring. The trees are hardy and easily adapt to a change in surroundings.
Start your bananas using the rhizomes, called suckers, of an existing plant. You cannot start bananas from seeds, as they do not produce seeds. Remove large suckers with a spade during the summer when they are at least 3 feet tall. The suckers should already have multiple small, pear-shaped leaves.
Cut the top off the sucker to minimize evaporation while it is settling into its new planting location. The top of the sucker will grow back. You can also use pups to start your tree.
Choose a location that receives 10-12 hours of full sun each day. In cooler climates, plant your bananas next to a building to maximize warmth and prevent wind damage.
Plant your bananas in a raised bed or in well-draining soil. Bananas need plenty of space for root growth, so make sure to leave a minimum of 8 feet between trees. To thrive, bananas require a soil pH of between 5.5 and 6.5.
Water your trees whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Avoid over watering, but make certain to water deeply, especially during summer months. Misting the leaves is also beneficial, as bananas naturally prefer hot and humid conditions. Over watering and standing water may result in root rot. Laying mulch around the base of your tree will help the soil retain moisture.
Fertilize frequently during the growing season with 20-20-20 fertilizer. Most banana trees require feeding every 3-4 weeks. Spread the fertilizer about 6 feet out from the plant base in all directions.
Protect your banana trees from frost during the winter. While bananas prefer warmer weather, they can survive temperatures as low as 28 degrees F for a short time. Wrap the trunk with foam and cover smaller plants with blankets during freezing temperatures. You can also bring smaller plants indoors and keep them in a container during the winter months. Avoid watering and fertilizing your banana trees so that they go dormant. Replant in your yard when the weather warms up.
Prune your banana trees if want to reduce their height, if you need to remove damaged or diseased leaves, or if you wish to increase fruit production. Cut your banana tree to ground level after fruiting is complete, as the tree will not be able to produce a second season of fruit. By cutting it down, you allow root regeneration and a new tree to grow in place of the old tree.
Harvest bananas when they ripen, which usually occurs during April. Wait until the bananas are full and plump. The bananas will appear ribbed, and the flowers at the end of each will feel dry and rub away easily. Store picked bananas in a cool, shady location.