Banana trees include various plants within the Musaceae family. While many types provide tasty fruit for processed ingredients or raw consumption, certain species display attractive qualities that establish their reputation as ornamental plants. Ornamental banana plants require environments that provide qualities similar to their native habitat and adequate nutrition and care to grow and thrive. Propagating these attractive plants provides small, new starts for additional specimens.
Banana plants grown for ornamental purposes include varieties that display colorful foliage and large, attractive blossoms, as well as interesting clusters of fruit. While houseplant varieties maintain a small height near 5 or 6 feet, outdoor ornamentals can grow as tall as 36 feet. The furled leaves open to reach a width up to 30 inches. A broad, thick stalk supports the large leaves and clusters of fruit.
Many varieties of banana plants in the United States originated in warm, humid climates, such as Indonesia, East Africa, Burma, Colombia and southern India. Even the ornamental varieties of banana plants provided a major source of food for native cultures.
Like other types of plants, ornamental banana plants require certain soil and light conditions to flourish. Plant your ornamental in slightly acidic soil, with a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5. Although these plants grow naturally in a variety of soils, they prefer those that are well-drained. Provide between 1 and 2 inches of water each week. Most ornamental banana plant varieties prefer full sunlight to partial shade but require protection from direct sunlight that can cause leaf burn. Outdoor banana plants can freeze when temperatures drop below 30 degrees F. Unless you live in a tropical climate, keep your banana plant indoors.
Although scientists and researchers grow banana plants from seeds to experiment with new varieties and techniques, the easiest way to propagate them involves sucker division. Banana plants send up small suckers near the base. When they reach at least 2 inches in diameter, cut them away from the main stem with a sharp spade, including the root section below the suckers. Plant the sucker in soil similar to its parent plant, inserting it to a depth level with its former placement. Apply about 2 inches of water after planting and an addition 1 to 2 inches every week.
Like many ornamental plants, especially those grown in containers, your banana plant requires fertilization to maintain healthy levels of nutrients. Apply 1/4 cup of ammonium sulfate monthly during the first three to four months of growth. Increase the amount of fertilizer to about two cups each month when fruiting begins. With proper care, plants you propagate can grow into mature plants that provide new suckers for additional plantings.