How to Harvest Banana Seeds
Do Bananas Have Seeds?
Commercially available bananas are sterile, with no viable seeds. The only type of banana (Musa spp.; USDA zones 9 to 12) that has viable seeds is a wild species, among which plantain (Musa balbisiana) is the most commonly available. However, "available" doesn't mean you'll find this type of banana in your grocery store.
Further, even if you harvest seeds successfully, germination is a hit-or-miss process that is not even fully understood in terms of its requirements.
Even if you harvest seeds successfully, germination is a hit-or-miss process when it comes to bananas, which professionals propagate via suckers.
If you want to grow a banana plant, the best bet is to propagate as the professionals do: Harvest or purchase suckers, called "pups," from a mother plant. But if the process of harvesting and germinating banana seeds sounds appealing, here's how.
Where Are the Banana Seeds?
The banana seeds, when they exist, are embedded in the flesh of the fruit, and they are about 1/3 inch in diameter. While this sounds small, they will be quite visible once you peel the banana.
Harvesting Banana Seeds
Wait until the banana is nice and ripe. Peel it; then squeeze the fruit to extract the seeds. They'll be brown or black with a hard, wrinkled coat.
Soak them to remove the flesh, or rub it off with your fingers. Dry the banana seeds on a paper towel for a few days until no moisture remains.
Germinating Banana Seeds
Here's the hard part. Banana seeds are mysterious, even to scientists, and studies have not definitively revealed what temperature and exact conditions result in germination.
The results of one major study were presented at the XVII International Meeting of the Association for the Cooperation in Investigations of Banana in Tropical America and the Caribbean in 2006. The authors reported that the scientists successfully germinated banana seeds primarily using in-vitro tissue culture (placing seeds in a nutritive medium in a sterilized environment) at about 80°F.
But some commercial nurseries sell banana seeds to home growers, and they provide a recommended procedure for achieving the best germination results. Here's a summary, based on Seedman.com, which sells seeds from around the world:
- Soak the seeds for one to two days.
- Fill nursery pots with a well-draining potting mix.
- Sow the seeds at a depth of about 1/2 inch.
- Maintain a soil temperature of at least 68°F, but warm the soil further for a few hours a day, alternating between warm and very warm soil. A nursery heat mat is a good way to do that.
- Maintain an even soil moisture, but make sure the soil does not become soggy, which can rot the seeds.
- Wait, and then wait some more. Germination can take several months.
Germination occurs most successfully when soil temps fluctuate from warm to warmer rather than remaining at a constant temperature.
If It Works, What Then?
If you successfully germinate the seeds, you'll have banana seedlings. Given the right conditions—proper moisture, temperature and a long enough growing season to support the development of a flower and for that flower to fruit—you might get to harvest some bananas.
However, be aware that bananas grown from seed will also be seeded. And they won't be sweet like the bananas you are probably used to purchasing from the grocery store. But you will have conquered the beast and grown a banana plant from seed, which is an impressive achievement by any measure. Enjoy it!
- Banana seeds are small. Feel carefully in the mashed-up pulp in order to find as many seeds as possible.
I garden in the Pacific North west, previously Hawaii where I had an avocado orchard. I have a Master Gardeners certificate here in Eugene, Oregon.