This commercial variety of banana holds its ripening fruit stalk more than 20 ft (6 m) above the ground.
The flowering or ornamental banana (Musa ornata) doesn't bear edible fruit but is grown instead for its beautiful bluish upright foliage and spectacularly showy blossoms.
Bananas are fast growing, upright herbaceous plants that sprout from underground rhizomes. The leaves are huge, and attach to the fleshy trunks by short petioles. Seedless fruits develop without pollination from unisexual flowers that grow in a single large cluster. Some varieties grow over 25 ft (7.6 m) tall before flowering and dying back to the ground; other, dwarf varieties, get no more than 7 ft (2 m) tall. The many varieties of edible bananas were developed by crossing and re-crossing two wild species: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Flowering banana (Musa ornata) is a popular ornamental that can be grown in zone 8.
Bananas are an important crop in tropical climates throughout the world. Bananas originated in southeast Asia, where there are many wild, mostly inedible species.
Culture Light: Bananas do best in full sun. Moisture: Bananas require a constantly moist, but not flooded, soil, rich in humus and composted organic matter. The pH should be 5.5-6.5.
A popular item in home gardens is the smallish red banana (Musa sumtrana) with foliage that is spotched with red patches above and is glossy burgundy red on the undersides. Here Jack grows it with forsythia sage and weeping lantana for a colorful autumn display (click to download a large version of this image to take a closer look).
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8-11. Bananas require 10 to 15 months of frost free weather to produce a flower stalk, and then another 4 to 8 months to ripen fruit. Temperatures below freezing will kill the foliage to the ground. The rhizomes, hardy to 22°F (-5.5°C or lower, will send up new shoots when the weather warms again. If cold weather threatens, a banana plant can be protected by covering it with a blanket or tarp and burning a light bulb inside the tent. Propagation: Bananas are propagated from pieces of rhizome, or from suckers, called pups. Allow only one shoot to grow from the rhizome until it is six to eight months old, then let another shoot develop for next season's stalk. Use the surplus suckers to propagate additional plants. Bananas are very heavy feeders, and during the summer a mature plant requires as much as 2 lbs (1 kg) of 6% N every month. After the fruit is harvested, cut the stalk back to the ground, chop it up and use it as mulch.
Steve has had success growing the Raja Puri banana in his Zone 8 garden.
Banana plants are striking in appearance, and even if they never produce fruit, are well worth incorporating into USDA Zone 8 and 9 landscapes. Plant them near a pond or garden pool where they will have constant access to water. Dwarf Cavendish is among the most cold hardy of the edible varieties and one of the best adapted for Florida and Gulf Coast gardens. Other varieties known to have survived temperatures below 10°F (-12°C) are Tyty Gold, Red Banana, Carolina King, Texas Star, and Golden Rhino Horn. Outside the tropics, bananas have no pests or diseases, but they should be planted where strong winds will not topple them.
The banana is a dramatic, tropical looking plant that makes a bold statement wherever it is planted, even in areas with annual frosts, where they will never get ripe fruit.