If you ever thought of bringing the tropics indoors, think about growing an exotic plant such as banana. It is a simple, yet unusual way of having lush foliage and full supply of delicious fruit year round. Instead of same old house plants, a banana plant will bring a fresh look into your home and will provide you with a fun and interesting project for the winter.
Bananas are perennials and are treated as giant herbs. Contrary to popular belief, their trunks are not wooden. Instead, they are made of layers of leaves wrapped around each other to form a trunk. Every banana plant begins as an underground bulb from which the true stem grows. The stem develops through the center of the stalk, which than later produces fruit.
Each stalk supplies massive flower cluster which whiter away. In its place another stalk grows. The process keeps repeating itself until the tree produces fruit, typically after one year of cultivating new plant. To accelerate the process, fertilizers rich in potassium are recommended.
The suckers (pups) that grow at the base of the plant can be removed to propagate more new plants. After the plants have matured and produced fruit, it is important to leave at least one sucker in place as the mother plant will die if all the suckers are removed prematurely.
What to Buy
Most banana plants come as bulbs or corms, but very few nurseries keep them in stack. They can be special ordered or they can be purchased from different vendors via online. When the shipment arrives, washing them in lukewarm water will ensure that any fungal deposits, debris and bacteria will be removed before planting. It will ensure proper potting and establishing the plant into its maturity.
When selecting your purchase, the height of the plant typically determines the choice. Dwarf banana plants are suitable for apartments or cabins. Giant banana trees may be suitable for large homes with vaulted ceilings as long as all requirements, such as warmth, no drafts and plenty of sunlight are met.
Indoor banana trees typically grow anywhere from 3-9 feet and many varieties are presently available.
Most common ones include the following species:
• Dwarf Cavendish
• Super Dwarf Cavendish
• Dwarf Lady Finger
• Dwarf Jamaican
• Dwarf Brazilian
• William’s Hybrid
• Grain Nain
• Musa Basjoo (does not produce fruit)
How to Begin
Soil is one of the most important ingredients when planting a new banana corm. Bananas thrive in a well mixed soil with plenty of perlite and vermiculite. The soil should be light for good drainage. Heavy soil from the garden or potting mix for regular house plants is too heavy, and it will stunt the growth of a bulb. For even better drainage, 20 percent more perlite can be added to the soil mix.
The beginning stages of the banana plant should start in a medium-sized standard container with a drainage hole at the bottom to prevent standing water and assure proper ventilation for the developing roots. Once the corm is planted, it will need a combination of bright light, warmth and high humidity to start sprouting leaves.
Plant the rhizome upright leaving the top part uncovered to allow the light exposure. When several new leaves appear, the corm can be completely covered with soil to promote better stability and additional root growth. Replanting to a bigger pot will become necessary when the plant becomes container bound or it will stop bearing fruit.
Watering the plant regularly with adequate amounts of water will keep the moisture in the soil and alleviate the possibility of the bulb dying before it begins to grow. A delicate balance has to be kept as under watering can damage the plant the same way as over watering. Because of its massive leaves, the banana plant needs plenty of water, but it should not be exposed to a pool of water in the saucer beneath it as it will lead to the growth of bacteria and plant root rot.
The soil should be allowed to dry slightly between watering and watered again as needed. To prevent premature evaporation, the top soil can be covered with a layer of decorative mulch, bark or moss.
The banana plant can be watered and fertilized at the same time by mixing liquid fertilizer with proper amounts of water. Following the instructions of the manufacturer typically brings the desired results and prevents an excess of chemicals which can damage the root system.
Fertilization should be implemented when the plant is about to reach its maturity. At this time, the growing leaves will need an excessive and constant amount of nutrients to result in fruitful harvest. The easiest sign of a healthy banana plant to recognize is continuous growth of flowers. It unusually means that the plant is ready to produce fruit, and it needs consistent food supply.
Humidity and Light
Southern light exposure is ideal for banana plants. In nature they thrive on indirect sunlight, partially blocked only by surrounding vegetation. Daily, 12-hour exposure combined with warmth is the ultimate goal to bring the banana plant to its optimal health. If that’s not possible, high intensity artificial light of 100 watts will substitute for the natural light.
The container should be rotated periodically to ensure that all sides of the plant are evenly exposed. It is also important to keep it in a spot free of drafts and excessive traffic. Banana plants favor calm surroundings free of disturbances and sudden changes of temperatures.
The high levels of humidity can be achieved by placing bowls of water around the plant. The vapors from the bowl will create sufficient moisture in the air to keep the plant uniformly humidified. The leaves require constant moistness to keep producing flowers and fruit.
As with any natural cycle, the banana plant will periodically lose its leaves. Cutting them off may create fungal infections, and it should be avoided. The plant’s leaves will naturally turn yellow, brown and then dry, shrivel and fall off. This natural process allows the plant to re-absorb the nutrients from the dying leaves and flourish without interruptions.
The banana plants are not susceptible to pest invasions and very little maintenance is needed to keep the plant healthy and strong. Keeping it clean will prevent any colonies of mites from forming. Washing the leaves with warm soap and water will keep the leaves shiny and free of dust.
Indoor banana plants can be transported outside for the summer months to be exposed to natural sunlight and to strengthen the plant for the winter months it will spend indoors. In order to minimize any disturbance to the tree or the root system, moving platforms should be used when transferring the container to another location. The plant should be moved back indoors when the temperatures outside fall below 67 degrees.
Benefits of Bananas
The nutritional value of bananas has been recognized for centuries. As they are rich in potassium and magnesium, they greatly benefit both cardiovascular and digestive system enhancing the health of the heart as well as promoting proper metabolism. Bananas lower the blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. With their high levels of fiber and pectins, the bananas create positive intestinal flora and help in supporting overall digestive health.
Banana trees are beautiful even if they do not produce any fruit. They make wonderful houseplants and bring the tropical feel to any home. Their unusual appearance add a special accent of elegance to any home, and because they are fairly easy to grow, they are also favored by many home gardeners.