Growing Banana Plant
Tip: Want to print these instructions? Download the printer-friendly version here.
Bananas are one of the fastest growing perennial plants that grow from rhizomes. The trunks of the banana are actually fleshy sheaths that are formed by leaf sheaths arranged in concentric layers.
The stem of the banana tree grows from a corn that is planted underground. The stem grows out through the center of the stalk and takes about 12-15 months to grow mature. Each stalk is capable of producing just one huge flower after which it withers off. New stalks then sprout from the rhizome (underground stem that puts out roots). Banana plants are immensely attractive and create a tropical atmosphere to the entire surroundings.
When to plant?
Bananas require heat and a sunny location to be able to grow and produce healthy fruits. So summer is the best time for planting them. Ensure that they are planted in areas where there is abundant sunlight all throughout the day, failing which they would stop growing. If you plant a banana plant in the winter months, plant them where there is enough sun and also reduce the watering to prevent root rot as the winter months will have more moisture trapped in the soil.
Where to plant?
Planting bananas in rocky organic soil which are well draining and areas with lava sand is the best way to plant them. Avoid planting bananas in areas where the soil is always wet or in standing water to prevent root rot. Cactus mix soil gives the best results as it naturally contains lava sand, lava soil and other nutritional items that help in the overall growth. The soil in which you plant the banana tree must not be too wet which can initiate root rot. If the soil retains more water during the winter months, reduce the watering frequency. During summer months, make sure that you give them enough water to prevent them from drying.
How to plant?
First find a good container on which you can plant the banana tree. Choose the right location where there is ample sunlight and sand. Now make a hole that is two times as wide as the container. The depth must be 1½ times more than the depth of the container. Fill the hole with 4 inches of manure and the rest of the height can be covered with soil until you reach a height where the banana tree can be planted comfortably. Now the bottom of the container has to be broken off and the container must be kept inside the hole in such a way that the edge of the container is around 2 inches above the soil. Cut off the edges and two-thirds part of the hole with soil mix and one-third part with native soil. Water the plant well and form a berm ( raised bank) around the plant with the remaining part of the soil.
How to water?
Watering of the banana plant must be done carefully as too little and too much water can spoil the plant and lead to root rot and drying. During summer months, you can water the plants in a slow and deep manner every 2 to 3 days. Watering must be done when the top part of the soil is dry. During winter, watering should be less frequent as the sand tends to retain more water. Similarly, during the summer months, it is also important to water frequently as the soil can dry fast due to the hot sun.
Organic Fertilizers required
Being heavy feeders, fertilizing banana plants regularly during the growing season will help in getting healthy bananas. A balanced organic fertilizer which contains all micro-nutrients can be applied whenever you water the plants. Organic fertilizers can also be applied once every month. Organic fertilizers are good and during the flowering season, care must be taken to avoid nitrogen as it can blacken the bananas.
Panama disease is the most common disease affecting plants, especially bananas. The symptoms start at the feeder roots and go on to affect the rhizome and they are where the stele joins the cortex. Brown flecks start appearing on the older leaves and finally the xylem turns brick red, spoiling the entire plant. Moko disease, banana bunchy top, toppling disease, black leaf streak, etc. are other diseases that affect younger plants with similar symptoms.
Weeds and pests
All weeds that are growing in the site must be removed before the banana plant is planted. Common pests affecting banana plant are banana aphid, corm weevil, mealy bugs, etc.
Things to watch out for
If your banana plant is exposed to too much sun during the fruiting season, make sure that you cover the fruit adequately with a light weight material or provide shade to the fruit to prevent sunburn.
Most local Banana plants have been attacked by a virus which either kills the plant or reduces the yield
in bananas. The SEEDS banana project aims to provide farmers with improved banana suckers to
grow on a commercial basis to provide future suckers for SEEDS to use for expanding the project
so that improved banana plants can be supplied and sold to many farmers and families in.
Selected farmers need to prepare their banana planting sites and manage the plants on a
regular basis to achieve good results.
Land – the farmer needs to provide well drained land for twenty banana plants (20m x 10m) or fifty
banana plants (20m x 20m) or one hundred banana plants (20m x 50m)
Water source – There must be a water source close by, as each banana plant will require half a
watering can of water every week.
Manure – The farmer must have sufficient manure available for planting the bananas
Planting stations should be at 3 metre x 3 metre intervals
Dig planting stations at 60 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm in October / Novemebr
Mix topsoil with manure at a ratio of 2:1 and place in the hole with the sub soil on the top and
mark with a stick (normally half a pail of manure per hole)
Preparation of planting material:
– Choice of suckers: Choose good suckers which are of a uniform size and which are disease
– Uprooting suckers: Uproot suckers with 12 cm diameter corms (base of the stems).
– Root trimming: Cut back the outer sides of the corm. This is a disease prevention measure as
some roots may harbour disease.
– Aerate the sucker: Expose the sucker to the air for a day to dry the newly cut back corm to
– When to plant – Ideally plant the suckers in December but they can be planted at any time
during the year
– Planting – Bury the whole corm and firm the soil around. Then make a round basin 60cm
– Make square basin – In April May create a one metre x one metre square basin around each
sucker and mulch. Re mulch every year.
– Start with 20 / 50/ 100 mother plants.
– The mother plant can produce bananas but all other suckers will be removed and given to
RIPPLE Africa to develop the program for a period of 3 years. When the mother plant produces
bananas another sucker is allowed to grow to maturity. – normally 1-3 suckers are produced by
each plant in the first year and 4-5 per year thereafter.
– Weeding: Bananas have shallow roots so hoe weeding is not encouraged – slash and weed by
– Water – for the first year from May, water half a watering can per plant per week and in the
second year water half a watering can every two weeks.
Notes on Fruit Production
– Remove dry leaves – Cut off dry leaves and chop them up and use as mulch for
the plants and suckers.
– Fertiliser: Apply when necessary – to be advised
– Pruning: Maintain two to three suckers per station to produce bananas.
– Harvesting: The colour of the bananas will change from dark green to light green and can then
be harvested. The bananas can be produced any time of the year
– Nematodes: Use nematocides. (worms eat the roots resulting in stunted growth)
– Snails: Remove by hand.
– Aphids: Use cypermethrine.
– Bunchy top: Caused by a virus and transmitted by aphids. Symptoms: Stunted growth in leaves.
Control: Remove affected plants, and use cypermethrine. – Banana mosaic: Same as bunchy top.
Banana Production – Each banana station should have 3 plants and when a plant has produced a bunch of bananas the stem is cut and another sucker is allowed to grow. Do not allow more suckers to grow as this will reduce the quantity and quality of the bananas.