When it comes to planting, one can be as explorative as he/she can be. Sometimes, what you initially think of as an unsuitable plant choice will end up making a striking display at home. Take, for example, a banana plant.
Banana plants are usually cultivated for its fruit. Amazingly, it has also gained a spot in the ornamental plant section as an indoor plant. Though it may sound weird at first, many have successfully grown banana plants inside their homes, and if it intrigues you how they do it, here are the tips on how to care for and maintain such plant.
|Scientific Name||Musa spp.|
|Similar to||Heliconia plant (Lobster-claws)|
|Native to||Southeast Asia|
|Maximum size||Up to 4m (13ft) depending on the variety|
|Watering requirements||High (very sensitive to drought)|
|Light requirements||Bright, light to full sun|
|Preferred temperature||Shoot growth – 78°F to 82°F (26–28°C)
Fruit growth – 84°F to 86°F (29–30°C)
|Soil or Potting Medium||Well-drained, deep soils high in organic matter with a pH of 5.5–7.0|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize weekly with general-purpose fertilizer during spring and summer|
|Propagation method||Suckers, or pieces of the rhizome|
|Toxicity||Non-toxic to pets and humans|
|Vulnerable to||Banana borer or weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus)|
Although commonly referred to as a tree, banana plant is botanically classified as an herb. It belongs to the Musaceae family and is native to Southeast Asia. Banana plant surely brings that tropical vibe in your home because its natural habitat is tropical in nature.
The banana plant is characterized by having a fleshy pseudostem that stands upright like a tree trunk. The pseudostem is actually made up of stacked leaf sheaths creating a tree-like appearance and it acts as a support to the leaves and the flower on top. This plant grows fast and it produces suckers right at the base of the plant.
Having that fleshy characteristic, there’s no doubt that banana plant would require high water intake. If you choose to bring it indoors, be prepared to water the plant consistently. Never allow the soil to dry or you may suddenly see your plant wilting.
Banana plant is very sensitive to drought. Make sure that the soil is moist but not wet. Although it needs large amounts of water, there’s also this danger of overwatering the plant which can cause root rot.
Water your potted banana plant deeply and uniformly. After such, let the soil drain excess water and make sure that no water is trapped in the saucer where you let your pot sit. Watering can make or break your banana plant so you have to be extra careful.
In an outdoor setting, banana plant loves the full sun. It can tolerate a very little amount of shade. However indoors, it will require bright light so make sure it receives an ample amount of light.
Put your banana plant in a location where there’s a long exposure to bright light. If natural light is lacking, make sure to supplement using artificial grow light. You may also put your plant outside from time to time and let it enjoy the natural sun.
Humidity & Temperature Preferences
Being tropical in nature, banana plant needs high humidity and warm temperatures. That’s why it’s a good thing for bananas to group together in one place to keep a high level of moisture around them. For indoors, however, it may be challenging to keep more than one banana plant so you can group it with other tropical plants you have at home.
Avoid placing this in less humid locations or else, it will show signs of stress. A warm temperature will do best with banana plant. For shoot growth, a temperature range of 78°F to 82°F (26–28°C) is ideal while for fruit growth, 84°F to 86°F (29–30°C) is preferred.
However, banana plants that are kept indoors will rarely bear fruit. A temperature that goes below 60°F (16°C) but above 32°F (0°C) will cause chilling on the plant. Make sure to watch out for the cold seasons and protect your banana plant from temperature stress.
Plant Food and Potting Media
To keep your banana plant healthy, make sure its soil is well-drained, high in organic matter, and is slightly acidic (pH of 5.5–7.0). A draining potting mix will prevent waterlogging in the soil. Organic matter will help supply nutrients to the plant by slowly releasing the minerals needed.
Banana plant requires regular feeding during the seasons where growth is active. Fertilize weekly with general purpose fertilizer during spring and summer. Reduce concentration to half to avoid the dangers of overfertilization.
An obvious sign of overfertilization is leaf tip burn. If you notice this sign to appear days after you’ve fed the plant, immediately wash off excess fertilizer with water. Water will help in leaching of the salts present in the soil.
Pruning is not much of a requirement in banana plants unless there are leaves that have turned discolored, aged, or diseased. A single banana plant would only have a few leaves so do your best to keep it healthy.
What you need to watch out for are the suckers. Healthy banana plants will surely produce more of its kind that the pot can get crowded with more suckers around. You can cut those suckers down to the base and maintain one mature stem.
Ideally, you can allow just one sucker alongside the main stem. If you plan to propagate the sucker, you can dig it up and separate it from the rest of the rhizome.
In an outdoor setting, banana plant is usually cut down after the fruit is harvested. For indoor banana plants that don’t produce fruits, you can let it go once it loses its vigor. Make sure though that the one sucker is present to serve as a replacement.
You’ll need to repot your banana plant once a year. This will help the plant increase its vigor. Increase the size of the pot by 2 to 3 inches and replace the potting mix with a fresh one.
Gently remove the plant from its existing container and loosen the soil around the roots. Trim down aged and damaged roots. You may also take this opportunity to divide the rhizome and separate the suckers.
Place the plant in a larger pot and water it thoroughly. Once excess water is drained, bring it back to its original location. Make sure that bright light is present.
The best and easy way to propagate a banana plant is by its suckers. Suckers are offshoots that grow from the rhizome of the banana plant. By dividing the rhizome, you’ll be able to separate the sucker from its mother plant and can pot it separately.
Suckers that are at least 3 feet tall are ready for propagation. If you intend to propagate, make sure that there’s more than one sucker present so when you cut off the other, there’s another one remaining. Once cut, allow the wounded portion to dry before you plant it in soil.
Pests & Diseases
The common problem you’ll encounter with banana plant is banana borer or weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus). This pest targets the base of the stem and the rhizome creating tunnels. This leads to serious damages to the banana plant.
However, there’s a low chance that your banana plant will be infested by this borer if it’s kept inside. Just make it a habit to check the stem of your plant. Whenever you see foreign organisms lurking around, pick them out immediately.
Using sanitized tools when gardening is also a big help in preventing the spread of diseases. Banana borer lay eggs so if you transfer those eggs from one banana plant to another, it will cause real trouble.
Banana plant is considered non-toxic to humans and pets. You can keep it inside your home without worry. Neither the leaves nor stems bear toxic compounds that can lead to poisoning.
Will my banana plant produce fruit indoors?
Banana plants will not bear fruit if it’s kept inside your home. Although the conditions indoors will keep your plant alive and healthy, it’s not favorable enough to let the plant bear fruit. You have to strictly provide the tropical environment it needs before you can expect fruits to develop.
Why are my banana plant’s leaves turning yellow?
Yellowing leaves can be a sign of overwatering. If the roots are soaked in water, there’s this danger of root rot. That leads to yellowing due to impaired transport of water and nutrients to the leaves from the soil.
Another reason can be a nutrient deficiency. Lack of nitrogen, iron, and manganese could lead the plant’s leaves to discolor.
Why is my banana plant wilting?
This is an obvious sign of underwatering. Banana plant requires a large amount of water especially as it matures. If the soil is dry and the plant looks wilted, water the plant immediately. Make sure to soak the soil entirely so that the roots will have uniform access to water.
Tending a banana plant indoors may seem challenging at first glance but with careful application of what you’ve read here, you’ll most likely surpass the challenge. Remember to provide the basic growing conditions and be faithful to do the care and maintenance practices. In due time, you’ll surely have a flourishing banana plant that will strike that perfect tropical look inside your home.