Many people think that the banana palm tree is a member of
the palm family. Actually it isn’t and to be honest it isn’t even classed as a
tree, but as a plant in the Musa family.
I’ll do my best to fill you in on this amazing plant because of the confusion between the two.
The banana plant, grows differently than you might expect.
The “mother” plant grows a large stalk with leaves coming out of the center.
When she is ready, she will produce a pod, that when it starts to open will contain flowers, both male and female. The female flowers if pollinated will become the fruit we know and love.
The one pictured here is growing in my yard.
Sadly the plant dies after it bears the fruit. So how does it reproduce?
Before the appearance of the pod, you will generally see 2 new plants emerging from the ground close to the original trunk, or stalk.
These new plants, commonly called suckers, will be the next generation of the family.
Once the mother plant has
produced its fruit the stalk should be cut down just above ground level.
Once dried out it can be split up and removed.
The new plants will then take over producing fruit within a year and the process starts all over again.
You could grow a banana palm tree in a container or pot, but there a couple things to keep in mind if you are going to try it.
Think tropical: 72° night, 80° + daytime, and lots of sun for most varieties. Make sure the pot is big enough to provide stability; especially when the plant starts its pod.
The fruit bunch could weigh up to 50 lbs or more. Try to get one of the shorter varieties and place the pots out of any direct wind.
We have some in our yard that aren’t any taller than 5-6 feet producing fruit.
A self watering pot would be ideal I think as they do require quite a bit of irrigation. This way the roots are out of the water but they have access to it when they need it.
When the suckers appear, you can carefully transplant them into a new pot, at the same depth as they originated.
If you only want one then just cut the other one off close to the soil, when it about 6-12 inches tall. Transplanting the suckers should be done at the same stage.
The fruits can ripen both ways, on the plant or by cutting the stalk of fruit and hanging it in a cooler shaded spot.
There are cold hardy banana palm trees on the market. The growing zones of each vary with each species. Shop carefully unless you plan on using a container and bringing the plant inside for the winter.
Now for the best part: let’s discuss the actual fruit.
We’ll start with the fact that there many different varieties of bananas, but they can be split into 2 main groups: Bananas and Plantains.
If you are from the States or Canada and have only eaten “bananas” from the grocery store- then I’m sorry to say you’ve eaten fruit that tastes like the plantain side of the family.
The plantain version of the banana palm tree has a higher starch content and is not as sweet as the actual banana.
On top of that, with the chemically produced ripening they go through you never have an idea of how truly delicious they can be when left to ripen naturally.
In the tropical regions where these plants are grown, plantains are often used more for cooking, kind of as a substitute for potatoes.
Here in the Dominican Republic, plantains are cooked into a mash and dehydrated for chips.
The real bananas are quite a bit sweeter than and not as starchy as their plantain cousins.
They are just as firm but are smaller than the plantains; not just in the height of the plant, but also in the size of the fruit-called fingers, by the way.
So far we’ve harvested two varieties from our own trees, one banana and one plantain.
The plantain had a similar taste to the ones from the grocery store, but had more flavor because of being ripened naturally.
The banana variety was firm, super sweet and compact. Best tasting bananas we’ve ever eaten. Wow!!
Why not consider a banana palm tree for the next addition to your "little slice of paradise!" Here's a great selection to choose from.
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