Banana Cultivation Tips
Seeds are best sown straight away when they arrive. If you aren't
going to sow them straight away they can be stored briefly in their
packaging in a cool (not cold) dark, dry place. Do not refrigerate.
Prepare the seeds for sowing by rinsing them thoroughly and then
soaking them for 2-3 days in tepid water that has been previously
boiled. Change the water daily. Remove any fruit remaining on the seeds
as it will encourage the seed to rot. Sow the seeds using coir (a
sterile medium made from coconut husk fibre), perlite, vermiculite or
sterilised compost. Then choose one of the methods below, depending on
what you have available:
Place the seeds in moist sowing medium and seal in a plastic
bag. Check the germination temperature for your seeds (this is shown
in the pop-up window when you click on a thumbnail) and then place
them in a warm room or an airing cupboard. You can check the
temperature range or your room or airing cupboard by using a min/max
thermometer. Avoid locations that get above 40C.
Sow the seeds half covered in moist sowing medium that is at
least 1.5 inches deep. Spray the surface with a little dilute copper
based fungicide (there are organically acceptable ones available) then
place them in a heated propagator.
Check the seeds daily for germination, signs of drying out or
mould/fungus forming. If mould/fungus is a problem rinse the seeds in
tepid water then sow in fresh medium as spray the seeds with a dilute
fungicide. Germination is erratic and can take up to 12 months for some
seeds: so donít give up!!
With banana plants the root and shoot often appear at the same time.
It is important to catch the shoot before it has been growing in the
dark for too long, as they don't always take too well to the move into
When the root or shoot has appeared pot the seeds on into individual
pots of sterile potting compost. I use a potting mix made up from 5
parts organic peat free compost (J A Bowers New Horizon), 3 parts coir
and 1 part perlite.
Plant the seeds just below the surface of the compost. Position the
seedlings in good light, but avoid strong direct sunlight until the
plant has established itself into its new container. Water seedlings
regularly, but never let them get waterlogged as this will encourage
damping off (rotting). Bananas prefer a fairly humid environment, at
Pot on again when a good root system has formed and before the plants
become too root-bound. Mix in some slow release fertiliser with the
Plant out in late spring after the danger of frost has passed. Plant
them into rich, moist (but not waterlogged) soil. Most bananas like a
sunny spot in the garden that is sheltered from strong winds, which can
shred the large leaves. Dwarf varieties are happy planted into large
Bananas are greedy. Mix in some slow release organic fertiliser to
the planting hole and feed every few weeks during the growing season
with an organic liquid fertiliser.
Banana leaves will not survive the winter. Rootstock, however, can
survive a few degrees of frost depending on the variety. Young plants of
hardy stock (less than one year) are most safely over-wintered in an
unheated greenhouse. To provide extra protection for outdoor plants
treat them as follows:
- Cut off the leaves to the top of the pseudo stem (to preserve
plant height) or cut to 6 inches above ground level.
- Wrap the stem in several inches of straw then cover with
- Cover the base of the plant with at least 6 inches of mulch to
provide extra protection to the roots.
Since plants are normally more hardy when a little dry, in wet
weather you could also provide a water-proof cover. However, do avoid
completely covering the plant with plastic for more than a few days as
this will promote rotting.
Common Pests (Just in Case)
Aphids are rather fond of banana leaves and can be a problem in
greenhouses in particular. To get rid of them gently rub them off by
hand. There are biological controls available for use outdoors and in
the greenhouse (see the links page for suppliers). Some people use aphid
sprays but I have found most to be ineffective, as over-use has led to
widespread resistance. I have had some success with a new organic
product called Eradicoat, which suffocates them (see links for
Occasionally Spider Mites can be a problem if there is low humidity.
Spray the banana leaves with water to increase local humidity, spray the
undersides with Eradicoat or try biological controls.
Small quantities of compost can be sterilised in a domestic
microwave. Fill a microwaveable bowl with moist compost and cover with
microwaveable Clingfilm. Microwave on full power for 10
minutes. Allow to cool before handling or sowing seeds.