Bananas, some bearing fruit, can be seen thriving in home landscapes scattered in and around the Salt River Basin. These are usually of an unknown variety but, for the purpose of this discussion, their existence proves that many of the hundreds of known cultivars will do at least as well as those already growing and fruiting here. With that knowledge, homeowners should be encouraged to raise them.
Bananas are not a tree but an herb. They need well-drained soil and frequent water while exposed to hot desert sun. When growth virtually shuts down below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, very little moisture is required to sustain them. Before planting, test your soil’s ability to drain properly. Dig a post-hole about 2 feet deep. Fill it with water. If it empties within two hours, the drainage should be ideal. If you continue to refill the hole, however, you will eventually reach a point when the water will stay for a long, long time. If you water the banana that way after it has been put in the ground, the roots can't get air and rot will set in. Learn to adjust the irrigation frequency to the rate at which the water permeates through and out of the root zone. Winter is the banana's most crucial period. Extended wet-feet, however, will kill them at any time of the year. When actively growing, this herb is very thirsty. Just don't drown it.
Plant your banana in well-drained soil rich in humus. Some banana experts claim an old compost pit would be the perfect spot. Bananas can be foliar fed with a balanced, soluble fertilizer such as 10-10-10 weekly or 20-20-20 every two weeks. Apply a by drenching the leaves on both sides during a cool part of the day. Fertilizing these herbs throughout the year only what they require only when actively growing is better than sporadic, heavy feeding quickly leached away. Apply fertilizer through the soil on non-fruiting young plant groups when temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit with 1/4th cup of ammonium sulfate every two weeks. Use ammonium sulfate at the rate of 1/4th cup weekly on fruiting plants. Blend the dry fertilizer into damp soil in a shallow trench at least 18 inches from the clump and water it in until a probe can be easily inserted 18 inches into the ground. Irrigate only after the soil is dry an inch beneath the surface and only slightly damp below that. During winter when ambient temperatures are below 55 degrees F, growth is very slow and moisture requirements are low. Irrigate sparingly or not at all if soil is damp. Never add fertilizer to cold, wet soil.
The average mild Phoenix frost will almost never kill the corm and roots but the tender leaves will usually freeze unless they can be covered or otherwise protected. Plug in an air fan and blow air directly on the leaves. Use the biggest one you can find. Wrap the stem with old jackets or a blanket and drape Christmas tree lights on the leaves. Put a flood light or other heat lamps underneath. The shock suffered from losing its leaves will set development back several months and the energy spent saving them is well worth the effort.
In summary, grow well-established bananas in full sun in well-drained soil rich in organic material. Water and feed them well during warm weather, let the plants rest during the winter and be patient.
These notes were compiled by Dick Gross for the Arizona Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. for use at the Garden Festival, 4/10/99 at the University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension.
We do get a small commission out of these sponsors that helps financing the website. Let us know if you are satisfied or dissatisfied of their services, since obviously we are trying to advertise only for reputable garden supply companies. They might be helpful to get plants not generally available at the local garden center, getting a new and unusual gardening tool or get a discount Better Homes and Gardens magazine subscription.
Desert-Tropicals is dedicated to provide gardening advice, gardening ideas, and information about flower of all kind for landscape and collections. We try to check carefully the identification of the plants on the illustrations as well as the other information from the page, but occasionally errors do occur. if you notice anything that needs to be changed please contact us. Thanks.
© 1998-2005 Philippe Faucon, All Rights Reserved.