Musa × paradisiaca
Common Name: edible banana
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Musaceae
Native Range: Tropics
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 7.00 to 25.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Yellow with purple-red bracts
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy, Edible

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11. For St. Louis, this can be an interesting ornamental plant with tropical flair, but it is not expected to produce fruit and will require considerable maintenance. In St. Louis, plants will not survive winter outdoors, but may be grown directly in the ground (if dug in fall), in greenhouses, in containers (overwinter indoors) or as houseplants. Plants are best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Plants tolerate and often appreciate some part shade or light filtered sun in the heat of the day. Best growth occurs with consistently moist soils that do not dry out. Fertilize plants regularly during the growing season. Site plants in areas protected from strong winds which can severely damage the large leaves. For containers, use a well-drained potting soil mix. Keep container soils consistently moist but not wet. Outdoor plants must be overwintered indoors, either as houseplants or by forcing plants into dormancy. Options for overwintering include: (1) Bring container indoors in fall before first frost and place in a large sunny room for overwintering as a houseplant, with reduced water and fertilization; (2) If plant is too large to bring inside as a houseplant, cut foliage back to 6-8” in fall after first frost, and store container in a cool, dark, frost-free corner of the basement until spring, providing just a touch of moisture as needed in winter to prevent the soils from totally drying out; (3) If container is too heavy or too large to bring inside, remove plant from container in fall before first frost, wrap roots in plastic and store in a cool, dark, frost-free corner of the basement until spring. When using this option, foliage may be trimmed back or left on the plant and allowed to brown up in the normal course; (4) If growing plants directly in the ground, dig, wrap roots, trim back the leaves and store as in option #3 above.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Musa x paradisiaca (M. acuminata x M. balbisiana) is a sterile triploid that is cultivated in warm climates for its tasty yellow-skinned fruit (bananas). It is commonly called edible banana or French plantain. Many cultivars are available in commerce, ranging in height from 7’ to 25’ tall. This is a large, fast-growing, suckering, herbaceous perennial that produces huge oblong to paddle-shaped leaves that grow to as much as 8’ long with leaf sheaths overlapping to help form a trunk-like pseudostem (false stem). Yellow flowers with purple-red bracts appear in summer on mature plants, sometimes to be followed by edible yellow bananas. Younger plants often will not flower and fruit until the 2nd or 3rd year. Container plants cut close to the ground in fall each year may never flower. After flowering and fruiting, the pseudostem dies, but the roots push out new shoots (suckers) which form new pseudostems.

Genus name honors Antonia Musa, Roman physician of the 1st century B.C.

Specific epithet means belonging to paradise.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for aphids, mealybugs, moths, scale, thrips, fruit flies and spider mites. Susceptible to anthracnose, wilt and mosaic virus.

Garden Uses

Whether grown outdoors in the landscape or indoors as a houseplant, bananas (even dwarf cultivars) need lots of space. They are classic tropical foliage plants, which, if they fruit, produce attractive bunches of yellow bananas. They may be grown as ornamental plants in cool areas where fruiting will not occur. In St. Louis, it is effective when grown as a garden centerpiece or for tropical flair.