Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

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How can I grow a banana plant?

The banana is a tender, tree-like plant which grows from an underground stem. Although the trunk may look like the stem of a tree it is not. Actually it is composed of the bases of the leaves. If you cut through it you would discover many many rings. New leaves push up through the center of the trunk. They are followed by the flower and fruit. After a trunk has fruited it dies and new shoots form at the base of the plant to start the process over again. Because it takes several month for a banana to flower you most likely will not have fruit on a young plant you planted this year. Some gardeners grow dwarf banana plants in tubs so they can be taken inside for the winter. Others dig the partly grown trunks and store them over winter in a basement to replant them the following spring.

For growing a banana in a pot use a large pot with a rich, well drainage soil with plenty of organic material. Move the plant outdoors into full sun after May 1 and water thoroughly. When growth resumes keep moist and fertilize weekly with an all-purpose fertilizer such as 20-20-20 following label directions. Bring the plant in before the first frost. Give it as much light as possible for the winter but decrease water and fertilizer as growth slows. It will take a couple of years for the plant to become large enough to produce fruit.

When planting out of doors, dig a large hole at least 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet and full the hole with a rich organic soil. Plant the young plant when the weather is warm around May 1. If the plant is large it may need staking for a couple of weeks. Increase water and fertilizing as growth resumes. In the heat of the summer water frequently. In dry weather 2 to 3 soakings a week may be required. Fertilize each plant with 1 teaspoon of dry granular 12-12-12 fertilizer per 6 inches of height each week. Do not let the fertilizer touch the plant.

Your plant may grow to 12 or 15 feet during the summer but before frost cut back the leaves and dig the rhizome leaving some soil attached. The root ball need be only about 1-2 feet in diameter. Wrap the root ball in a trash bag and store upright in a cool, dark, frost-free location such as a basement. Leave the bag open as the soil must dry out. Do not water the stored plant over winter. Growth will continue for a week or so but this can be ignored.

Young shoots at the base of the plant at the time of digging should be left attached if they are less than 3 feet tall. Larger shoots can be removed and stored separately or potted. Success is more certain with young shoots which are potted and grown on than those which are stored dormant.

Fruiting of bananas in Missouri is variable. In the tropics a young plant will fruit in about 10 months but in St. Louis it can take two to three years before a plant gets large enough to flower and fruit.