Banana trees are quick to establish and produce heaps of fruit. If you’re thinking of planting a banana tree but don’t know what timeline to expect, we’ve got you covered!
It takes banana trees about 9 months to grow to full height, and only 12 months to bear their first fruit. On average, banana stalks last for about a year and a half to two years, but the plant that they stem from could last anywhere between 6 and 25 years.
The banana plants we grow today are genetically altered, which we’ll discuss more below. We’ll walk you through the full timeline of a banana tree’s life so you’ll know exactly how long it takes to grow, and what its lifespan looks like. Plus, we’ll cover some maintenance tips to keep your tree healthy and fruitful.
What Is A Banana Tree And Where Did They Come From?
Did you know bananas are technically berries, botanically speaking?
According to the Australia Banana Grower’s Council, bananas may have been the first fruit originating over 10,000 years ago.
The original bananas and those we know of today are different, of course, thanks to the fact that our modern bananas are modified to have no seeds and lots of edible fruit. Originally, there would have been a large pit and not much edible pulp surrounding it.
In fact, the modified bananas we eat today make it so that we have to either buy seeds from distributors or propagate already-existing banana plants to grow new ones. We’ll dive deeper into that soon, though.
The bananas we eat today come in a few varieties, sometimes referred to as plantains when they are not as sweet. The most common variety, however, is called the Cavendish after a 19th-century English Duke who propagated these plants and caused the eventual spread of these plants.
Bananas are a nutrient-dense fruit favored by children, athletes, and other adults alike. Its potassium, B vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and other qualities make it a quick, cheap, and filling supplement for all diets.
So, you’re thinking of growing a banana tree of your own. Let’s talk about where to start: location.
Just How Fast Will My Banana Tree Grow?
Banana trees grow extremely fast.
How long does it take a banana tree to bear fruit?
From planting a banana tree (sowing the bulb of the tree) to being able to harvest fruit successfully, it is only a 9-12 month process.
This is quite contradictory to many trees. For example, an avocado tree can take up to 13 years to grow to maturity and begin producing its fruit. We have an article all about the avocado tree’s growth and lifespan, as a matter of fact!
This short, yearlong timeline of a banana tree may seem rather short. That’s because it is.
However, when we stop to consider bananas grow from banana stalks that shoot out of the overall tree itself, it is easier to see how this works.
Banana trees are a collective of individual stalks that produce fruit and then must be trimmed away. So, we can see how these trees might grow and begin producing bananas so quickly.
Okay, let’s look at the timeline of a banana tree itself.
Full Banana Tree Growing Timeline
So, you’ve decided you love bananas enough to grow them yourself. Congratulations. What should you expect, though?
What is the process like?
You want your bananas by next year, but there’s no way that’s realistic… right?
You can plant a banana tree and have the fruit within 9-12 months. Pretty cool, huh?
Not only that, but the tree can reach its full height of 20-40 feet tall within that 9-month period before fruit forms. Talk about fast-growing!
Day 1: Finding The Right Banana Seed
The very first day of our timeline consists of finding a way to plant your banana tree.
Modern Cavendish bananas and plantains don’t have seeds, as you’ve surely noticed.
So, how are you supposed to even plant a banana tree?
Bananas have been genetically altered so that they no longer have seeds, but they must come from somewhere.
In the wild, bananas still have seeds. They take up so much of the fruit that the pulp of it is difficult to eat and nearly inaccessible.
You can procure seeds from a supplier of some sort, whether that is a local provider or online. For example, you can purchase things like these Mini Bonsai Banana Tree Seeds to start your own banana tree growth.
You’ll want to follow a few steps to start growing your banana tree:
- Soak your seeds.
- Seeds should soak for a day or two to prepare for planting.
- Seeds should soak for a day or two to prepare for planting.
- Plant the seeds.
- You can plant the seed in a pot for the first week or two if you need, but you should aim to plant it directly into permeable soil. The seed should be about an inch deep, in holes that are 4 inches wide for best results.
- Space your banana plants about 2 meters from one another, to avoid overcrowding and the sun being blocked from any given plant.
- Keep the soil well-suited for banana growth.
- Moist soil is another key to successful growth, as bananas grow best in tropical environments with this sort of moist, well-drained soil.
- The soil temperature should also stay between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit in good conditions, as is expected in a tropical environment
- Wait for germination.
- This can take anywhere from a month to 6 months, depending on the type of banana tree. This is when you’ll see vegetative growth.
Remember, this will give you a unique, less common variety of banana. If that is your goal, go for it. If not, keep reading for planting option number 2.
Alternative Day 1: Propagating A Banana Sapling
Now that you know what planting from a seed, or bulb, looks like, we should talk about the propagation option.
This one is far more common and is probably easier if you have any sort of access to other banana plants.
You can grow a Cavendish banana tree by propagating it, as seeds are not a part of this adapted variety of bananas.
An easier, more orthodox method is to take a pup, or sucker, both names work, from an already-established banana tree. This means that you are taking an offshoot, separating it from its main banana tree, and replanting it as its own tree.
This is not as difficult as you may imagine, because banana trees themselves are made up of many stalks and sections that bear fruit and then need to be removed. So, the removal of a section a bit early allows it to establish itself as its tree, and continue the cycle.
Day 1–Month 6: Vegetative Growth Period
Though we call them banana trees, banana plants are technically quite different in their growing process than any other trees.
They will grow pseudo stems, or leaves that build upon each other to support the main stem, in place of a trunk.
Since they don’t have a traditional trunk, the growth of these plants can take place much more rapidly.
The period of vegetative growth that takes place, in essence, is the majority of the tree’s maturing process. As it grows and develops these pseudo stems, you’ll want to provide your plant with a little extra water to ensure the healthy development of the plant.
If you are concerned about forgetting or not adequately estimating your watering, you can always use an irrigation system. This Flantor Garden Irrigation System could be the right starting place to help you get your banana tree going, without the stress of remembering when and how much to water it.
Month 6-Month 9: The Flowering Period
Once the vegetative growth period has given your banana tree its own legs to stand on as a tall, established plant, the flowering will begin.
This is realistically going to happen around month 9, but could be earlier in some conditions and later in some conditions.
One reason to plant in an area that is opportune for your tree (read: USDA hardiness zones 9-11) is that the weather will allow your tree to hit its expected milestones.
If you plant in an area that is too cold, it could take up to a year and a half for your tree to flower, effectively delaying your access to fruit and stunting the tree’s natural cycles.
This period is the connection between growth and fruit production, so it is an important one that leads us to our end goal: bananas.
Month 9-Month 12: Fruiting Period
Once you’ve gotten past the germinating, vegetative growth, and flowering periods, your plant will finally be ready to produce fruit!
Individual banana stalks will only produce fruit one time, so it is important to maintain your banana tree yearly to adjust for this.
You’ll need to cut back the stalks after you harvest the fruit to make sure new stalks can form and new fruit can grow in the same place.
Bananas will grow in large bunches called hands, each of which has about 20 bananas. You’ll see 10 or more hands on healthy, stable banana trees, meaning you can expect to yield at least 200 individual fruits.
Now that is bananas!
See what we did there? Anyway, you harvest the fruit after it develops during this 3-month period.
From there, any green bananas will take about a week to ripen after being harvested. Any ripe bananas should be consumed, distributed, or stored for later.
You can also help improve the aesthetic of your bananas by putting bags over the fruit. This is done in commercial farming to help regulate the look of the fruit, as well as keeping it safer from pests.
Where Banana Trees Commonly Grow Best
Hawaii, Florida, and other hot, humid climate areas in the United States are best for growing bananas.
Around the world, bananas are found growing in many tropical regions, from African regions to China, India, and many of the South and Central American countries.
Anywhere with a tropical climate can, and probably does, grow bananas thanks to their quick growth and massive yield.
Recently, Ecuador has been the top exporter of bananas in the world, followed up by the Philippines, Costa Rica, and other similar-climate nations.
In the United States, bananas grow best in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, though zone 10 is the ideal zone for this plant. Unsure of what this means? We’ll go further into these zones and their significance a bit further down.
Where To Plant Your Banana Tree
Banana trees need environments that are tropical, meaning warm, moist, and sunny. These factors will help to keep your banana tree and its fruit healthy and prosperous.
USDA hardiness zones ranging from zone 9 to zone 11 are best, though zone 10 is the prime location for banana trees to grow.
If you are looking to grow a banana tree anywhere in the United States, reference the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map.
This map will help you determine which regions are the best suited to grow and sustain your banana tree.
What The Heck Is A USDA Plant Hardiness (Growing) Zone?
The USDA has created the hardiness zones distinctions to help define different regions of the country where plants might be best fit to grow and not only survive but also thrive.
These zones are based on the average, extreme, minimum temperatures of any given area. Essentially, in extremely cold winters, what would the average lowest temperature be?
While a region may look good in a normal year, it’s important to look at those extreme weather factors before planting any trees or other plants. This will help you identify the risks involved with the wintertime in the area, and how your tree might fare.
The hardiness of a tree, by definition, is its ability to handle cold temperatures and adapt. So, trees that do well in low hardiness zones are extra hardy and can handle super low extreme temperatures.
Those, like the banana tree, that require higher USDA hardiness zones to do well, are less hardy and will not do nearly as well as temperatures drop to their extremes.
Hardiness zones are broken up into ten-degree sections by number and then split into 5-degree subcategories that are divided by A and B.
The fact that banana trees do best in zones 9-11 means they can handle the extremely low temperatures in zone 9a up to zone 11b.
Zone 9a has minimum temperatures of 20-25 degrees Fahrenheit, while 11b has a minimum range of 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
These average minimum temperature ranges are in line with what you might expect for a heat-loving, tropical tree that is adaptable but not too much so.
How To Transplant Your Banana Tree Sapling
If you opted to plant your banana tree from a wild seed to get a unique type of fruit, or you thought your sucker (also known as a pup) would do best to start in a pot, you may need to know how to transplant your tree now.
Helping your tree adjust to a transplant begins by transplanting correctly at the beginning.
Plan to follow these next few steps to make sure you go about the process in the right way:
- Location, location, location!
- Banana trees are meant for tropical environments. This means that they love sun and heat. So, pick a location that allows your banana tree to get lots of sun and enjoy that nice warm weather it wants. At least 6 hours of partial to full sunlight is ideal.
- Also, try to avoid planting your tree too close to any structures or other trees. Remember, banana trees grow fast and you don’t want a foundation issue, to be overshadowed by your tree, or to block light to other plants.
- You’ll want to ensure that you have a hole that can fit the roots of the plant, giving them space to grow and flourish as your tree gets bigger.
- Place your banana tree into its new home and watch it grow.
- Generously water the tree to help the roots get established so that the tree can grow well.
Keeping Your Banana Tree Healthy And Thriving
It’s always important to keep in mind that trees of any sort do best in the climate that they originate from.
Since banana trees are tropical plants, keeping them in a warm, sunny environment with moist, well-drained soil is key to their success.
It’s all well and good to know how to grow a tree, how to transplant it, and how to care for it, but if the tree is not in a location that can sustain it, your efforts may not be worth the hassle.
You want to water your banana tree regularly, making sure that it gets 1-1.5 inches and up to 6 inches of water per month.
Remember to note that soil should be able to drain well, because you don’t want your banana tree sitting in lots of water, either. This will cause stress on the tree and likely hinder its progress.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
That’s All For Now!
Okay, don’t go bananas, but we’re done for now.
We hope this timeline helps you prepare to grow and sustain a banana tree, with fewer surprises.
This tree is unique, from its quick growth to odd lifespan and fruit-bearing process. Growing a banana tree isn’t the easiest job out there, so props to you for giving it a go.
Starting from an established tree and going the propagation route is simply going to be your best option, and is the one that we recommend.
The process is interesting, and it can be quite exciting and rewarding to see your banana tree spring to life. We know that you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor quite literally, once you harvest the bananas your tree will produce.
If you want your very own home-grown bananas by next year, what are you waiting for? Start now, your future self will thank you.
Thanks for allowing us to be a trusted part of your tree journey. Happy planting, friends!
Kilwinger, F. B., Marimo, P., Rietveld, A. M., Almekinders, C. J., & van Dam, Y. K. (2020). Not only the seed matters: Farmers’ perceptions of sources for banana planting materials in Uganda. Outlook on Agriculture, 49(2), 119-132.
Lecompte, F., Ozier-Lafontaine, H., & Pages, L. (2003). An analysis of growth rates and directions of growth of primary roots of field-grown banana trees in an andisol at three levels of soil compaction. Agronomie, 23(3), 209-218.
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