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Beautiful lush green banana trees.
Look after your banana palm, with our plant care guide. From ideal planting conditions to pests and diseases, our guide is the perfect starting place for garden enthusiasts.

 

What you need to know about banana palms

Name: banana (Musa species and cultivars)

Plant type: perennial growing from a large rhizome. 

Height: 5+ metres but some home and garden varieties from 2–4 metres 

Foliage: very large, 2 metres long by 50+cm wide. Light, lush green, prominent veins and mid-rib.

Climate: tropical, sub-tropical, warm temperate and warm micro-climates in cool temperate. Look for cool season varieties in colder climates.

Soil: deep, rich with reliable moisture. Can adapt to virtually all but sandy soil.

Position: full-sun, protected from winds.

Flowering and fruiting: varies with variety and location.

Feeding: requires regular feeding with both controlled release fertiliser and organic matter such as well-composted manures.

Watering: must have reliable moisture but won't tolerate waterlogging.

Appearance and characteristics of banana palms

Banana palms are well known for the following characteristics:

  • Upright fleshy “trunk” that is often partially covered with old leaf bases. Individual leaves can be enormous, two metres or more long by 50cm wide.
  • Leaves are a beautiful lush, light limey-green colour and may have patches of darker variegations on them.
  • In exposed spots leaves can become torn and raggedy.
  • Very distinctive flower and fruit “bell”. Layers of purplish sheaths protect each flower layer, these flower layers will become “hands” of bananas. A pendulous purple bell is often retained on the end of the flower stem.
  • Not all bananas are towering specimens. There are some excellent varieties that will only grow to around two metres, that's just a little above the height of a regular fence and they'll even do well in large tubs!

Close up of lush green textured banana leaves.

Uses for banana palms

Banana palms are excellent fruiting plants for the home garden and their attractive foliage gives your garden a definitely tropical feel. In suitable climates they produce delicious fruit that is high in vitamins and minerals. 

Preferred conditions

Banana palms are considered a tropical and sub-tropical plant, however they can grow in protected micro-climates in warm temperate and even cool temperate zones. In cooler areas, look out for cold climate bananas, which have been specially selected for growing outside traditional climate zones.

For best flowering and fruit development, plant in a position that will receive full sun.

In cooler areas try to find a sheltered location near a northerly facing wall. In these climates, growth will all but stop when temperatures drop below around 15°C. Once it warms up again they'll kick back in. Frost will damage leaves but they will reshoot come spring. Note that temperatures below –4°C will likely kill plants.

Ideally soil should be open, free-draining, rich and reliably moist however bananas will tolerate virtually any sort of soil except sandy or boggy.

Planting tips

Keep the following in mind when planting a banana palm:

  • Add plenty of well-composted manures or compost at planting time.
  • Improve the soil in the planting area, at least three to four times the pot width and twice as deep as the pot.
  • Apply a quality controlled release fertiliser.
  • Mulch heavily but ensure it is well clear of the stem.

Care tips and regular maintenance

Follow these tips and your banana palm will thrive:

  • Keep your banana palm well-watered during hot, dry weather.
  • Regularly top up mulch.
  • Trim off any dead leaves.
  • Liquid feed regularly.
  • Side dress with well-composted manure every month or so during peak growing times.
  • As the flower develops the small fruit form and are downward pointing. As soon as they start to turn upwards put a bag over the developing bunch. This keeps birds and bats off the fruit.
  • You can buy specialised covers or just cut the base from a heavy-duty garden waste bag with a draw-string top. Slip this up the fruit and secure.
  • When harvesting, pick bananas a hand at a time as they start to ripen faster once picked. If you pick the whole bunch at once you may well find yourself with 30+ kilos of bananas going ripe at the same time!

How to prune a banana palm

Around the stem of plants you'll see pups or suckers start to appear. These need to be pruned off as they can sap energy from the main stem. Leave at least one strong sucker per plant as a banana will die once it has fruited, and the pup you retain then becomes the new plant. Excess suckers should be carefully removed. 

Pests and diseases affecting banana palms

There are two significant diseases of bananas that growers should be on the lookout for: banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) and Panama disease tropical race 4 (PDTR4).

  • BBTV is a virus that shows initially as dark green streaks along the veins on the underside of the banana leaves. You’ll see a "J" curve on the midrib. Other symptoms are the short, narrow upright clustering of leaves which form at the top of infected plants.
  • PDTR4 is a soil-borne fungus that shows initially as a yellowing of the leaves, which then collapse, forming a "skirt" around the plant.

If you are concerned that you have either of these diseases in your banana plants, contact your local biosecurity regulator for further advice. 

Banana palms may also suffer from root rot if the soil is too wet.

If you like this then try

Pineapple: easy to grow and will fruit even in warm temperate regions.

Lychee: superb evergreen shade trees with deliciously aromatic fruit.

Noni fruit: a tropical superfood with supposed magical powers.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.