The Q&A Archives: Propagating Bananas

Question: We planted our Bananas this year and they're growing wonderfully. They're producing many baby bananas at the base. Is it best to cut them off, now or later, and if I do am I able to plant them and have them become independant plants?

Answer: About a year after planting, your banana will form a flower and will eventually start forming "hands" of fruit. The fingers will be small at first. As the fruit matures, the fingers get fatter, but stay green. As the hands get longer and fatter, the flower keeps opening. At some point, no more hands form. You can cut off the flowering stem below where no more hands are forming.

The size of your fruits will be substantially determined by the variety of your banana. However, the size and number of fruits are determined over the course of a full year of growth. If you fed and watered well (right from the beginning), you may get close to 100 eatable bananas at harvest time. If you skimped, you may get 20-25 fruits. Feed well for best appearance, maximum fruit numbers and taste and quality.

As your banana fingers get fatter and fatter, at some point they stop getting bigger. Observe your fruit often to notice this growth and the stoppage of growth. About 4-6 weeks after finger growth has stopped, cut off the whole stalk of bananas. Make your cut very close to the main banana stalk or right through the top of the banana plant. If you do this right, you will get a large "hook" at the top of the stalk and all the hands hanging below. Hang the whole stalk in a shady spot outside and at about chest level.

It will still be weeks before your bananas ripen. When they ripen, they usually ripen top-to-bottom. Pick off ripe fruit and eat it. Don't let the fruit over-ripen as it will split then rot. Also, you don't want to attract animals to your fruit.

Your last job is to cut off the whole "mother" stem from which you got your bananas. It will never again give you fruit. If you do nothing, it will just rot and die. Cut if off (with a large knife) and put the parts into your composter or on the soil at your banana patch for more mulch. New stalks will form from the roots and they will be the next to bear fruit. Eventually your plant will develop "pups" at the base of the plant. These can be cut off and planted and they should produce brand new plants.


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