The banana at the right is an Enano Gigante, which is Spanish for giant dwarf. The dwarf
part of the name comes from the height of the fully grown banana, about 8 feet (regular
bananas can be 20 feet tall), while
the giant part appears to come from the size of the leaves, which are extremely broad. This
plant is on the East side of the house and was planted in March approximately 15 months before
this picture was taken. Originally there was only one stalk.
Bananas grow very well in Phoenix, but need lots of water. They like sun
and heat but do appreciate some afternoon shade during the hottest months.
Depending on where you live in town and how cold a winter it is they will probably
get nipped by frost or outright frozen but are known to pop up again in the spring.
Wind will shred the bananas leaves and in the case of tall bananas can blow them over,
so planting next to walls and houses is beneficial.
If it freezes every year you won't get bananas because it takes about 18 months for them
to flower. Unless you live in a low spot or next to a mountain your bananas will make
it through the winter some years. Nevertheless, you will be happiest if you plant them for
the way they look rather than for just the fruit. If the fruit is exposed to a lot of hot
sun it is likely to turn black and spoil before it gets fully ripe. So it is best to plant
somewhere that this situation can be avoided or to try to create artificial shade
over the bunch when it is on its way to ripening. As for the flavor of the fruit grown
here, one can expect to get bananas as tasty or more tasty than those purchased in the
Note: A photo history of growing a Rajapuri Banana can be found in the gardening forum.
There are actually many varieties of bananas in the world. This might be a
surprise to some Americans since the super markets usually carry only one
variety. Not all bananas are white on the inside. In fact there is a
delicious variety in South America referred to as the "island banana" that is
pink inside. Furthermore, this banana is also very dense and filling compared
the U.S. supermarket banana. See the links below for listings of banana varieties.
The bananas on the left are on the Enano Gigante pictured above. The plant
bloomed in late June and it only took two weeks for the bananas to reach the size
in the picture, approximately 4 inches. The male banana flower can be seen at the
bottom of the stalk, while the female flowers become the bananas. The flower nectar
smells like a banana peel. Bananas are self fruitful, so there is no need for cross pollination.
Interestingly, bananas are not really trees. They are herbs, meaning that the stalk
is really not an individual plant but a stem of a larger organism. The core of the
banana is its root system, which is called a corm. Once a stalk has produced
fruit it dies and should be cut off. As can be seen, little bananas are always popping up.
Many texts suggest that to maximize productivity the number of bananas
stalks should be limited to three, so any more than that should be cut.
I haven't practiced this thinning and still got fruit so my opinion is that this
is not necessary, at least for the home grower.
Many sources say that bananas should be harvested as soon as the first hand on the bunch turns yellow,
allowing the rest of the fruit to ripen at room temperature. This appears to be the best advice for
commercial banana growers because they must ship their product green, and they also have selected
varieties that ripen well during shipping. I have found with my Rajapuri banana tree that they are
best when ripened on the tree. I pick each individual banana when it turns nicely yellow. Also,
I have found that when the fruit is ripe like this, it separates easily from the tree.
Heat Tolerance and Sun Exposure
Bananas tolerate heat fairly well but need plenty of water because of
substantial evaporation from their big leaves. Also, it is likely that the
edges of the leaves will scorch some time during the peak of summer
no matter how much water the plant gets.
A banana will probably be able to tolerate being planted on any
side of the house but will be happiest (like most plants in Phoenix) on
the East side. On the East side, the plant will get plenty of sun in the morning
but have refuge from the scorching afternoon sun. Bananas need a lot of
sun to store energy for fruit production, so keeping the plant in full shade
is not recommended.
The above ground portion of a banana will be killed when temperatures drop below freezing.
By planting the banana next to the house or a concrete wall, the chances of it
being exposed to freezing temperatures are reduced. The roots are reportedly
killed at 22 degrees. Seeing as how it is highly unlikely that 6 inches into the
ground will ever go below freezing, it is very unlikely that your banana will
ever be completely killed here.
Dig a hole at least twice the size of the rootball. At a minimum, make the
hole 2 feet in diameter and 1.5 feet deep.
Work in a 50/50 mix of compost to soil.
Be sure to mix the compost and soil
as thoroughly as possible. It also is a good idea to finish with the
hole an inch or two recessed so that a watering basin is formed.
Bananas do well on a grass watering schedule the
majority of the year. However when it's really baking hot and dry in summer,
for example in June,
a little extra water in addition to that schedule can do some good.
During winter let the soil to dry out well between waterings,
and when things are genuinely cool water much less frequently.
During December and January bananas should be deep watered once every 2-4 weeks.
Overwatering bananas in cold weather makes them susceptible to
root rot and
These are conditions which can kill the plant, even its roots. Bananas are normally a
healthy dark green, so if the leaves start turning yellow during cool weather,
then further reduce watering.
Basin or flood irrigation
is recommended because it helps keep the salt in our salty
water from accumulating around the roots. Furthermore, deep watering
will encourage the plant to develop deeper roots, making the plant tougher when the weather
gets hot and dry.
Fertilizing and Growth Rate
Bananas grow rapidly and are therefore heavy feeders.
During the growing season, a banana can be fertilized every one to two months
using a high nitrogen fertilizer. They should not be fertilized during the cool time
of the year when they are growing slowly. In Phoenix, bananas should not be
fertilized when fruiting because the fruit will turn black and spoil.
Therefore, as soon as the banana flower appears stop all fertilization until
the fruit is harvested, approximately four months later.
Most likely this sensitivity to fertilizer is caused by the
general saltiness of the water and soil in the Phoenix area.
The enano gigante pictured above is fed one gallon of liquid miracle grow flowering plant food
(mixed with water as per. recommended on the instructions), once every one to two months, during
the warm time of the year.
The plant's basin is flooded and then the fertilizer is poured into the water.
A half inch layer of compost is maintained
in the basin to help control weeds and to amend the top soil.
Interestingly, the small black specs in commercially sold banana fruits are seeds
but not viable. Viable banana seeds are larger and harder and therefore not edible.
Domesticated bananas are usually propagated by separating the young banana shoots
from the rest of the corm.
See the below links for more information on propagation.
Bananas have no significant pest problems in Arizona.
A Sample Banana Plant History In Phoenix
The following table contains the history of the enano gigante pictured above.
Planted from container, height = 2ft
Second stalk appears, height = 2.5ft
height = 4ft
Photo taken of entire plant, height = 5ft
Photo taken of fruit, bananas developing, stalk very bent with weight, lower stalk reinforced
with stake, lightly fertilized to help plump up bananas
Record high temperatures (over 110 degrees F.), banana stalk crimps above stake, bananas soon blacken and spoil
Possibly, the banana needed more water in hot weather, because water helps to keep
the stalk rigid. Next time I will splint the entire stalk as soon as a flower
appears to keep the stalk from leaning so dramatically.
I will also put a white paper cone over the fruit, to keep the sun off, as soon
as they appear. A larger grove of bananas would also help to give more shade
to any bananas fruiting on the inside.
It also might help if the plant doesn't flower
in the absolute hottest time of the year.
The middle of August would probably be a more ideal time.
Broken banana stalk cut.
Second banana flower emerges on a new stem. Banana stalk is relatively straight but is splinted
with a large wooden stake to be safe. Stake is not driven into the ground but runs most of
the length of the stem below the flower.
Flower is cut when 50-60 bananas have emerged above it to prevent stalk from falling.
It appears that another 50-60 would have emerged.
The bananas on the end of the bunch appear to be turning black. A shade cloth has been
placed over the bunch even though the sun is not currently strong, and should not be a
factor. Furthermore, temperatures have not gone close to freezing here for over
a month so cold should not be a factor either.
All of the bananas have turned black and spoiled. This leads me to believe
the problem is not
the weather but rather the soil. The most likely problem is the high salt
content of our soil. This year I will use more gypsum to leach away the
salt and see if this is effective. The bananas will still be covered when they
emerge to eliminate the sun as a variable.
Flower. Deep soaked the tree with Gypsum to leach the sodium out of the root zone.
I will not fertilize the tree anymore until the bananas are ripe.
I will not cover bananas because they are emerging right next to the North facing wall,
so they will not get direct sun after 10:30 AM. Stalk will not be splinted yet
because it appears to be firm.
Flower cut. Approximately 50 bananas present. Stalk is showing signs of
carrying the weight but is still fairly upright.
Noticed that stalk is more firm after watering. Therefore, I am watering the
banana 5 times a week to make sure the soil is constantly wet. Day
time temperatures are 105 Fahrenheit.
I actually didn't water the banana 5 times a week as I thought I would
but they still turned out well. It was automatically being watered 3 times per. week and
I might have given it an extra watering by hand every now and then, so it probably was
watered 4 times week on average during the hottest part of summer.
were too heavy for the stalk but lacking a good way to support the stalk I waited until
the bananas were actually touching the ground before putting in a support. Unfortunately,
the stalk crimped some before I supported it but it wasn't damaged enough to kill the
bananas. The support I used was an old umbrella baby stroller.
I did not fertilize the plant the entire time the fruit were present.
I believe this was the key to success because
last summer the bananas spoiled immediately after being fertilized. I also put some
gypsum at the base when the flower appeared but used nothing but water after that point.
The banana bunch was hanging very close to the North side of the wall. This position
might have also helped by reducing the amount of direct sun they were exposed to.
The bunch was harvested as soon as the first hand turned yellow, as can be seen
in the photo below. The bananas that
had already turned yellow were overripe and therefore not very tasty. It appears that
they go from green to ripe extremely quickly on the tree in the Phoenix heat. The rest
of the bunch was brought into the house and set on the counter to ripen. In approximately
a week they were ripe and about 40% of the bunch was quite delicious. Some of the other
bananas split and bruised and were less than ideal. Enano Gigante bananas grown here
are smaller than supermarket bananas and somewhat creamier. The flavor is very similar
to supermarket bananas.
Links to more banana information
California Rare Fruit Growers