The banana palm tree (or simply, banana plant) is a native of Southeast Asia. It is grown in the American South, as an outdoor fruit-bearing plant. In spite of its tropical origins, it is a surprisingly hardy plant that can tolerate temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. It flourishes in full sun or partial shade. The amount of sunlight it gets will determine how soon the banana plant bears fruit; plants grown in partial shade will take longer to do so.
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Heat, Light, Food
Your banana plant should be planted where it can get constant warmth, bright light and a humidity level of 50 per cent. Because banana plants love to drink and eat, its soil should be anything that drains well, even sand if that is all you have available; however, avoid beach sand, since bananas do not tolerate salt. According to professional banana grower, David Mattocks, the ideal soil contains one-third compost, one-third rich potting soil, and one-third perlite or small pebbles to help with drainage. A banana prefers its soil acidic. Mattocks recommends that oak leaves be tilled into the soil at the plant's base: the acidity of decomposing oak leaves is perfect for the banana. It's a good idea to trim dead leaves from the plant itself and use them as compost around the base. You might also consider vermiculite (worm compost) or dried manure as an additive or soil topping. Bananas are hungry plants and they will eat up this extra decomposing attention.
The average banana, if grown in full sun, will live for two growing seasons, or 18 months. After that, the original plant will die, but bananas put down new seeds of their own called pups. Provide extra fertilisation and water once the banana starts to bear fruit, because it will be extra hungry and thirsty at this time, especially if grown in full sun. If the pseudostem (trunk or stem) is less wind resistant than you would like, provide additional support to keep from breaking under the weight of its fruit and flowers. When you are sure the plant will bear no more fruit, remove the flowers to decrease the amount of weight on the pseudostem.
Banana plants are tough. Once they have a corm about 4 inches in diameter, Mattox assures growers, they are virtually indestructible. If you live in a northern climate, where the plant is vulnerable to several frosts, dig up the entire plant, roots and all, and store it in the basement all winter, then replant it in the spring. Be sure to mist the roots about once a month. You banana will survive a few frosts in the ground with no harm done, but some burnt leaves. Try to leave them on the plant to absorb the brunt of the cold and it will make for a healthier plant for the following growing season. If the winters are not too harsh, cover the plant with frost cloth and layer extra mulch around the base.
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