There is nothing even close to a specimen banana plant to bring that exotic, tropical feel to your garden. And now, with ever hardy varieties becoming available, the reality of growing a banana all year round - without cold protection - is becoming more of a reality. Unfortunately, suitably hardy bananas can be both elusive to find and expensive, but if you decide to grow hardy bananas from seed all this can change.
Growing Hardy Bananas from Seed
Using either a seed tray of modular tray, fill with a good quality seed compost such as John Innes ‘Seed and Potting’. Then using a dibber – or an old pencil as in my case - sow the hardy banana seed ¼in deep. Back fill the hole with a little more compost then water thoroughly. Allow the excess water to drain then seal the tray inside a polythene bag in order to keep the compost moist. Now place the tray in a warm area while the seeds germinate. Be aware that germination is slow and erratic and even at a temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius banana seeds can take 1-6 months to germinate.
It is worth mentioning here that most banana seed will respond well to fluctuations in temperature. If you have both the time and the facilities, consider give your seeds alternating temperatures of 19 hours cool and 5 hours warm. You will find that some species will respond well to larger fluctuations of temperature – between 35 degrees Celsius and 15 degrees Celsius, while others are better with less severe fluctuations 25 Celsius – 15 Celsius or even 20 Celsius -15 Celsius. However, do not go much below 12 degrees Celsius as this can place your hardy banana seed back into dormancy.Perhaps the easiest way to produce your fluctuating temperatures is keep your seeded trays in a heated propagator. Switch it on during the day and turn it off at night. If your night temperatures are too cold then have the propagator on a night and turned off during the day.
At a germinating temperature fluctuating between 35 – 15 Degrees Celsius. The banana species listed below had the following success rate:
Musa Helens Hybrid 21%
M. Sikkimensis 23%
M. Sikkimensis Red tiger 0%
M. flaviflora 3%
M. Formosana 4%
E. Glaucum 1%
At a germinating temperature fluctuating between 25 – 15 Degrees Celsius. The banana species listed below had the following success rate:
E. Glaucum 24%
M. Sikkimensis Red tiger 30%
M. Sikkimensis 34%
M. Helens Hyb. 11%
M. Flaviflora 7%
M. Formosana 0%
At a germinating temperature fluctuating between 21 – 15 Degrees Celsius. The banana species listed below had the following success rate:
M. sikkimensis 3%
M. Sikkimensis Red tiger 27%
E. glaucum 18%
M Helens Hyb. 30%
M. flaviflora 15%
M. Formosana 2%
As each seed germinates, lift carefully from the tray so as to prevent any damage to the juvenile root system, and transfer it to a 3 in pot of good quality, free draining compost. Pot on as required because the larger the container the larger your banana plant will grow.
Grow on in warm well lit conditions. During summer they can be stood outside or planted in the border but should be brought into well lit frost free conditions for the winter when it should be kept moderately dry. Some discolouration of the leaf ends may occur through the winter months but this won't harm the plant.