Here’s how to grow bananas in North Florida, step by step!
How To Grow Bananas In North Florida
Growing bananas and keeping them alive through a chilly Florida winter isn’t rocket science.
It’s not even hard.
It doesn’t require sheets, Christmas lights or a greenhouse.
All you need is a little patience, a somewhat sheltered location, lots of nutrition and water… and for you to put away your pruning saw… and you’ll be able to grow bananas in North Florida, no matter what everyone says. Ready? Let’s go!
Growing Bananas Requires Patience
Don’t think you’re going to plant a little banana pup and get fruit the first year. Bananas quit growing when it gets cool out. We’re talking at 70 or below… they just kind of hang out and wait for it to get hot again.
If you live in a place that has cool winters, during those few months your bananas are just going to sit. Frost damage will also set them back, which leads me to my next point.
To Grow Bananas You Should Have Shelter
Winds and cold nights will wreak havoc on your trees. If you have a south-facing wall with some sun, plant them there. I love south walls and you will too, once you see what you can pull off.
Other locations that are good for bananas are right beside a swimming pool, next to a fence that blocks the wind, or under the outer edge of a large shade tree so they get some sunlight but also some canopy protection from cold nights.
Shorter bananas are easier to shelter than taller varieties, but I still grow 16′ Orinoco bananas at my place and they do great by the south wall of my house – despite some nights that have reached down into the teens!
Bananas Like Lots of Water and Fertilizer
Banana fertilizer can be compost, urine, chemical fertilizer from a bag, or whatever kitchen scraps wash down the sink. Septic tanks are also beloved by banana trees. Just know this: they’re hungry trees!
Bananas are also very thirsty. I read somewhere that they like at least 100 inches of rain a year. Plant them at the base of a gutter and/or make sure they’re getting water regularly or they stall out. Greywater systems are great for bananas.
Banana circles are a great way to combine both water and fertilizer in one. I write about them in my awesome composting book – go buy a copy!
Don’t Cut Back Your Banana Trees!
For some reason, folks around here like to chop back banana trees after a frost, along with removing all the dead leaves. Don’t do that! First of all, only remove the dead banana leaves after all danger of frost has passed. Secondly, cutting the trunk back will set the tree back a season or so and keep it from fruiting as soon. I know, the tree looks ugly – let it look ugly for a while. Usually, new shoots will emerge from the center of the tree once the weather warms up – and often, a bloom and bananas will follow. If you chop them back… this usually won’t happen until later in the year… and you may lose your bananas to frost.
Banana Fruiting Times
Bananas are non-seasonal trees (actually, they’re not even trees… but I digress), meaning they fruit when they feel like it. This could mean that they decide to put out a bloom in September and then as it cools off in October, you have a little hand of bananas hanging there and not maturing because the weather has gotten cool… and then in November or December, a freeze will take out the fruits before they have any kind of chance to ripen.
Ideally, your tree will outgrow the frosts of winter and put out blooms in the spring and early summer, ripening up by fall and frost season.
When To Harvest Bananas
I get asked when to harvest bananas by gardeners all the time. Harvest ALL of a stalk of bananas by cutting down the complete stalk – but only do this when the fruit have all filled out and plumped up and the top few are starting to turn yellow or at least green-yellow. It’s not quite a science, but it’s close. Catch them at the right time and bring them indoors or hang them on a porch. Once you harvest your stalk of bananas, cut down the entire tree that bore the fruit – it won’t bear again. The biggest pup beside it will replace it, don’t worry!
Propagating Banana Trees
Long ago, farmers and hobbyists bred the seeds right out of most good eating banana varieties. This is a good thing since banana seeds are like birdshot and aren’t kind to your teeth. What this means, though, is that bananas can only be cultivated by clonal reproduction. Divide a little banana pup off the base of a clump of bananas carefully with a shovel, getting a chunk of the main root system while NOT cutting through the little banana’s trunk and leaving the roots behind… and you’re set. Bananas grow lots of little pups if they’re happy and one banana can easily turn into a clump under the right conditions.
Good Banana Varieties For North Florida
We’ve had good success with both Orinoco and Raja Puri bananas. My new video on growing bananas in North Florida shows my patch of Orinoco bananas in full bloom:
Dwarf Cavendish will also produce, though it’s a bit slow and prone to frost damage. Other varieties are worth testing, however, since most of the work with bananas has been done in the tropics.
Now that you know how to grow bananas in North Florida… why don’t you try every one you can get your hands on and let us know how you do?
Like this article? Leave me a comment below!
Man that is a pretty skinny stalk that bore fruit in your video, my tree is prolific in my central florida backyard. I get about 120 bananas per pseudo stem, the last one i weighed was 30lbs of bananas. Be prepared for a flavor explosion too, these aren’t your store bought bananas!
I’ve read you should only keep 3 stems going and cut everything else back to keep the fruiting cycle more consistent… I have about 20 stems going from the same root bulb though, i believe the more the marrier, plus the outer stems will protect the inner ones from the cold, creating their own microclimate.
Yeah, the Orinocos are really skimpy on their fruit set. They make bananas every year but not a lot per stalk. Usually 15 or so.
20 stems – that’s great!
It’s usually better to leave one stalk so the pad concentrates all its energy and nutrition into that one stalk for production then allow another stalk growing to replace it beginning in late summer.
how do u eat the banna mind have black seeds in them size of a BB
I think the variety I got from you is raja puri? It has already doubled in size on a steady supply of chicken manure and dilute urine.
Yes, Raja Puri. Super fast grower.
Wouldn’t the fruit taste better if allowed to ripen on the plant? My first bunch of bananas will be ripening up soon (clear up in Northwest FL!) and I can’t seem to find any reasons mentioned anywhere online for ripening the bunch off the tree. Maybe someone could explain it to me…?
Often they’ll ripen past their prime while hanging, sometimes even while the skins are green. They’re also quite prone to rot. If you have more than one tree, there’s no reason not to give it a try, though.
Reasons to not ripen on the tree = raccoons, squirrels, etc.
Your bananas will disappear! Plus, they ripen quickly and the weight will pull them right off. Also, just FYI – it took mine about 4 months from blossom to harvest.
I live outside of Tampa in a rural area and have 3 1/2 acres. I would like to start growing bananas to supplement other fruits I’ve planted…pineapple, avacado and papayas so far and will be adding mangoes (my favorite) and blackberries.
Foe this area would you recommend Orinoco or Raja Puri or is there another variety that would be better? I do not have a south wall or area by the pool that is available.
I would grow both, if possible. If you’re close enough to the warmth of the coast to grow mangoes, however – you’ll be able to pull off most bananas you try.
Dwarf namwah and dwarf Brazilian varieties will most likely be best for you. Orinoco sucks. Mostly a cooking banana. Raja puri is more prone to choking than most bananas.
I do find the Orinoco best for cooking.
I’m a dedicated Northwest Florida gardener! Since retiring last year I’ve put my heart into full time gardening. I’m always looking for new things to try, I’ve always wondered about bananas and now after reading your article I’m ready to go! I do not see where you sell the plants, did I totally miss it? I’m successfully growing blueberries, strawberries, figs, grapes, satsumas, peaches, passion fruits and recently dragonfruits which I’m very curious about as well as the bananas. I too do not have a South wall but do have near pool which are currently growing non fruit producing bananas, would you suggest digging them out and replacing with my new plants or I have a large area facing the North protected by fence. Your thoughts please! Marcie
I used to run a plant nursery but have closed it down. My garden writing has kept me way too busy: http://amzn.to/1oC3QzK
If you’ve got non-fruiting bananas there, is it because they’re ornamental… or because the fruit is freezing off in the winter? If the former, sure – replace them. Bananas like lots and lots of good organic matter and lots of water. You should be able to get decent harvests in your area.
I’m surprised you can grow dragon fruit. How close to the ocean are you?
This is the best banana article I’ve read yet, thank you! Do you do any presentations in your area?
Thank you. I used to give regular presentations; however, I now live in the tropical rainforest far from Florida. I share on this website, and in my books as well: http://amzn.to/2as4XPa
I moved into a house in Pensacola in Jan 2015. There were two groups of banana trees already here. When it got cold, and the leaves all turned brown, I hacked them all off about 4ft high with a machete. I didn’t think bananas would grow here, and thought they were there just to look nice so I was just trying to keep them with a neat appearance. Anyway, I was mowing my yard about a month ago (Aug 2016) and noticed bananas growing! There was one stem (not sure if that’s the right word), with 4 bunches of bananas on it. I just watched your video, and I shouldn’t cut them down for the winter? Like I said, I wasn’t trying to grow bananas (as I had no idea it was possible here). What really amazed me was that each tree grew to be a good bit taller than it was before I cut them back, and there’s already newer trees sprouting up around both groups. Based on my previous results, should I keep cutting them back for the winter here (it drops below freezing a few times throughout the winter here), or just let them look all dark and gloomy?
No – don’t cut them at all. Let them stay dark and gloomy. You’ll get much more fruit that way. Wait until they resprout from the tops in spring, then you can cut off the dead leaves if you like. It really makes a big difference not pruning them back.
When is the best time to plant the banana tree in the ground?
Spring is the best if you’re in an area that freezes. It gives the plant time to develop before the cold hits.
I have bananas growing now in November but fear they will die from the low temps in my town (Homosassa Fl). My tree is on the south side just under the trees. To be clear, do I cut her down this winter or let her stay up even if the bananas die?
Let them all stay up until after winter – just pretend they aren’t there. The trunks have a lot of water in them which usually preserves their centers from dying. If you have fruit on one of the stalks, you can harvest that fruit early if it’s far enough along, but I wouldn’t cut anything else. In the spring, wait until they start growing back from the centers and then you can clean up any dead leaves you’d like to remove.
Thank you 🙂 But, I am still confused as to if after the fruit is harvested or the fruit dies this winter do I leave her up after winter or cut her down after winter?
ok I read this again and you did say above here that once it fruits to cut it down. I will keep her until after winter and cut her down even if the fruit dies .
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I live in Del Tona Florida and just purchased two banana trees and place them about 40 feet away from the south wall I can’t remember the name of the banana tree now but it starts with a C anyway I was told they love 6 to 8 hours of direct sun which they will get but now I’m worried that I did not plant them against the south wall? should I change the location of them now even though I dumped topsoil in the hole and would have to go buy more? Thanks for your input. I also have cow manure will that be good or bad?
How do I stop the squirrel from eating the leaf in the Center of the banana tree were the new shoot comes out
.22’s work well.
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I love the article but my question is when should I plant them. I live in Tampa, FL. I just but a house in 1/4 acre and want to start planting. A friend is going to give me some banana plants but I don’t know if I should plant them in the dirt or in pots until spring comes. Thank you
i have cavendish and 1 stalk of bananas right now on the tree a frezze is coming tonight should i cut the stalk now?/i live 20 miles north of daytona thank you
Sorry I missed you. Yes, hopefully you did cut it. Unless they’re young fruit, in which case I would attempt to cover.
I just moved to Ponte Vedra Beach. I would love a banana tree with small bananas. Possible? Where can I buy a good tree to get fruit soon?
Can you grow banana trees in pots? If so is there anything I need to do to keep them healthy?
I don’t remember the variety I got but the fruit tasted like vanilla ice cream.
I just read your site after I had already cut the dead leaves off of my banana tree. Should I just leave it as it is or should I cut it down to the ground and start over next year. The stalks seem healthy. Thanks
Leave it as is! Chances are it won’t freeze through and you’ll have it regrow in the spring.
So…..what’s the best to grow and eat (raw) in the Pensacola area?
Probably Raja Puri or Ice Cream.
For the Pensacola area I would suggest California Gold or Namwah. Both are cold hardy and good eating. The problem with the California Gold as well with the Ice.Cream (Blue Java) are finding the real deal. There are many nurseries and individuals selling these plants that are another Musa variety at enormous prices.
I’m having a blast growing bananas for the last couple of years in Panama City, Florida. However, I noticed once the flower starts producing bananas in rolls and one roll of new bananas seedlings falls off no more banana seedlings will survive on that same flower stock. I recently cut the flower off the stock (once a roll of bananas fell off) hoping that the plant energy will develop the surviving bananas on that same stock and will grow large and healthy. Did I do good “David the Good”?
You did fine. The first sets of blooms are the female ones that develop into bananas. Those are followed by male blooms which produce pollen, then fall. Once they start falling, there are no more female blooms.
David we have been anxiously awaiting the ripening of our first large bunch of bananas. There are about 25 on this bunch and the started early summer so we were sure they would have time to mature. Yesterday the stalk was leaning to the ground and I guess I made the mistake and tied it to a larger stalk to help support it. Now the top of the stalk has folded over and is hanging. Should I leave it alone or try to support it? Do you think we will lose the bananas if the circulatory system has been damaged? Any advice would be welcome!
Chances are they will still mature even if you do nothing. Bananas are good at ripening even when the tree collapses. Watch and wait!
Once the stalk produces fruit and ripens should I just cut the tree down to the ground or actually dig it out? I have about 6 to 8 trees in each of my clusters and pups seem to come out like crazy. Is that too many?
Just chop it down to the ground – no need to dig it out. Smaller clumps are generally better for commercial production. If you want to thin, just divide some of those babies and plant them elsewhere.
hello , just came across this page and its great info ! i have a dwarf cavendish about 15 ft tall its november now and no flag leaf in sight , there are 4 pups which i will remove two of. I am just worried what the cold weather will do to the plant here in orlando ? should i just leave it all alone
Definitely enjoyed this article!
I’m trying to figure out how to identify the banana trees in my yard (mainly to know if they’re ornamental or not). We were living here about two years before they showed up. They grow to be about ten feet tall. So far, without a lot of help from me, the bananas have only been about one inch long at the most.
I’m just 20 miles north of Panama City, FL. My Ucecream bananas are fruiting now at end of July 2022, first time since planting over 4 years ago. We have lots of squirrels, birds & other natural species that may eat the ripening fruit. Should we cover the bunch with a bag to protect it from these critters and insects?