Sunday, July 29, 2012

Growing Dwarf Apple Bananas


Just Harvested

The first Dwarf Apple banana I attempted to grow was a young plant from Plant It Hawaii that I purchased at one of the Kahului garden centers. I planted it in a 30 gallon container - don't believe anyone if they tell you a Dwarf Apple banana plant can be grown in a container. It didn't take long for the roots to outgrow the cramped space and the banana plant to begin to die. But, it produced a keiki or baby plant and I cut down the parent and transplanted the banana keiki into the ground.

At 2 weeks from transplanting.

On August 4th, 2011, I planted the keiki in a hole amended with a lot of compost and a generous amount of an organic all-purpose fertilizer. 

At 2 months from transplanting the plant was growing vigorously.

It doesn't take long for a small banana plant to produce corms. If they aren't removed the planting area will become seriously over-grown with keiki banana plants before the parent plant produces any fruit.

I use a pic-ax to remove the corms unless I'm going to transplant one. I like to transplant them into a pre-dug area rather then let them grow next to the parent plant. From my experience, they're rooted better into the ground. If a banana plant isn't properly anchored it can blow over in a strong gust of wind or fall to the ground due to the weight of the bananas.

At 6 months from transplanting, the flower stalk started to emerge.

When the flower stalk began to emerge, the banana plant was over 7 ft tall at the center and the tops of the leaves were over 11 ft from the ground. No wonder it couldn't be contained! Dwarf Apple Banana plants are a lot shorter than the regular bananas like Cavendish.

At 7 months the baby bananas were developing.

At 11 months the bananas were getting heavy but the tree
appeared to be well rooted in the ground.

What I especially like about growing dwarf bananas is that everything about them is manageable. I don't have to recruit anyone to help me cut down the banana stalk or to cut down a 20 ft tall plant after the bananas are harvested. A bunch of Cavendish bananas can weigh 50 lbs and usually requires a ladder in order to cut them down. I didn't weight the Dwarf Apple bunch after I cut it but I would guess the weight to be around 25 lbs.

And on July 28th, 2012, almost 1 year from transplanting, the top bananas began to turn yellow - the bananas were ready to harvest.

I decided to plant dwarf varieties of bananas because my patch of Cavendish bananas were way too tall and blocking my neighbors view. I cut them down and dug them out twice but they grew back. Eventually I had to hire a landscape person to dig them out completely. Bananas should be managed and maintained or they become over-grown and invasive like ginger.

Bananas are bothered by several pests and diseases. Aphids and white flies go for the older leaves. I hose the under sides of the lower leaves with water to remove as many aphids as I can and I cut the leaves off as they get older. There's an aphid that causes "banana bunchy top virus". So far, none of the banana plants I've grown over the last 6 years have had this disease. If my plants were to contact this virus I would dig the infected plants out completely but I would not use the recommended toxic herbicides.

There are differing opinions about fertilizing bananas. I've been giving the plants a generous amount of an organic all-purpose fertilizer and compost once a month. Supposedly, fertilizer encourages the plants to grow taller. In my opinion, the quality of the fruit improves when the plants are well watered and well fertilized.

When the bananas are harvested the hands tend to ripen all at once. There are several ways to preserve a banana harvest. I freeze ripe peeled bananas for making smoothies and banana bread or slice them vertically and dehydrate them. Another way to use perfectly ripe, unpeeled bananas is to grill them and then slit the husk or skin open vertically on one side and eat the cooked fruit from the husk with a spoon. Grilled bananas are so ono especially over vanilla ice cream.

16 comments:

  1. Nice post. At the community garden, the bigger trees are often propped by a forked stick about 5-6 feet tall, to keep the banana trees from toppling over as the fruit gets heavier and heavier.

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  2. Aloha, Jane,
    If one could build a container that is 3' tall, 3' wide and 4' long [that's about 230 dry gallons], do you think that might allow a banana to grow to fruition, provided it received the regular feedings you outlined? Obviously, the keiki would have to be removed regularly. Your stalk of bananas look so ono!

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  3. Hi Not So Simply Single! Mahalo for your compliment!

    Hi Courtney! I hadn't thought about using a stick to brace the bananas - that's a great tip. I used to have problems with the cavendish falling over and they were so heavy. Dwarf apples are a picnic compared to cavendish!

    Hi Pomaika'i! Hope your garden is up and growing! It might work in a container that size. The roots and what they call the mat do spread out a few feet from the trunk. It might need a lot more water in a container and you might have to anchor the container to keep it from falling over in the wind or with the weight of the bananas.

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  4. Thats a beautiful looking plant you got there. The one my grandmother had in her garden was as big as yours and the harvests used to be so big that even after cooking up all types of banana breads, muffins, pies and eating them just raw as they were we had enough to share with all my grandmother's neighbors too.

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  5. Hi Sri! They produce a lot of fruit and they ripen up so fast that I have to give them to neighbors too. I have a small package ready to mail to you with lots of pepper seeds. I'll email you when I send it.

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  6. My dad tried to grow a dwarf apple banana and it was success. It bear a lot of fruit. We can't help ourselves with it.

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  7. I read somewhere that when the banana start to come out that the flowers need to be removed. Is it from the banana itself or when the process is finally complete? Please let me know.

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  8. Hi Anonymous! I leave the flowers intact but some banana growers remove them. Here is a great source for information on growing bananas - if you scroll down about 3/4 of the page the author addresses this topic. http://webebananas.com/culture.html

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  9. What do you do with the plant after harvesting ripe bananas? do you want to cut the branch off or just let it be? how often do they bring fruits?

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  10. After the bananas are harvested the banana plant is cut down as it will only produce 1 stalk of bananas. For Cavendish and Dwarf Apple varieties of bananas, it takes 1 year from a small banana start or sucker to produce a ripe bunch of bananas.

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  11. Thanks for taking such great notes and the keiki. I feel like you've given me a great head start toward healthy manageable plants.

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  12. Hi Virginia! I hope the banana keikis are growing - if not I still have more popping up that I can give you just email me. The dwarf red just started to flower finally after 1 year!

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  13. I just moved into a house that has about 8 of these trees in the back yard. If anyone still reads this forum, and knows about harvesting these, can you please email me at mikespence127@yahoo.com. Do you have to cut the tree down after harvesting?

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  14. Hi, Im looking for pups of Hawaiian apple plants, do you happen to have any? Im in cali. let me know if you do what your price is thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I moved last year and now I don't have bananas. Try looking on ebay.

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