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MUSA

Image of Musa

James Burghardt

Family

Musaceae

Botanical Name

MUSA

Plant Common Name

Banana

General Description

Bananas and plantains belong to the genus Musa which encompasses about 30 species of giant, tropical, tree-like herbs. Most originate from southeastern Asia and northern Australia. Bananas are one of the world's most important food crops and are grown in warm, moist regions globally.

The clump-forming plants develop large, upright, fast-growing stems with enormous long flat leaves that emerge from aggressive rhizomes (lateral underground stems). The stems are made up of huge tightly wrapped leaf bases. Long upright or pendulous flower spikes can appear at any time of the year and are lined with clusters of tubular flowers. The flowers are followed by groups of cylindrical banana fruits. These fruit clusters are called “hands.” Each stalk dies after flowering and fruiting. The clumps regenerate and spread by producing numerous new shoots or “pups” from the rhizomes. Cultivated bananas are all seedless hybrids.

The various Musa species have been long cultivated and there are many complex hybrids. Most of the edible types are hybrids of Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The progeny have been grouped according to their genetic heritage from the two parent species, with “A” representing Musa acuminata and “B” representing Musa balbisiana. The letters “A” and “B” can be used in combination and repetition depending on the plant's genetics. The number of times the letters are repeated indicate how many sets of chromosomes are in the cells of the plant. Two letters such as “AA” or “AB” designate a diploid, the natural genetic state of most plant cells. Three letters “AAA” specifies triploids (having one extra set of chromosomes), and the tetraploids (having two extra sets of chromosomes) would be noted as “AAAA” or in combination, as with “AAAB.” Plants with extra sets of chromosomes tend to be more vigorous and produce larger fruits in greater quantities.

Bananas require warm, fertile soil with consistent moisture. Full sun exposures are best and a long growing season is needed for flowering and subsequent fruits. Avoid sandy, nutritionally poor soils unless compost, mulch or other fertilizers can be placed over the root zone. These plants are often root-hardy in warmer temperate zones and rejuvenate when temperatures warm after spring frosts.

Bananas can produce fruit year round. Once plants set fruit, the old stalk is removed to allow the pup plants more room and resources to grow. Plant Musa in protected locations as wind readily shreds the large, thin leaves. They are great in greenhouses and conservatories where not hardy. There are even dwarf varieties suitable for large containers. The exotic and tropical foliage of Musa make them a beautiful choice for the landscape, containers or home orchard.

Characteristics

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern Asia, Australia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow, Red, Green, Purple, Orange

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Feature Plant, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Mixed Border, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes