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Looking for a big, beautiful statement plant for a well-lit corner or the edge of a south-facing window? Try the tall, majestic banana leaf plant. This impressive houseplant isn't likely to fruit when grown indoors, but its lush, spreading leaves add a tropical touch to any space.
- Botanical Name: Musa spp.
- Common Name: Banana leaf plant, banana tree, plantain tree
- Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: 8-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide when grown indoors
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Soil Type: Rich, well-drained soil
- Soil pH: 5.5-7.0
Banana Leaf Plant Care
Whether you keep your banana leaf plant indoors year-round or bring it outside during the warm months, it's going to need a good amount of water due to its large leaves. Keep the soil evenly moist, and avoid letting it dry out. Be sure to allow the water to drain fully before putting the pot back in its tray, as sitting in water can cause root rot.
You can fertilize your banana leaf plant's soil by top-dressing the pot with organic mulch. During the spring and summer growing season, feed full-size plants weekly with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. If you're growing a dwarf variety, feed the plant monthly.
As it matures, your banana leaf plant will grow suckers, also called pups. If your plant is well cared for and in an appropriately sized pot, the plant should be fine. However, this can also be a sign that the plant is stressed from lack of water or overcrowding its pot. Either way, suckers should be removed—but they can also be propagated into new plants.
Your banana leaf plant's large leaves will collect dust over time. Wipe them down with a damp cloth.
Best Growing Conditions for Banana Leaf Plant
Because your banana leaf plant needs at least six to eight hours of full sun each day, it's best to keep it in a bright, sunny, south-facing window, especially in the winter months when days are shorter.
If possible, bring your plant outdoors once night temperatures have risen above 60 degrees in the spring. Gradually acclimate your plant to full sun, then bring it back indoors when temperatures begin to cool in the fall.
Your plant will grow best at temperatures between 75 and 90 degrees with as much humidity as you can give it. You can increase humidity by grouping your banana leaf plant together with other plants or by keeping it in a small room and running a humidifier nearby. Make sure your plant is kept away from cold drafts or the hot, drying air of a heater.
Banana Leaf Plant Varieties
There are more than 70 species of banana leaf plant in a variety of sizes, shapes, and variegations. For indoor plants, it's best to look for dwarf varieties, which grow anywhere from four to seven feet tall.
Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cuban Red’ features red-tinged leaves, while 'Dwarf Cavendish' is a petite version of the plant that bears the bananas you buy in the grocery store. Another good container cultivar, 'Little Prince', grows 18-inch long leaves flecked with reddish markings when it gets sufficient sun.
How to Propagate Banana Leaf Plants
Banana leaf plants can be propagated by division, or removing pups—new stems around the base of the plant—and potting them into new plants. Wait until pups are at least a foot tall and have developed their own root system before removing them. The best time to divide banana leaf plants is in the spring or fall.
What You Need:
- Mature, healthy mother plant
- A clean, sharp knife
- Appropriately sized container
- Fresh potting mix
- Fill the container halfway with fresh potting mix.
- Carefully remove the mother plant from its pot and examine the roots. Using your fingers, gently loosen the soil around the base of the pup and check that its roots have formed. If not, repot the plant and wait until the pup has established its own roots.
- Use the knife to cut the pup where it connects with the mother plant, leaving as much of the new plant's root system intact as possible. Use your fingers to gently pull the pup's roots away from the mother plant's roots.
- Plant the pup in the new container, adding potting mix so that the soil level is the same as it was in the original container. Repot the mother plant or continue dividing pups.
- Water the new plant well and keep it in a place out of direct sunlight until it perks up again, then care for it as usual.
Common Growing Problems
Watch out for root rot, which can damage or kill your banana leaf plant if it gets waterlogged. Keep in mind that in the winter, it will need less water, so you should be able to cut back on watering during this time of year.
Yellow leaves growing close to the soil line are another sign that the pant is getting too much water. Brown, crispy leaves can indicate sunburn or not enough water or humidity. In terms of pests, keep an eye out for insects like spider mites, aphids,
Potting and Repotting
Plan to repot your banana leaf plant every three years or so, ideally in spring. If you'd like to keep it in the same size pot, you can do so—to let it grow larger, go up one pot size.
Gently remove the plant from its container, loosen the soil away, and trim away about one-third of the root ball, including any rotten roots. Repot the plant in the same container with fresh soil.