ReRoot America: How to Water
Early Stages: Immediately after planting, you will have to water more than you typically would water.
Summer: During the summer and the warmer months of the year, make sure to water the banana plant at least once every 2-3 days. Access to a sprinkler system may or may not provide sufficient amounts of water when it is hot outside.
Winter: Depending on how cold your climate gets, you may only have to water once every week or less. Your goal is to avoid making the plant sit in water so that it won’t rot.
Although it is better to plant in sunlight, if you plant in the shade you may have to water less. You can test the soil by sticking your finger in the ground near the plant. If the soil is moist for about an inch into the earth, you can wait to water the plant. If the soil is dry, you need to water the plant and continue checking on the soil every 2-3 days. Make sure to aim your water toward the roots and avoid watering the leaves.
Make sure NOT to overwater and leave the plant in a pool of water. Overwatering can kill the plant and or cause rotting of the root. An easy sign of over-watering or under-watering can be found in the leaves. Not enough water will cause the leaves to wilt and turn crispy while too much water will cause the leaves to wilt and be soft and limp.
One of the most destructive banana plant diseases is the Yellow Sigatoka Leaf Spot. The disease begins with small, light yellow spots or streaks parallel to the side vein of the leaf. The disease can only infect young banana leaves. Ascospores are released after rain and are spread by wind and rain. The most important factors for disease development are moisture on young leaves, caused by dew, rain or overhead watering, together with high temperatures. Hot and humid weather encourages rapid disease development. There is an incubation period of at least a month between infection and the appearance of leaf spots. Later, as the disease progresses, the spots elongate and turn brown with light gray centers. The spots elongate more and the tissue around them turns yellow and dies. Adjacent spots coalesce to form large lesions. The pathogen survives in the infected banana leaves and spreads via the wind. The period between fungicide applications depends on the climate and the amount of yellow Sigatoka already present. In the wet season, apply a protectant fungicide every three to four weeks. Either mancozeb (Dithane) with mineral oil or chlorothalonil (Bravp) can be used. Only apply fungicides in amounts recommended on the label. Infected and dead leaves will produce fungal spores as long as they are left on the plant. Early removal of diseased leaves is essential. Avoid removing all diseased leaves during the hot dry season because of their beneficial shading effects.
No matter how unattractive the leaves are, if they are green, they stay. Yellow, brown etc. you can cut off. Banana leaves may begin to look very tattered after heavy winds. This is perfectly normal. The banana leaves split into strips allowing wind to pass through more easily. If the leaf stayed in one large piece it would be easier for the plant to be knocked over or damaged.
When cutting the leaves, be sure to have a sharp set of gardening scissors. DO NOT pull or rip the rest of a leaf off if there is some left over. It will tear all the way down the stem and damage the plant.
These terms will be used throughout the blog, so it is a good idea to become comfortable with them or keep this photo handy.
Sucker or Pup: the baby banana plant that we will separate from the Pseudostem (mother plant) when it is ready. These “pups” we then use to plant in other areas. When transporting pups make sure they are very well watered both before, during and after transport.
Corm: Corms serve as a storage organ of which the banana plant can use to survive adverse hot and cold weather conditions. Until there is no corm left behind, the banana plant is still alive! Banana plants are fighters. You can cut it down to the corm and replant it or even cut up the corn a few times to create more than one plant. When cutting the pup off from the mother plant please be sure to take its corm along with it.
Hand: Another word for the first bunch of bananas that grow on the banana plant.
Hardiness Zone Maps help to show what type of plant will best survive in each area. Typically when purchasing a plant, they will provide you with a number. This number helps you to see how hardy the plant is and what location it will do the best in. For a precise number, refer to this link http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ and type in your zip code. (click for larger images)
The process of separating a banana plant from the mother is a bit complicated. Here are a few things to check off before even thinking about separating your banana plant:
- The pup is at least a foot tall. If it isnt’, your pup is not developed enough yet to be separated from the mother plant
- Pick out a spot for you banana plant
- If you are in zones 7-9 you should separate the pups during the months of or in between July and September. The plants need enough time to develop before it gets cold.
There are two types of pups:
- Water Sucker- as the name implies, this pup sucks up a lot of water. It has very well developed roots and will be the faster growing of the two.
- Sword Sucker- this pup does not have as well developed roots or corm as the water sucker does. This plant will grow slower and has a higher mortality rate than the water sucker. (click for larger image)
Separating Step by Step:
- Shovels (even small thin ones) are often too large and not the best for separating pups. There is a greater chance of damaging the plant when using a shovel. The best tool to use is a digging bar with a flat tip (avoid sharp tips). You can find them at almost any hardware store for about $15- 20.
- Focus on where you will separate the plant, how deep you will go etc. If you do not get enough roots the plant may die. Refer to this diagram to see the angle at which the digging bar should hit the roots. (click for larger image)
- Once separated the plant will be in shock. You need to either immediately pot the plant and or put it in its new location. The plant needs to be heavily watered.
Don’t be concerned if:
- your plant starts to grow slower than it was growing before. All banana pups will grow slower immediately after being separated from its mother plant (its in shock). Once it recovers though, it will continue on normally.