If you've ever sliced open a banana from a grocery store, you may see little black dots that appear to be seeds. These "seeds" are immature and can't be planted and grown. Most bananas sold in stores are of the Cavendish variety, which are commercial bananas that typically produce no seeds. That's because they've are modified to have three sets of genes, called a "triploid," instead of two to create a seedless variety. The Cavendish banana was named after the 7th Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish. He received a specimen from Mauritius, and then, after cultivating it in England, it became an official cultivar in 1836 and eventually returned to its native tropical regions.
So how does a banana tree reproduce? Commercial bananas are grown as herbs, not trees, which involves propagating the fruit using rhizomes. Rhizomes are stems that grow underground which then shoot out of the ground to produce what are known as "banana pups." Those little pups are taken off the mother plant and transplanted to create new plants, no seeds involved.
However, some non-commercial banana varieties are grown with seeds inside. While they are rarely used for commercial production, it is possible to grow a banana plant from seed. Want to find out how to grow a banana plant in your backyard? Read on to learn how to grow banana trees from seed in this comprehensive guide. Navigate any regulations that your area might have around growing bananas, as they must be bought from a certified, government-approved place that offers disease-free seeds or rhizomes, and welcome large, lush leaves to your landscape. Who knows--you might even get some fruit if you live in the right climate!
Do Bananas Have Seeds?
If presented with the opportunity to venture out into the wilderness and open a naturally grown banana, you would probably find seeds inside. Some varieties have seeds that are so big, they make up a lot of the fruit and make the flesh difficult to chew.
Can You Grow Bananas from Seeds?
So, yes, you can grow some bananas from seeds. Among the many wild banana cultivars that have seeds, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana are two of the species worth trying to germinate. They are parents of certain cultivated types. Travelers with the experience of tasting these fruits fresh and gardeners who have grown them in their backyards tend to prefer the flavor of wild bananas to those found in grocery stores.
How to Grow Bananas from Seeds
Here are 6 simple steps to follow when growing bananas from seed:
Give the seeds a headstart by softening and warming them up. Put the seeds in a bowl and cover them with warm water, changing the water when it cools down. Leave the seeds to soak for 48 hours to help the embryo sprout.
Put seeds in a seed tray indoors. Use potting soil with lots of organic compost and more than half sandy/airy loam. As the seed sprouts and matures, it will need the nutrients provided by the compost.
Sow seeds .25 inches deep in the tray. Sowing seeds outdoors in a bed is not possible unless the soil temperature remains above 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water the tray so that the soil becomes moist, but not soggy. Take care not to drown the seed, only maintain conditions that are damp as the seed settles in and begins to germinate. Soil that is too wet can cause the seed to rot.
Pay attention to temperature
Use a heat mat on a timer to maintain an indoor soil temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the variety of the banana, it may need as much as 19 hours of cool temperatures and only 5 hours of warm, but research your seed to maintain the correct ratio.
Give it time
You can't rush banana seed germination. Depending on your variety, seeds could germinate in two to three weeks or it could happen in two or more months.
How Bananas Produce
The flowering stalk of a banana is called the "banana inflorescence." Emerging from the middle of the "pseudostem" 10 to 15 months after the seed has been sown, it will likely be surrounded by 26 to 32 leaves by then. The banana flowering, or "shooting," process is characterized by flowers appearing in spirals on the axis of the stalk in groups of 10 to 20. Fleshy bracts, purplish-to-greenish in color, eventually shed and give way to the first flowers that are functionally female.
Edible cultivars like the ones listed above have fast-growing ovaries that develop without pollination into clusters of fruits, some of which can produce seeds. The last flowers, functionally male, come next. When you plant rhizomes, the time from shooting to fruiting is typically 180 days depending on the cultivar, temperature, and the moisture of the soil. When grown from seeds, expect to wait 14 months or more.
Grant, Amy. “Germinating Banana Seeds: Can You Grow Bananas from Seed.” Gardeningknowhow.Com, 29 Jan. 2016, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/banana/growing-bananas-from-seeds.htm.
Williamson, Lauren. “How to Grow Bananas and Care for Banana Plants.” Com.Au, 26 Nov. 2020, https://www.bhg.com.au/banana-plants-how-to-grow-bananas.
“HS10/MG040: Banana Growing in the Florida Home Landscape.” Ufl.Edu, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/MG040. Accessed 5 Aug. 2021.
Mehta, P. “Growing Bananas: How to Grow Banana Trees at Home.” Mykitchengarden.Info, 3 July 2014, https://www.mykitchengarden.info/2014/07/growing-banana-plant.html.