How to Grow and Care for Chinese Dwarf Bananas

Chinese dwarf banana trees

ES3N / Getty Images

 

Chinese dwarf bananas (Musa lasiocarpa) are beautiful, yellow-flowering plants that can be grown indoors or outdoors. The plants bloom in the spring or early summer, and its flowers resemble a lotus, supplemented by smaller flowers growing between the bracts. Plants without their flower look like miniature banana trees with large, long, rounded, tropical foliage. After flowering, the main plant dies back and produces pups. While the plant has "banana" in its name, it isn't edible, merely ornamental. 

Common Name Chinese Dwarf Banana
Botanical Name Musa lasiocarpa
Family Musaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 4-12 ft. high, 4-8 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 7-10 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Detail of lotus flower of Chinese banana tree
Detail of lotus flower of Chinese banana tree zevei-wenhui / Getty Images
Chinese dwarf banana tree with foliage
Mature Chinese dwarf banana trees exhibiting foliage and lotus flower Sasimoto / Getty Images

Chinese Dwarf Care

Chinese dwarf banana trees are easy-to-care-for, hardy plants that can tolerate plunging winter temperatures. Though this variety of banana trees is quite hardy, be sure you protect it from winter’s cold, wet conditions. For outdoor gardens or lush poolside foliage, plant your banana tree in the spring and water it regularly, especially early in its establishment. Trim off old leaves and blossoms as the plant grows. The pseudo flower lotus bloom will last all season once it blooms.

Chinese dwarf bananas bloom after two or three years of growth, during which they produce large, round leaves and build their stem up. You may need to wait a few years to witness one of these statement blooms. The plant may develop infestations from various insects, but you can generally avoid this with preventative measures.

Light

Chinese dwarf bananas require abundant sunshine. If you are planting your Chinese dwarf banana tree outside in a very hot climate, opt for a location with some dappled afternoon shade to relieve it from the heat and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. If you are growing it as a houseplant, place it near a window to supply as much natural light as possible.

Soil

These plants need plentiful nutrients to produce their showy flowers, so give your Chinese dwarf bananas rich soil. Be sure that your soil is well-drained. Chinese dwarf banana trees do poorly with soggy roots—making drainage essential.

Water

For the best growth and longevity of Chinese dwarf bananas, water regularly. However, be careful that you don’t overwater Chinese dwarf banana trees since doing so can introduce problems, including root rot and fungus. Particularly in the winter, too much moisture can be fatal. If you keep your Chinese dwarf banana outside in an area with cold winter weather, reduce watering in the fall to help transition into dormancy in the winter.

Temperature and Humidity

Chinese dwarf bananas can be grown in USDA hardiness zones up to 7, where winters dip below freezing. The best temperatures for Chinese dwarf bananas are between 75˚F and 90˚F.

Fertilizer

Because Chinese dwarf bananas benefit from rich soil, adding organic material to the ground is helpful. Supplements like compost or fish emulsion are ideal choices. You can also use a well-balanced liquid fertilizer monthly during its growing season.

Pruning

Chinese dwarf bananas usually require only minimal pruning. Using a sharp knife, you can remove less-healthy suckers or yellowed leaves from the tree. Indoor Chinese dwarf bananas may require additional pruning than their outdoor counterparts. Be sure not to prune healthy leaves and suckers. 

Propagating Chinese Dwarf Bananas

Chinese dwarf banana trees create new plants by producing pups. This makes propagating easy. Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose a pup that has 3 or 4 leaves.

2. Using a sharp spade or shears, remove the pup from the mother plant. You may need to take your banana tree out of its pot to do this.

3. Keep some roots and corm on the pup.

4. Place the pup in its own container with rich, well-draining soil. Water thoroughly.

Potting and Repotting Chinese Dwarf Bananas

If you keep your Chinese dwarf banana tree as a houseplant or in a container outside, you won't need to re-pot often. These plants grow well in containers and like to be root-bound. If your Chinese dwarf banana is outgrowing its container, it's best to re-pot it by dividing its pups and keeping the plant in its current container.

Overwintering

Although the plant is hardy, some precautions will be necessary to help the Chinese dwarf banana cope with cold weather. You may cover the dormant plants with a tarp or loose straw to protect them from frost. Remove the tarp or straw once any danger of frost is gone, allowing spring temperatures to warm the soil and encourage your banana tree to begin growing again.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

The Chinese dwarf banana may be susceptible to various pests and diseases. Beetles, aphids, weevils, and nematodes may affect the plant but can successfully be prevented using a pesticide spray. Diseases like banana wilt, root rot, and bunchy top may also affect your plant. These pests and diseases are more likely to occur in Chinese dwarf bananas that have been overwatered.

How to Get Chinese Dwarf Bananas to Bloom

You may need to wait a few years after initial growth for a Chinese dwarf banana to bloom. You will notice small, glossy flowers growing in between the plant's bracts and its large yellow flowers. These large lotus-like blooms occur in the spring or early summer and last for months. Once this plant blooms, it will form clusters of stems and keep very few leaves. Water your plant appropriately and provide ample sunlight to ensure a full and healthy bloom. Deadhead leaves as necessary, but do not over-prune the plant or remove healthy leaves. 

FAQ
  • How long do Chinese dwarf bananas live?

    The Chinese dwarf banana usually lives up to 15 years.

  • Why can't I eat fruit from Chinese dwarf bananas?

    Bananas from wild banana plants are usually too seedy to eat and are technically berries. However, you can use banana leaves in cooking.

  • How is a traditional, edible-fruited banana tree different than the Chinese dwarf banana?

    Banana trees that bear edible bananas belong to the cultivar
    Musa acuminata 
    ‘Cavendish banana.' They are very vulnerable to disease and can only be planted through identical clones.