How to Grow Darjeeling Banana Trees

Are you looking for a showy plant to add to your tropical-themed garden? Maybe even an indoor tree to keep summer going all year long? Then look no further than the Darjeeling banana tree.

This banana tree boasts large, long, green leaves with deep red undersides. On top, the leaves sport eye-catching dark red striped patterns that are sure to stand out among your plants.

This type of banana tree flowers after three years of growth, and may produce edible fruit if conditions are right. However, unlike your grocery store bananas, they don’t taste all that great. After flowering, the main plant will die off and produce new plants from rhizomes.

The Darjeeling banana tree is a hardy plant and is very wind-resistant. These tropical beauties are also surprisingly hardy against the cold and can be planted in seasonal climates.

Botanical Name Musa sikkimensi
Common Name Darjeeling banana tree, red tiger banana tree
Plant Type Perennial or houseplant
Mature Size 12  to 15 feet high
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Rich and well-draining
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Summer 
Flower Color Deep red or purple
Hardiness Zones 5 to 9
Native Area Asia

How to Grow Darjeeling Banana Trees

Despite its tropical appearance, the Darjeeling banana tree can be grown in many places that aren’t the beach. In fact, these banana trees can even thrive in areas with cold winters.

In a colder climate, give your banana tree a nice sunny spot. In warmer climates, these trees appreciate partial shade. Be sure to give your banana tree plenty of water and well-draining soil. This is important for both outdoor and indoor banana trees.

Maintenance is easy, and you only need to trim away fading leaves and blooms. Very few diseases or pest issues are common to this type of hardy banana tree.

Light

When you think of a banana tree, you most likely think of a tropical climate with abundant sunshine, right? Surprisingly, the Darjeeling banana tree is found among forests in the high altitudes of the Himalayas.

These trees appreciate partial shade to full sun. Some shade will mimic its natural environment in the mountains. At the same time, don’t be afraid to give your banana tree sun. They are still a tropical plant and appreciate a balanced amount of sun. Especially in colder climates, a sunnier spot may be ideal.

Soil

To be able to produce its large flowers and fruit, the Darjeeling banana tree loves rich, nutrient-dense soil.

Adding compost or manure will help give this plant the nutrients it needs. This addition will also help the soil drain, which is very important. Banana trees require plenty of water, but if the soil doesn’t drain well, root rot becomes a real problem.

Water

The Darjeeling banana trees tropical nature shines through not only in its looks but in its water intake as well. Be sure to keep it well watered, particularly when it is hot and sunny. Indoor banana trees also appreciate a consistent watering schedule.

Temperature and Humidity

When you think of hardy plants, banana trees are most likely not the first thing that comes to mind. However, the Darjeeling banana tree is quite hardy and can withstand freezing winters while still coming back strong and healthy the next year. It's considered hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9.

These trees appreciate significant amounts of humidity but beware of excess moisture as the temperatures start to drop. Too much moisture in the winter can be detrimental to the health of the tree.

As the growing season ends and temperatures begin to fall, start tapering off the amount of water you give to allow your tree to go dormant.

To overwinter these trees successfully, cover with a thick layer of mulch or straw, and possibly a tarp. These will help keep the cold and moisture from winter away from your banana tree.

Fertilizer

Banana trees aren’t picky when it comes to fertilizer, so a slow-release, well-balanced fertilizer will do. However, banana trees don’t do well with a lot of salt, so steer away from cheaper fertilizers that may contain it in large amounts. Fertilize monthly during the growing season to help encourage growth.

Propagating Darjeeling Banana Trees

Darjeeling banana trees are easy to propagate. These trees create new plants by producing pups (sometimes also referred to as suckers), which are new young plants.

Simply separate these from the mother plant and you’ve created another banana tree.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Examine the parent plant to find a pup that has 3 or 4 leaves.

2. Using a sharp spade or shears, remove the pup from the mother plant. For potted banana trees, it may be easier to remove the plant from its pot before separating pups.

3. The pup you’re transplanting should have attached roots, along with the corm (a storage organ, like a bulb).

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

Being Grown in Containers

The Darjeeling banana tree does quite well when grown in containers and can even be kept as a large houseplant.

One advantage to keeping your tree in a container is its transportability. If you live in an area with cold winters, you can place your banana tree outside in the summers and simply move them indoors during the winter months.

This banana tree likes loose roots, which promotes healthy growth. If your tree is pot bound its growth will slow.

Choosing a rather large pot will give your tree plenty of room to grow. Anywhere from a 12 to 18 inches round pot will do, depending on the size of your plant.