When can I ID?

Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, FMay 19, 2014

I acquired four banana pups last fall when a local RV park was going to rip out all theirs because the plants weren't growing fast enough. While I didn't have personal experience I knew all the pups in the clumps were holding back the parents and offered to remove them. They have been in-ground in a sheltered corner since then and doing well. Problem is, nobody at the park knew what type they were or even when they were planted. The tallest is over 3 ft and putting on new growth like crazy. But I would like to get a good ID on them and don't know at what point I should snap a shot. Anyone mind educating me?

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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Well, since no one has answered... or can answer... I'll just link a few pics of my biggest one. If someone is able to ID it, cool. If not, at least the post will trickle down and off the page.

The current height of this one is about 2.5-3 ft to the crown, where the leaves attach to the trunk. At the end of winter it was only a foot high, so it's been putting on some decent growth. And according to a soil analysis I took to my local Extension Office, no amendments are needed or recommended. So the deep mulch of grass clippings topped with pine bark seems to be working so far. As one might notice in the pic, a new layer of grass clippings has been added to keep the organic matter up.

A closer look at the trunk in case that helps with ID. I'm guessing the black stuff on the trunk is a type of mold. So far it doesn't seem to be doing any real harm to the plant, so I haven't bothered fighting it aside from pulling off spent leaves which seem to feed it (the mold).

A view of the crown, again, in case it helps with ID purposes.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Not one to just rest on my laurels, I have been learning a little here and there about banana plants in an effort to keep mine healthy. Even moved the above plants to a sunnier location and they have doubled in size this past growing season. Recently, I was watching someone's video on banana care and I heard something for the first time. I have looked this up and it seems to be well known among banana growers, which surprised me a little that it took so long to hear about it.

The topic that was brought up in the video was the difference between Water and Sword pups. After watching the video and reading up other information, I got to thinking of the few pups I have seen on my plants. All four of them so far have had would be considered, I guess, Water pups. Shortly after breaking soil, they start to leaf out with leaves that resemble the parent plant. The only difference, I would say, is that one guy mentioned that Water pups tend to come up about 6" from the parent plant while Sword pups come up near the base. All four of my pups have been at the base.

While I still do not expect an ID on what variety I have, is it safe to assume that if I do not see a Sword pup next growing season that the variety I have is an ornamental and not one for fruit production?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 3:26PM
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Hermitian(USDA 10b)

No. Much of the water vs. sword pup discussion is mythology. A well-fertilized (in proper N-P-K ratios) Musa rarely produces water pups. With regard to ID, it requires pictures of the mature plant stalk, leaves, leaf ribs, male and female flowers, and fruit. You'll find an excellent group of banana growing enthusiasts by searching for International Banana Society.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2014 at 11:23PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Thanks for the feedback. I thought I had already previously posted that I had learned that it took more info than I had to get an ID, hence my "...do not expect an ID..." comment, but I don't see that imagined post. I will read more about the sword and water pups, not to discount your comment, just to make sure one way or the other. While I use the correct NPK, I admit I do not feed my bananas as heavily or as often as some suggest. I don't do this because I live on a 100ft sandhill. This means I have "extreme" draining soil and nutrients just go through it too quickly and Florida already has a big problem with nutrient leeching into its lakes, rivers and aquifers. So instead I mulch heavily with grass clippings, compost and leaves to feed the plants and improve the soil's structure. I get my soil checked each summer to see what it needs and thus far the only thing needed in the bed with my bananas is a slight boost of magnesium.

I take it from your comment that even if I have ornamentals they will still end up blooming and fruiting? Just the fruit might not be desireable?

Thanks again for your info.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2014 at 4:39PM
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Hermitian(USDA 10b)

In the genus Musa, there are seedless edible hybrids. Several of the hybrids are naturally occurring and many more have been bred by humans over millennia - the bulk of them in the last 100 years. Some are cooking bananas and some are "dessert" (fresh eating) bananas. To add to the confusion in the U.S., consumers think of the former as "plantains" and the latter bananas. The reality in horticulture is that plantains have a different growth form (phenotype) and there are "edible bananas" that you would always cook and never eat fresh.

There are also seeded species and hybrids of Musa grown for foliage. The seeds are the size of peas, numerous, and nearly as hard as gravel.

There is also another genera of bananas in the taxonomic family of bananas (Musaceae): Ensete. They are grown ornamentally and some can become quite large. The flowers are beautiful, and reports are that the fruit is insipid. There are no native cultures that use the fruit for food.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2014 at 5:10PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Wow. More info than I was expecting, but every bit of it welcome. I knew that there had been hybridizing as I have seen some varieties on BBC shows that were grown purely for foliage, but didn't think it was quite so extensive. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2014 at 6:42PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Well, a final note on these as far as I am concerned. The owner of the RV park these came from came down from NY for an inspection. My mother, who works in the office, asked if he knew anything about the banana plants, not really expecting him to. He said that he didn't know much about them other than they were purely decorative. When the manager who planted them asked for permission, she was told they couldn't be fruit-bearing because the park owner didn't want to run the risk of liability issues. Armed with that little info, I am going to start watching a local grower for if/when they get some Ice Cream bananas and relegate these to the wormery and compost bin.

It's funny that prior to acquiring these I had no interest in growing bananas, but now I can't get the idea of biting into my own grown bananas out of my head.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2014 at 10:22AM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Good day Leekle, and good job so far! I commend you on doing so much on your own even without much help. It's great you had the initiative to go and do your on research instead of perching on your hackles as you mention.

As to your banana, I can say with almost 100% certainly that it is assuredly not an ornamental banana. Or at the very least not an ornamental that will not produce edible fruit. I second the recommendation to check out the International Banana Society (free signups) as there is an invaluable amount of knowledge and cultivation advice on the site along with many experienced and helpful growers. But again, it bears the look of a fruiting-type banana so with proper care it should fruit for you in time. It looks as though it maybe be in the Williams/Cavendish family although I'm not sure of the exact variety, maybe a Dwarf Cavendish or Super Dwarf Cavendish.

The mulch is a great idea, and as to fertilization bananas are extremely greedy and hoggish when it comes to feeding. I've had bananas send up roots vertically into horse manure I mulched with, and have read reports of them growing in straight piles of manure. They are very tolerant of "hot" organic manures and respond well to any kind of fertilization. The organic mulches are very good as they also love lots of water (big leaves) but prefer not to be in standing water. Your sandhill with some organic matter and necessary nutrients should be a very good structure for the plants to grow in. If you're concerned about runoff perhaps use slow-release/controlled fertilizer or add to your mulch a stronger organic food source like aged cow/chicken/goat/horse manure? Just some recommendations, your plant is growing well as is so do not feel pressured.

Again, I highly commend you for taking the initiative to go out and find out information on your own along with asking for advice. Most likely the manager was told that they were not fruit-bearing because the informant was only used to the banana being grown in an ornamental fashion, but again I can confirm it is a fruit-bearing banana plant of some fashion.

I will post a photo of one of my Dwarf Cavendish bananas for comparison; as you can see it looks very similar to yours.

Lastly, do not worry about the black spots/markings on your banana stem. They are just a physical expression of the genetics of the plant and not related to any mold or fungi. Some varieties have the black markings and spots (or wine splotching on the leaves or variegation etc etc), some do not. Keeping the dead leaves trimmed and the plant healthy is the best way to avoid any mold and your plant does not appear to have any.

Keep up the good work! (And feed :D),

    Bookmark   January 9, 2015 at 1:37PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

I forgot to mention that the mulch you see in my photo is seaweed, which is covering a layer of horse manure that was laid down. And I also like your pineapple plant, here is a photo of my biggest one which is about 3 years old.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2015 at 1:41PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

And also your Colocasia (Elephant Ear) is very nice! Here's a photo of my Colocasia esculenta about two months ago (last post for now I promise) :)

    Bookmark   January 9, 2015 at 1:49PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Oh wow. A restless night of insomnia results in me checking on a post I had 'put to rest' and I find a response.

Unfortunately, since the time of my last post, I have dug up two of the three trees and replaced them with Basjoo's. They would have all been replaced, but the rest of the plants the vendor I got them from looked like they would be a bit pressed in getting established before our 'cold' hit. It turns out I needn't have worried about it as Florida's winter this year has been very, very mild with only two or three days below 40. However, I still have the largest of the three as well as a few other 'decorative' pups placed in other areas of the garden, so given your "almost 100% certainty", I will leave the biggest and the pups to grow and see what happens. At the very least, I now have two known plants to go along with my mystery 'cavendish' ones.

Thank you for the kind words in regards to my pineapple and colocasia. All these plants are in what I call my 'Tropical Bed'. While I am a tad too far north to grow true tropicals, I have them located on the south side of my house and I'm growing several dense shrubs a bit to the left (west) of this bed to create a windbreak for this area and hopefully end up with a more forgiving micro-climate. All the shrubs are still small so I have had to do a little protecting this winter, but in another year or two they should be doing their job.

Unfortunately, I lost one of my pineapples during the summer. It just suddenly took on the appearance of a rotting plant and died, even though it was just a few feet from the other pineapple which was putting on size like crazy. By all appearances, it looked it like it had fruited and therefor it was done, but I never saw a flower. I did try to induce flowering by surrounding it with sliced apples wedges last spring, but it never did. Luckily, pineapples are easily (and tastily) replaced and two more took its place.

The Colocasias in my yard are all in sunken pots. Colocasia esculenta is considered an invasive plant in Florida, so in order to get certified as a Florida-Friendly yard, I 'planted' two three-gallon pots and then nested the Colocasia pots inside of those. This way the colocasias can pup to their hearts content, but all the pups come up within the boundary of the pot, making for a dense stand of floppy leaves that look like they're part of the bed. They're more or less dormant right now due to one of those few below-40 (and almost below-30) nights, otherwise I would take a picture of how nice and full they tend to look. Perhaps if I remember come this summer I will revisit this post and share a pic.

Thank you for your response, Dan, and thanks again for the kind words.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2015 at 11:51PM
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