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Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

Posted by colinm z9a Phoenix AZ (colinmonaghan@cox.net) on
Fri, Aug 4, 06 at 15:49

Hi Folks, I am having problems getting bananas growing in Phoenix. Last year I ordered a Williams Hybrid and a Dwarf Red from Green Earth Publishing in Melbourne, Florida. I planted them straight in the ground. I had prepared the bed where they were to grow, meticulously trying to get every trace of Crab grass root and Bermuda root out of the soil. I had dug down about 2 feet and combined a veritable concoction of composted forest mulch, deodorized steer manure, gypsum, potting compost and general fertilizer 50/50 with soil. It was a lot of hard work in a bed of roughly 10 foot length by 4 feet wide. The Dwarf Red died within a week and the Williams about 2 months later. The bed had become covered in Crab Grass once more, before the Williams died. This year I ordered the same two again and took Ted's advice (Green Earth's gardener)to plant them in 6 inch pots. He recommended letting them dry out between waterings to encourage root growth. The Williams was the first to perish this time. The Dwarf Red died back alot but after I gave it a good soaking it seemed to want to live again. I ordered yet another Williams and this time a Sweetheart. The latter is supposed to be one of the easiest to grow. Again I planted them in six inch pots in composted forest mulch with some small stones in the bottom of each pot for drainage. Ted's theory was that I may have over-watered previous plants and that led to root rot. Both of these have also died back somewhat but are starting to painfully throw out centre leaves. Ultimately I can never be certain whether they are showing signs of dehydration or over-watering. As you will all appreciate our summers in Phoenix are un-forgiving with un-relenting heat. So at the moment I have 3 banana plants, a Dwarf red, a Williams and a Sweetheart all just about hanging in there. I have them in pots still and have started feeding them with a once weekly watering of miracle grow. The bed that I am hoping to eventually plant them into is behind a 6 foot wall. The aspect is east facing, which will afford them protection from the afternoon sun. I am debating whether or not to use drippers to individually supply each plant, or whether to keep them going under the existing sprinkler system. This is part of the lawn arrangement and set to turn on at around 5.30 a.m. for 10 mins every morning. If any of you have any experience with growing bananas, or any suggestions, I'd be really pleased to hear from you. Regards, Colin.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

I grew banana in CA, never here. It required a lot of water and fertilizer. By a lot I mean bog like soil and about 2 pounds of fertilizer per month. It grew very fast, got to about 8' and flowered just as I was moving out here :-(

I know banana generally grows where humidity is high. Could be the low humidity is causing a problem. Maybe misting for several hours a day would help.

In their native environment the ground is always soaked. So I don't really understand the drying out between watering thing.

Once growing I think you'd also have to shelter it from wind. They tend to blow over and their leaves shred easily plus the drying effects.


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RE: Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

I have several different kinds of bananas and have no problem. They grow in full sun and produce fruit. Lots of water and regular fertilizer is a must during the growing season. I ususally buy fully rooted nursery grown plants but have bought some over the internet that come bare root. These I have had problems with these and lots of trial and erro so when I do mail order I always pot them up first and let then grow for about a 6mo to a year to have success before planting. Now to avoid the trouble I just buy from a nursery. Tropica Mango always has lots of different kinds and not that expensive considering what you pay on line after shipping and especially if it dies too. There are lots of people that grow bananas in Phoenix. Lots of resorts have them in the landscape, I see them at Wet N' Wild in Mesa, at the Maricopa County Extension demo garden of the AZ Rare Fruit growers at 43rd place and broadway, on 8th and countryclub in Mesa, Roser and 7th St. Phoenix. Don't give up

Here is a link that might be useful: Alex's Tropica Mango Nursery


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RE: Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

Hey Colin. The problem we have is twofold: soil is generally lacking in sufficient organic matter, and our lack of humidity is a major problem for young bananas. If youre starting with smaller bananas, here is what Ive been successful with: Begin the plants indoors this time of year. Grow them as large as you can before putting them outside. Larger plants have a larger root system to can compensate (well, somewhat) for our lack of humidity. The previous suggestion to use a locally grown plant is also helpful. Plants that come from a higher humidity environment are going to have trouble adapting.
I typically lose plants in late June or early July. Compacted clay soils and low humidity overwhelm the plant, and no amount of watering will allow them to re-hydrate.
Re-visit your soil amendments, and allow them to decompose for the next few months. Amend again before planting with cactus and palm mix. Two feet may have been insufficient. Try going a foot deeper, and ideally, as deep as your back will allow you to go. =)
Meantime, find a plant that you want, hopefully locally grown, and set it outside on humid or mild days, but otherwise in a sunny indoor spot. Water half strength fertilizer twice a month. Come spring, once soil temps are above 60, you can plant. Use a shade for the first month, or until the plant becomes well established. Water as needed, and use the shade cloth on very hot days, and mist the plant as you are able. This will help tremendously, and once established, the plant will do well. Its getting it past that first summer that is the hardest part. Come winter, the plant will defoliate, but will spring back with the warm temps. I still get pretty massive sunburn on mine during the hottest days, and they seem to stop growing above 105. Id recommend protection from the most intense sun.
Until sept., give them all the fertilizer they can handle (once established), and make sure the soil drains very, very well. With insufficiently amended soil, the water that they need and high temps breed bacteria and fungus also, so watch out for root rot on your smaller plants. If they dont spring back on humid or overcast days, or at least a little bit at night, then take it back inside in a pot with well draining soil.
Hope this helps. Once established in good soil, bananas do really well here. Generally, it takes two years to get fruit, but they pup nicely, and make an awesome addition to the landscape.
DD


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RE: Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

Thanks for the good info guys.


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RE: Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

I grow mine in a raised bed that I built. It is located between my house and against a wall that goes into my back yard. My house is side-entrance so between the house and a wall that goes to my backyard on the other side. Late day exposure is to the west but the roots and raised bed they are behind a wall so their stalks never seen direct beating sun.

I used cactus mix, some peat, perlite, and Gro-mulch. No problems here. Drainage is great from the raised bed. They send up pups constantly.

Make a friend that grows bananas and they can give you all the bananas you want.

I grow Mysore, Manzana, and Rajapuri. The Rajapuris are the best and more wind resistent and far better looking. They also fruit sooner.

I don't get burnback in my area that much where they totally defoliate. I've had some damage in winter, but not that.

You guys in zone 9a (USDA), are you sure about that? Unless you are in Tucson or a very outlying area, Phoenix has graduated to zone 10 in the city center (expands every year now) or at least 9b in the metro area. There are 'cold pockets' though. I prefer just using sunset zones where Phoenix is 13 and Tucson is zone 12.

Good luck.


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RE: Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

Thanks to all of you for giving me your advice. I think that what I can glean from your postings is that there are a combination of factors involved with getting bananas successfully established here in Phoenix. Mine were mail-order from Florida and the advice about keeping them more humid to begin with was interesting ( the point, however obvious, had escaped me). I think the point made about limiting direct sun for the first few months of growth was a pertinent one. I believe that mine may have had less of an issue of being under or over-watered and perhaps sufferred more from being scorched by intense sunlight, albeit just the morning-early pm exposure. The leaves of my young bananas look like someone actually took a torch to them. I have invested in some shade cloth and will erect a shade cloth frame over them. The advice about 'digging deeper' was an 'eye opener'. I am still plagued with Crab and Bermuda grass. The latter is initially easier to get rid of, both of them are completely invasive and a serious problem. A raised bed seems like a good idea, but since it would be adjacent to a lawn I know that it would have to be almost hermetically sealed! I am tempted to go in for a 'complete ground kill' solution. However I have no confidence that this would adequately succeed and have no wish to poison the soil or the water-table. These grasses are driving me nuts - if I'm not nuts enough already! Finally 'good drainage and well conditioned, fertile soil' were key to mention. The thoughts of digging down another foot, is not on my wish list but I recognise that this would be an advantage. I shall look at this too - maybe hire a soil tiller - rotivator. I used to use a perlite-vermiculite mix to germinate seedlings for my NFT hydroponic system back in the UK. I haven't seen either of these here yet, then again I haven't looked for them either. Thanks again to everyone and feel free to email me or post further. Regards, Colin. colinmonaghan@cox.net


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RE: Getting Bananas Started in Phoenix

You guys have me looking around. I saw banana in a backyard I think around 7 St & Northern. Maybe 5-6 plants about as tall as the house. Looked very healthy except for the split leaves which would be pretty normal. Young plants would have been protected from the sun until they got above the roof line.

I don't get the poison route for grass unless used in combination with a structural change like laying sod, installing barriers, etc... Otherwise it's right back. I've tried it a couple of times and it seemed like more work than weeding, at least in small areas.

A thick organic mulch would help the banana and slow grass expansion.


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