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  • From: Claude Sweet <>
  • To: North American Fruit Explorers <>
  • Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Bananas
  • Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 10:45:50 -0800


How do you pollinate the female banana flowers when the male flowers only appear after the flower stalk has ceased producing the female flowers?

I have grown edible bananas for years and the cultivars I have grown don't require pollination and even if they are pollinated, rarely will they produce seed. It is this problem which makes the creation of new cultivars such a time consuming process. I forget the exact amount of fresh fruit a hybridizer needs to pulp to extract seeds, but it was somewhere in the hundreds of pounds of fruit per viable seed.

In San Diego's mild winter climate the banana's flower stalks that appear in late summer will cease developing when the night's cool down and growth/fruit maturation commences again when the weather warms up again the following spring/summer. The same is true of our coastal white flesh grapefruit that flowers in the early spring and does not achieve enough sugar to harvest until the following late summer - 18 months from flowering.

Claude Sweet
San Diego, CA

Doreen Howard wrote:

I, too, grow bananas in pots; I'm located at the Wisconsin--Illinois border
in Zone 5a. I also grew them in pots in Zone 4b in Wisconsin. That said, I
also grew bananas in the ground in Zone 9b along the upper Texas Gulf Coast.
So, I have some knowledge. I've never had any disease problems in the
ground or in containers. I attribute this to the fact that I mulched the
in-ground plants heavily with compost and the potted bananas sit in a mix
that is 1/3 compost.

In pots, it takes a banana longer to fruit than if they are in the ground.
To speed this, I take a 2-year-old plant (two years and winters in a
container) and stick it in the ground in mid-May. I place it in a
south-facing area that is flooded with sun and I mulch lightly with compost.
I usually can get a flower pod by mid August. Temperatures below 50F will
stop any plant growth, so be prepared to dig up the flowering plant and pot
it in mid September or so. The containers go in my sunroom with
supplemental light. Fruit yield is NOT as heavy as it is in the ground.
Also, you have to hand pollinate each flower to get fruit indoors.
Outdoors, insects, butterflies and hummingbirds do the job. I've read about
people who have build shelters around their bananas in the ground to produce
more heat until the pollination job is finished. I may try that this year.

About the varieties you have ordered.....they are all good eating except the
Dwarf Orinoco. It's probably the most cold-tolerant of the three and will
flower first, but it's a starchy banana suitable for cooking only.

Good Luck!
Doreen Howard
IL, Zone 5a, where we had snow flurries last night.

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