by Doug Schuster
The most popular question at Kingwood’s greenhouse in 2016 was “Where are the bananas?” As we continue to navigate the utilization of a 1960’s greenhouse facility in the 21st century, modifications are needed from time to time. What’s always been lacking in the greenhouse is a “people space” an area that allows for us to accommodate larger groups and even have small workshops within the greenhouse. To accomplish this, we had to move some plant material around including the banana trees. We decided to relocate the banana trees from the back of the tropical greenhouse to the front where they have a much larger space to grow, and they are thriving in that space. For the first time in my tenure, we have two stalks that have set fruit at the same time. The banana trees in their original location never met their full potential; they were in narrow ground beds with limited space to grow.
Growing banana plants has fascinated me since my first experience with them in college. They do not grow as most plants do, most plants have several growing points (apical meristems) whereas bananas have only one. The growing point of a banana is actually down in the base of the plant, near the soil line, even if the banana tree is 15 feet tall the leafs at the top of the plant are originating from the base. For this reason, you can cut a banana tree down to just a few inches above the ground, and within hours you will see the central part of the stem begin to grow again.
The only time the growing point of the plant moves from the base is when it sets flower. When a banana tree sets flower, the growing point for that stalk is in flower. Once the stalk flowers and produces bananas, that stalk then dies because it no longer has a growing point.
If you are looking to grow a unique and uncommon plant that is relatively easy to grow, I recommend you try a banana tree.