The Dwarf Cavendish banana is a member of the Musaceae family of plants and is known as an edible ornamental. Although the Cavendish is called a banana "tree", it is actually an herbaceous perennial that grows from a rhizome. The rhizomes can grow several pseudostems (fleshy stalks) that resemble tree trunks. The Cavendish can grow up to 8 feet tall and, if cared for correctly, will produce small, edible bananas after it matures (five to six years).
Dwarf Cavendish prefer warm to hot temperatures (65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit). They are well-suited for outdoor use in hardiness zones eight to 10. Outside those zones, it may be best to plant Dwarf Cavendish in a container that allows the plant to be moved indoors when the temperatures drop. Alternatively, the Dwarf Cavendish can be treated as a tender perennial. If cut back before first frost and protected with a good layer of mulch during the winter months, the Cavendish may return in warm weather.
If you live in the appropriate hardiness zone, you can plant Dwarf Cavendish in the ground. If you are planting more than one, you should plant them at least 8 feet apart to give them space to spread as they mature. Planting near a building or near concrete actually provides the plant with additional warmth, and it can offer some protection from wind (which can burn the Cavendish's leaves). Although banana plants are shade-tolerant, the Dwarf Cavendish should be planted in full sun to ensure the best fruit production.
Dwarf Cavendish plants prefer to grow in warm, loamy soil rich in organic matter, with a 5.5 to 7.0 pH. They can however, grow in clay, sandy or rocky soil, as long as they have adequate drainage. In areas where soggy or flooded soil might be a concern, Cavendish growers are encouraged to plant their banana trees in mounds, building up the soil to provide better drainage.
Dwarf Cavendish grow very quickly. Due to this rapid growth, banana plants require large quantities of fertilizer. A nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) fertilizer with an 8:10:8 ratio is recommended. The fertilizer should be applied monthly.
Dwarf Cavendish are not drought-tolerant plants. Signs of under watering include curling leaves, leaf dropping, and pale green or yellow leaves. For best results, the soil should be kept damp with regular watering, but not wet. Root rot can quickly affect Dwarf Cavendish, which endure standing water, so good drainage is a must.
To achieve the best fruit production, only one pseudostem should be allowed to grow until the Cavendish begins to set fruit. All other suckers (new stem growth) should be pruned as soon as it is noticed. After the Cavendish begins to set fruit, then allow one sucker to develop as a replacement stalk for the next growing season. This is necessary because the fruiting stalk will wither once the fruit has ripened. After harvesting fruit, the main stalk should be cut down to 24 inches above the ground to allow the new stalk to use the plant nutrients for growth.
- Photo Credit bananas on banana tree image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com
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