Dividing Banana Pups – Can You Transplant A Banana Tree Pup


By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Banana plant pups are actually suckers, or offshoots, that grow from the base of the banana plant. Can you transplant a banana tree pup to propagate a brand new banana tree? You certainly can, and dividing banana pups is easier than you may think. Read on to learn more.

How to Divide Banana Plants

According to North Dakota State University Extension, dividing banana pups is the preferred methods of propagation. Before you begin, ensure the main banana plant is healthy and has at least three or four good sized offshoots to anchor it to the soil.

The first and most important step is to select a pup that is large enough to survive when separated from the mother plant. Small pups, known as buttons, won’t have sufficient roots to make it on their own. Don’t attempt to propagate pups less than 12 inches (30 cm.) tall. Shoots measuring 2 to 3 feet (61-91 cm.) tall and a minimum of 2 or 3 inches (5-8 cm.) in diameter are more likely to develop into healthy plants.

It also helps to look for sword suckers, which have narrower leaves than water suckers. Sword suckers have a larger root system, while water suckers are more dependent on the mother plant for survival.

Once you’ve identified the pup you intend to divide, sever it from the parent with a sharp, sterile knife, then use a shovel to dig the corm (rhizome). Lift the pup and corm up and away from the mother plant as you carefully separate the roots. However, don’t worry if a few roots are broken; the most important thing is to get a good-sized chunk of corm and a few healthy roots.

Transplanting Banana Plant Pups

Your banana pup is now ready to be planted away from the mother plant. Plant the pup in well-drained soil that has been amended with compost or rotted manure. Don’t plant too deeply; ideally, the pup should be planted at the same depth it was growing while still attached to the parent plant.

If you’re planting more than one pup, allow at least 2 to 3 feet (61-91 cm.) between each one. If you live in a warm climate where the trees will produce fruit, allow at least 8 feet (2+ m.).

You can also plant the pup in a pot filled with fresh, well-drained potting mix. Be sure the container has drainage holes.

Water the pup deeply, then apply a layer of mulch around (but not touching) the pup to keep the soil moist and moderate temperature.

Don’t be worried if the leaves wilt and initial growth is rather slow. In fact, you can direct energy to root development by trimming all but the top leaf, as the leaves will probably wither anyway. It also helps to keep the newly transplanted pup in the shade for the first few days.

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I do have two of the same banana trees in the back getting morning sun. Houston's morning sun can be harsh, but still, they are the same age, only about 2 ft tall and never reproduced. They just don't get enough sun back there. It's pretty though.

I will dig up the pot before it really starts growing and try to untangle the roots (called 'unapting"?) and get it centered in the pot as it also tends to tip over. Thank you.

Bananas only bloom once. They belong in the family with Heliconias, Ravenella, Etlingers and other gingers. its a once and done.

The normal life cycle of a fruiting banana takes 18+ months to complete. This is why many people in the USA never get bananas. their natural 18 month cycle does not fit with the 12 month seasonal weather schedule here. Of course you can get bananas if you never allow your plant to lose more than just a few leaves in winter.

In commercial banana production, the hands of bananas are cut off white the fruit is still green by cutting down the entire bearing tree. The bananas are then shipped to market green and allowed to ripen 'off the tree' because shipping ripe bananas = a lot of fruit loss.

In home banana production most people leave the fruit on the tree until its mostly ripe, cut off the hand, and leave the mama up while she slowly naturally declines and dies back then they remove her.


How to Prune a Banana Tree

Banana plants aren’t actually trees: They do not have woody trunks. Technically, banana plants are herbaceous perennials, albeit the largest flowering herbs in the world. Some varieties get over twenty feet tall. Learn how to prune a banana tree and why it is important to do so in this blog post.

Left to itself, a banana plant consists of a thicket of several stalks (called pseudostems). A mature stalk can produce a cluster (called a bunch) of banana fruits (technically they are berries) arranged in rows (called hands) only one time – then that stalk dies. But, numerous offshoots (called suckers or pups) have been popping up all around the mother stalk, so the actual plant never really dies: All of those suckers, or “stalks-to-be”, are parts of the same plant.


What Are Banana Plant Pups: How To Separate Banana Tree Offsets - garden

The following is a step-by-step guide to cutting a pup from a mother plant. This method is very quick and easy and I'm sure if you give it a try, you will be much more likely to move pups around, as you'll find it fast and fun. The result will be many more banana plants colonizing your property, much sooner. And you know what that means. So follow along with me as we seperate a Pitogo huli from it's mother.

Tools required - deep scoop, short handle shovel and a sledgehammer (I usually use a much bigger sledge than this though!).

This is where we will be working. This plant has been growing quite slow for me, so I figure if I remove the pup and move it over a bit, the two stalks won't be competing for the limited nutrition in that area where they are together now. I'll also amend the soil before I'm done.

Positioning of the cut. Place your scoop close to the mother plant that will remain. Notice the pseudostem is nested right alongside the handle of the shovel, touching. The handle is also used to fold the leaf away from your line of sight. Now position the angle of your cut by moving the handle where you hold the shovel away from the mother plant. This gives you an angle that will cut a little bit under the mother plant, or at least cut away from the base of the pup, leaving the most valuable corm material to remain on the pup. This step is important! Line everything up properly.

Sink the blade. With one hand, hold the handle of your shovel in place so you do not tip your shovel and hit your head with the handle when you smack the scoop with your sledgehammer. If you do not hold the shovel steady, it may strike your head violently. Holding the handle in place also makes sure you keep the angle you want.

Here you see the blade is sunk almost to it's base. The corm is severed and now we can lift the pup up and away from the mother.

A look down the incision and we can see the umbilical has been cut. This is when you pump the handle to pry the corm and roots up and out of the ground.

A perpendicular cut is made in this case to assist with popping the sucker out of the earth. Don't worry so much about the roots, enough will remain. What we're after is corm, the potato-like white mass under the stalk.

Now we take a break and walk to get some compost. I use and recommend the UCT-9 compost bins manufactured by Urban Garden Center.

I use the lid as a tray to dump some compost on to carry it back to the planting site.

We're back with some compost.

Using your hands, mix the compost with the surrounding soil and press it down into the hole where the pup was. The roots from the mother plant will bury themselves into the compost and the plant will get a boost of energy for some time to come.

After returning from a trip to the compost barrels, we prepare a new planting hole not far away from the mother in the same manner, amending the soil with additional compost.

The finished product. Now we have two happy Pitogo banana plants, they won't even know what hit them. You can water at this point or just wait for rain.

The whole process can be done in under five minutes.
If you follow these steps, you will have great success in propogating bananas and you will see that by doing this often with your plants whenever the chance arises, the long term effect is plenty of plants that will grow taller, faster, and will be spreading the yard as fast as you can move them around.


Update: there were also some videos added on page three of this thread showing the pry bar method. Pasting the videos here as well:


Fertilizer

Fertilize bananas using any type of high nitrogen organic fertilizer. Bananas are heavy feeders so we suggest that you fertilize every couple of months After your initial watering.

Light and Temperature Requirements

Grow bananas in BRIGHT LIGHT. 12 hours of bright light are ideal for most varieties. bananas prefer Constant WARMTH this is very important – the ideal night temperature would be 67 F. The day temperatures would be in the 80s. Ideally you would have fresh circulating air.
If you are in a more northern climate you may bring them during the winter. rhizome / rootball and all, remove the leaves and store the plant, dry, in a heated area over winter. To assure survival, it is easier to dig small suckers, severed very close to the parent rhizome, and pot them for overwintering indoors. Spacing should be at around 4′ this will produce a stand or patch.

Planting

We recommend planting Bananas in patches or groves, placing them together in a stand. The shade from a stand of bananas is generally cooler than regular shade, a well placed hammock will do nicely on a hot summer day.

After fruiting, the mother plant which bore should be cut off near ground level, as it can never produce again. If cut into three or four pieces with each piece then being split lengthwise the old trunk will quickly decompose. Use the remains in a mulch bed or compost heap.

After a major cold period in which there is no doubt that bananas were killed to the ground, cut the plants off at ground level within a couple of weeks of the freeze. Dead bananas are not very attractive and they are much easier to cut off before decomposition starts. banana leaves can be removed after they break and hang down along the trunk.

Most bananas will produce the flower bud within 10 to 15 months of emergence as a new sucker, depending mostly on variety and extent of cool/cold weather. Most production north of the lower Rio Grande Valley occurs in the spring and summer following a particularly mild winter.

Banana Propagation

Bananas can be propagated from pups which are the off shoots from mature plants. These off shoots will form new Rysomes thus creating a new plant. Commonly referred to as a pseudo stem or trunk, bananas possess a trunk-like feature composed of fiber ridden leaves.

Pests and Diseases

When it comes to Pests and Diseases Bananas have few troublesome pests or diseases outside the tropics. Root rot from cold wet soil is by far the biggest killer of banana plants in our latitudes.

General Information

Broad, long, graceful leaves and rapid growth-commonly reaching full size in just a few weeks-make banana a favorite plant for providing a tropical look to pool and patio areas. The development of bananas following a frost-free winter is a source of both pride and amazement to those unfamiliar with banana culture.

Bananas are a tropical herbaceous plant consisting of an underground corm and a trunk (pseudostem) comprised of concentric layers of leaf sheaths. At 10 to 15 months after the emergence of a new plant. There are thousands of banana varieties and some species reach up to 50 feet in height.

Additionally Banana flowers appear in groups (hands) along the stem. These hands are covered by purplish bracts which roll back and shed as the fruit stem develops. The first hands to appear contain female flowers which will develop into bananas (usually seedless in edible types). The number of hands of female flowers varies from a few to more than 10, after which numerous hands of sterile flowers appear and shed in succession, followed by numerous hands of male flowers which also shed. Generally, a bract rolls up and sheds to expose a new hand of flowers almost daily.

The most common names for bananas are Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana, banana, plantain, banano, platano, guineo, cambur, English, plantain, horse banana, platano, Musaceae, Cavendish and Musa.

Banana Sap

Banana sap is a more like water than sap but will slightly stain clothes if your not careful. However some find it to be a mild irritant.

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Compact Varieties

If you’re thinking that a six-metre-tall banana plant is a bit overwhelming, there is a much more petite species you could try: Musa lasiocarpa (or, according to some botanists, Musella lasiocarpa). New on the market in 2000, this species from Yunnan, China, was introduced to our area by Ray Mattei, of Tropic to Tropic Plants in Delta. The Chinese dwarf banana is thought to be as hardy as Musa basjoo but only grows to about one-and-a half metres in height. Its diminutive stature makes it easier to site and simpler to manage, and it even grows in light shade. This may be just the banana for folks who live in colder parts of B.C. it could be grown in a container and brought into a frost-free place for winter. Looking ahead, Ray will introduce Musa sikkimensis (formerly called M. hookeri) in the next year or so. Native to Northern India’s Sikkim and to Bhutan, this species reaches about four-and-a-half metres. According to the Flora of Bhutan, the pseudotrunk has a reddish tinge and the unfurling leaves are purplish. The bracts are deep purple to crimson, and the fruit is said to be edible, although it does have seeds. This promises to be an exciting find for banana lovers.


Potting Up Your Baby Banana Plant

Now that you have successfully removed the pup, you can pot it up into it’s own container. Banana plants aren’t picky about the their soil, but they do prefer a rich, organic and fast draining soil mix. You can use general potting soil with some perlite or pumice mixed in for extra drainage.

Potting up new baby banana plant

Plant the baby banana in it’s new pot at the same depth it was in the old pot, taking care to cover all the roots as you fill the container with soil. Once you’ve filled the pot with soil, give your new banana plant a good drink of water.

Your new banana plant might droop for a few days until it gets used to living on it’s own, that is normal transplant shock. To help it through the shock, it’s a good idea to keep it out of full sun and make sure it’s well watered until it has perked back up again.

That’s it, now you have a new banana plant to share with a friend (aren’t they lucky!?). Banana propagation by division can take some work, but it’s by far the easiest way to propagate banana plants. Just remember to take your time with it, and have patience.

Are you interested to learn more about how to propagate all of your favorite plants? My Plant Propagation Made Easy eBook is for you! It will teach you all of the basic methods for propagating any plant that you want. Download your copy today!

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Share your banana propagation tips in the comments section below.

About Amy Andrychowicz

I live and garden in Minneapolis, MN (zone 4b). My green thumb comes from my parents, and I've been gardening most of my life. I’m a passionate gardener who loves growing everything from vegetables, herbs, and flowers to succulents, tropicals, and houseplants - you name, I've grown it! Read More.

Comments

We grow fantastic, delicious bananas in Berkeley California. The secret is keeping the ground temperature up (which is what triggers fruiting) and we do this by draining our greywatered bathroom shower to the base of our banana trees. They love the water and they love the warmth and respond with multiple banana flowers every year!

Wonderful, thanks for your advice and sharing your experience of getting your bananas to grow fruit. How fun!

I have a banana plant that had grown to about 5 ft tall and the wind caught it and snapped the top off. Is there any way to “save” it or to start a new one from the stalk or from the bottom part of the plant. There are no pups that I can see.

Oh bummer, sorry for your loss! I would expect that your banana plant should grow back from the base after a few weeks. Unfortunately, you can’t root banana cuttings from the stem, so you won’t be able to save the top part that broke off. Be patient, and keep caring it as usually do, and eventually new growth should sprout from the base.

Just leave it and it will keep growing right up through the center where it broke off. Mine grow outside and tend to freeze the tops of the plants. In early spring I’ll cut down to the freeze point. Of course the part cut off would have been the top of the newest leaf and the next layer around that would be the next leaf that would have come out, so the first few leaves to emerge will be less than a full leaf. After that the leaves should start coming out full.

I’m so glad I found your site ! I love gardening ,always have .But now I’m older and really can’t get around too well outdoors . so I’ve went a little wild on the houseplants . But , I’ve been trying different things .Mostly succulents .But also using the internet to find some plants that I had before and couldn’t find any more .such as the mother of thousands and the stapella .probably not spelled right . Anyway I am really looking forward to exploring many of your topics, etc. Thank You !

You’re welcome! Enjoy your new houseplants. рџ™‚

Excellent info! I got a banana plant this spring when my local nursery had a garage sale, so I got a decent sized plant for just a few dollars.

It does have some pups coming up (didn’t know that is what they are called) and so I’ll have to see in the fall if I can extract them. My wife won’t necessarily be happy having more banana plants as she thought I was a bit crazy to get the first one, especially now that it is getting huge, even in a medium sized container. But as you mentioned, maybe I can give them away to friends.

On another note, do you actually get bananas and what do you do in winter to protect the plants?

Great score on the banana plant at a garage sale, how fun! Good luck propagating it. My banana plant is just ornamental, and has never gotten bananas. Our growing season is much too short here in MN for that. I’ve heard of people getting bananas when they grow their plants in a greenhouse though. I overwinter my plant inside as a houseplant.

Thanks for the reply. I will be keeping it in my unheated greenhouse over winter in Zone 8a, so it will have a longer growing season than being outside. Right now I have it on my second floor deck as it is still too short and the leaves take up a lot of room in the greenhouse. Once it grows taller, the leaves will be above our heads, which should then be better. Or I need to build a larger greenhouse!

I live in deep south Louisiana and made 3 large stalks of bananas a couple of seasons ago, but not since. And they were absolutely the best bananas I have ever eaten, by a long shot. We had a bad winter the one before last and all my fruit trees have acted differently since then, but the bananas have come back beautifully. I have loads of pups, both full size trees and dwarfs, several different varieties. From what I’ve been reading and have experienced, it seems they need to grow at least a second season without any sort of winter damage. Some years here it doesn’t freeze at all, but I’m going to pot some of mine this fall and bring them in. I have a huge tall patio that I wrap and heat and fill with all sorts of plants. I’ll plant them back out in early spring. I’m going to keep trying different things until I can get bananas on a regular basis.

When is the best time of year to divide banana plants? I have a cluster out by our pool and they have been ignored for who knows how many years and are too big/too many for their spot.

The best time of year for dividing banana plants is in either the fall or the spring.

Thank you for the information. I am very pleased with the steps in progress multiply the banana tree

Great! You’re welcome, good luck propagating your banana plants!

It’s always amazing to see banana trees with full fruit on trees in December here in Nashville, but the do even though it is indoor under glass! Opryland hotel has several trees in their conservatories. They are large and hard to miss!

Wow, that’s very cool! I highly doubt mine will grow bananas here in MN, but that would be awesome if they did. рџ™‚

@gardentiki – Thanks, I'm glad you find this helpful!! I believe the Blood Banana is ornamental, but I live in MN and grow these inside most of the year… so I suppose all types of bananas would just be ornamental here! рџ™‚ I would be shocked if they ever set fruit, but very excited!

I've read a few descriptions for how to propagate them, but it's nice to see pictures included as well. We just got two Bananas and plan to get more so it's good to be prepared.

I like the look of the Blood Banana. Is it ornamental?

Thanks PlantPostings! The pups are looking great, I think they will survive just fine. Woohoo!

I love the step-by-step description and detailed banana propagation photos. This is a very useful post! Good luck with the new "pups"!

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