Bananas are not real trees, but instead are herbaceous plants capable of producing up to 100 lbs. of fruit each year under ideal conditions. Most home growers are able to produce about 30 to 40 lbs. of fruit yearly from a single stalk. In order to produce fruit, banana plants need plenty of water and fertile soil or regular applications of fertilizer. Less than ideal conditions can delay or even prevent fruit from forming.
The arrival of fruit on your banana plant depends on what variety you have and the time of year you planted it. In most cases, expect the plant to flower within 10 to 18 months of planting. Some varieties, such as the Cuban Red and Ice Cream bananas, may take 20 months or longer.
Once the flowers, or hands, appear, bananas begin to appear at a rate of about one hand a day. Fruits normally appear in the late summer and remain on the stalk to ripen the following spring. Bananas that appear earlier in the summer may fill out and ripen by the end of summer.
Delays in Fruiting
Flowering can be delayed by a cold winter, especially if the plant froze back to the ground. In that case, it will take another frost-free year to produce flowers and fruit. Banana plants grow best at temperatures between 78 and 82 degrees F, and fruit production is best at 84 to 86 degrees. Below 50 degrees, plant growth stops and will delay the production of fruit. Severe damage and possible plant death occur at temperatures below 32 degrees. Fruit can also be delayed if the plant does not receive enough sun. Bananas tolerate up to 50 percent shade, but for the best fruit growth the plant needs full sun.
The Second Year
Once the banana stalk produces fruit, it will not flower again and not all the stalks will flower. For this reason, it is wise to maintain five or six stalks growing from each root mat at a time. Once the main stem produces fruit, remove it. Another stem will fruit the following year.