Currently_Planted
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Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Hello all,

I posted about this banana plant a while back, and that issue has been resolved (it was a very-hungry-caterpillar problem). However, it's still looking unhealthy; in fact, I think it's getting worse and worse.

I purchased the plant in May/June and potted it in its current ceramic container. It's been in the same location since then. The plant is on the southern side of the house, but due to shadows and such it gets about 3 hours of full sun a day, indirect the rest of the time. The plant is about 4 feet high from dirt-level. I water it about twice a week, sometimes three times if the weather is really hot. FYI I never expected to get actual bananas from the plant, I simply bought it for the foliage.

Here are the pictures:
banana plant inside.jpg
banana plant yellow leaves.jpg
banana plant stalk.jpg
banana stalk other side.jpg
banana plant big leaf.jpg
As you can see, the lower leaves turn yellow and unhealthy-looking, then dry up. I know that it's normal for banana plants to have the lower leaves slowly shrivel and die, but I'm worried about the yellow-ness, and also about the black spots that are starting to appear on the leaf in the last picture. I'm also concerned about the black sooty-looking stuff on the stalk (is that what "sooty mold" is?).

Essentially, I'm hoping that what I'm seeing is just normal banana plant behavior, but I'm not sure, so I figured I'd ask. Hopefully I'm worrying about nothing, but if it's a bug/fungus/whatever problem, I'd like to get it taken care of SOON, because I'll have to bring the plant inside for the winter within the next month and would really, really rather not bring a bug infestation into my house at the same time!

Thank you so much in advance!

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applestar
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Not sure about the spots and 3 hrs direct sun doesn't sound enough, but mostly I think the plant is not getting enough water.

How do you water when you do? I water mine every other day with amount that I know will come out from the bottom, and every day when hot, and their containers are sitting directly on the grassy ground and get a small amount of moisture. I try to give them collected rainwater fortified with nutrients (but will use water direct from the garden hose if necessary) and feed once a month with organic fertilizer (and I know I'm still under feeding).
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Currently_Planted
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

I water with a 2-liter watering can filled up completely each time; I've never attempted to measure the amount of water that comes out of the bottom, but there's always a small puddle (which then evaporates from the concrete). The water is from the tap - not ideal, I know, but I don't have a good way to collect rainwater here. I've never given it fertilizer (maybe that's the problem??)...I'd read somewhere that banana plants can use their own discarded leaves as fertilizer, so when a leaf comes off I tear it into a few pieces and lay them on the soil...although admittedly that probably isn't doing much.

It's possible that it gets more than 3 hours of direct sun, but I don't wake up/go outside early enough to check how much sun it gets in the morning. I do know that it's in the full sun from about 10am-1pm, and is in the shadow of the neighbor's house after that (but even then it's not in the "shade" exactly, you know? It's in...."bright shade," if that makes sense).

I've always tried to water when the soil is dry about an inch down, and NOT water if the soil still feels cool and moist, and that has meant about 2-3 times a week for this plant. My natural tendency is to over-water plants, so I've been consciously trying to train myself not to do that. But maybe I'm still "sub-hydrating" my banana?

What are your thoughts about how I'm (not) fertilizing? I have a bottle of Miracle-Gro liquid houseplant fertilizer stashed somewhere, should I use that the next time I water? Do you think that's what's causing the yellowing of the leaves?

imafan26
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

The pot is too small and bananas need a lot of water. They can tolerate some shade but would be better in the sun with wind protection or the leaves will shred and/or the plant will get knocked over. It looks like you may have aphids in the leaf axils. It is a common problem. Bananas are very sensitive to pesticides so I would try to use a jet of water first to clean off the trunk and try to shoot the water between the leaf sheaths as much as is possible. Critters like to hide there. Do that every time you water.
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Wombat
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Yep bananas are very hungry and thirsty plants. The pot is definitely much too small plus they need to be fed regularly when they're potted up. Use an organic 10-10-10 fertilizer monthly and it should improve a lot. Maybe try an ornamental banana ( musa ) too as they have a similar foliage, a nice flower and some varieties are very cold tolerant.
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Currently_Planted
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Thank you all for your comments! I will definitely fertilize a lot more often. I'll also start looking for a bigger pot - I thought it'd be OK in its current pot for a year (of course I knew I'd have to up-pot it eventually), but I guess I underestimated how quickly it would grow. Should I wait until spring to re-pot, or does it not really matter when since I'll be taking it inside for the winter?

Also, this thought struck me this morning - the banana plant is right next to our stoop where my roommate usually smokes (note the cigarette butts on the concrete in the pics). Could the plant's frequent exposure to cigarette smoke be a possible contributing cause to its unhealthiness? I have no clue if that's a "thing" or not; I know some plants are more sensitive than others to environmental toxins (which I guess cigarette smoke could be counted as?), I just don't know if bananas are one of them. Figured I'd ask.

Thanks again! Y'all are so nice :)

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applestar
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Jumping to a conclusion that may not be true... Any chance roommate is putting out the ciggies on the leaf? Are the black spots on other leaves too?
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catgrass
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

I agree with the too small pot-but it is October now, and bananas die back in the winter. It could be going into dormancy. The dried edges indicate not enough water. When you repot, submerge the whole pot in water and when the bubbling quits, it has enough water.
zone 9 Southwest La.

Currently_Planted
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

applestar - I guess it's theoretically possible, but I enormously doubt it since he's not a jerk and he knows how much I love my plants :) I'd think that if he were putting out the cigs on the leaf there wouldn't be black spots so much as burn holes, too. Maybe the black spots could be from flying ash, though. No black spots on other leaves (and I do rotate the plant from time to time to try for equal sun exposure around the plant).

catgrass - I'll be taking the banana plant indoors soon for the winter, so presumably it won't be dying back. (Unless bananas, regardless of temperature, always die back when their internal clock says "winter?" If that's the case, please let me know!) With that in mind, can I re-pot now or should I wait?

Or maybe I should just leave the plant outside and allow it to die back.....but since we do get below-freezing temps here sometimes in winter, that would actually KILL the plant, right?

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applestar
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

I repotted my "smaller" one. If you keep them in temps above 60, and in good light, they do grow though slowly. And so far, my experience has been that the tropicals will continue to grow indoors until winter solstice and then as the daylight lengthens around February, and it makes a difference whether they are in relatively fresh soil mix for the growth spurt. My banana grew a new leaf every two weeks or so.

I've found that without repotting about a month before frost, the overwintered tropicals get too stressed and become vulnerable to attacks by indoor pests.

I'm considering trying to overwinter one of the two containers in "dormant" state though ...I want to practice on these to see what that involves because I really want a couple of larger varieties which would have to be overwintered as dormant, leafless stalks.

I'll try to find it tomorrow, but there are some YouTube videos of the process available. If I remember, they need to be kept above freezing or need to be well bundled and nearly dry.
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imafan26
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

I am not used to bananas going dormant. Here they would continue to grow for about 18 months before they produce fruit. I don't know what kind of banana you have. If they are under 1 ft they are peepers, up to 3 ft sillverswords and anything up to full size is a maidenhead.
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catgrass
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Here, in zone 9, they die back unless we have a really, really mild winter and even then, a lot of leaves die. We do have some freezing nights, though not many. Not too familiar with them growing in pots, all around here are in the ground. I did have a Cavendar in a pot a year or so ago, and forgot it outside during a freeze. I lost it. I can say though, it did very poorly in a pot.
zone 9 Southwest La.

imafan26
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Thanks. for the info. I knew bananas froze but it doesn't get that cold here to do that. Bananas are usually in the ground here too. Even keikis are usually transported bare bottomed until they get planted. I did see one dwarf banana in a pot, but it was in a 100 gallon tree pot.
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Currently_Planted
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

imafan26 - I wish I knew what kind of banana I had. I didn't keep the plastic card that came with the plant because, at that time, I figured bananas were bananas (newbie mistake). If you or anyone knows of a good online guide for banana variety identification that doesn't rely on what the flowers look like (since I only have leaves and stalk), please let me know!

I guess I could try to overwinter it in my unheated basement and let it go dormant (that's where I'll be keeping my crepe myrtle and two roses bushes, all in containers, once frost hits - technically the plants are hardy for zone 6/7, but since they're in containers I don't want to risk it). That still might be too cold to let the banana survive, though...it's not nearly as cold as outside and doesn't have windchill, of course, but I still wear a coat when I go down there to do laundry - probably stays around 45 degrees F in the dead of winter, maybe a little colder at night.

applestar, thanks for your insight about overwintering tropicals and repotting. Since everyone here has told me how small the pot is for my banana plant, I think I'll go ahead and buy a bigger pot and get the repotting taken care of, like, today, since first frost will probably hit by the end of the month. At least the pots will probably be on sale...

Thanks everyone!

Currently_Planted
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Up-potted and brought the banana indoors (because nighttime temps are plunging into the low-40s this weekend before returning to the much-more-normal-for-October mid-50s).
banana_indoors.jpg
(That's my ponytail palm bonsai in the background!)

Admittedly, the pot may still be too small (or at the very least won't last longer than 6 months or so), but it's a DEFINITE improvement over the pot-size it was in before. It looks more "balanced" now, proportionally speaking.

And now, since I also brought my Madagascar Dragon Tree inside too, my living room bears a striking resemblance to a South American jungle. Thank goodness my roommate decided long ago to adopt the "just let the crazy plant lady do what she wants" tactic, because someone less tolerant might take issue with the fact that you now can't sit down anywhere without some plant leaf reaching in and invading your personal space...

valley
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Hi,I think you should let it out of that little pot.

We had a little banana plant, given us in Queensland, before returning to the States we gave it to wifey's mum. She now gets great bunches of bananas and has to cut it back.
Let the poor little thing out.

Richard

Just looked at your last post. You up planted, it looks happier now.

imafan26
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

I can't tell banana variety by the leaf except for a Brazilian. The apple banana is tall but has a small trunk. If it is a dwarf variety it will still get up to at least 8 ft tall. If not, then it can get up to 25-30 ft tall. There are ornamental bananas which will make a flower stalk but no banana. The smaller bananas here are usually the Dwarf Cavendish (Chinese) , Williams bananas and Bluefield. Cooking bananas are always tall. We don't have a lot of plantain here, I see mostly Saba (Filipino cooking banana similar to plantain in use but much squatter), ladyfinger, Cuban, dwarf Apple, and Apple banana (Brazilian). There are others, these are just the most common ones grown.
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MrBote
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Banana trees are nearly impossible to kill down here, especially if planted anywhere near a septic tank. Frost will knock them to the ground and double the amount will appear by summer. I had a friend who bought a banana tree with full intention of planting it in the ground . . . and didn't. His lawn crew murdered the pot over time with their weed trimmers so he removed the busted plastic and wrapped the root ball with landscape fabric and added some (for the time being, again) potting mix and, there it sits, 3-4 years later, except now it's 5 banana trees and has put forth a really large bunch of bananas that were about 4" long. He's since added garden edging to his 'mound' of banana trees to where it almost looks intentional and is indeed, one with his yard now.

The last time I was there, I noticed that he had a papaya tree, in a pot. . . and he informed me it was gifted to him by his father-in-law. I suggested he might ought to move it closer to where he thinks he might plant it. . .some day. :)

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applestar
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

That's good to know, because I gave up on trying to keep my bigger super dwarf cavendish tree indoors this winter and it's slowly yellowing out in the garage.... I did bring the pup cluster I separated from it last year (already about 4ft tall in its pot) inside for insurance and that one's staying green and producing one leaf every week to every other week....

(That's a good one about the papaya :lol: )
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imafan26
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Re: Increasingly unhealthy-looking banana plant

Yeah. Papayas have a taproot and will die if it is broken. In a pot it will wind around and actually stunt the tree. It can still break the pot though.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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