I was heading into a business a couple of weeks ago and noticed a fun sight — a bunch of bananas. While I grew up seeing bananas growing quite often, I don’t see it much here. But it makes sense that these particular trees are fruiting this year, and for a couple of reasons.
First, we had a mild winter. Although it got cold, it was still considered on the warmer side for this area. So banana trees, which are very much tropical plants, were able to make it through this last winter without much damage.
Another condition that allows bananas to be fruiting right now is their orientation. These trees had been planted in an area protected from the more harmful elements, namely wind and cold temperatures coming from the North. They were located on the southeastern side of the building. They also were planted near the building’s sidewalk, which stays warm and holds heat in the ground.
It takes particular conditions to grow a plant species where it doesn’t actually belong. I have a banana tree planted, but I’m not expecting fruit. I planted it for its foliage. I expect it will freeze this winter. I learned that it takes a banana tree 10 to 15 months to go from a sucker tree to fruiting stage. So it makes sense that if we happen to have the right conditions and a mild winter, it has a chance to bear fruit.
It takes three to four months for the fruit stem to mature, and once the bananas on the stalk feel full, and while they are still green, the stalk must be cut off and placed in a warm, shady spot to ripen to yellow and be edible. Green bananas can be cut up, cooked and eaten that way.
There are a couple of cold-hardy banana species that can survive in this zone, but it will still be hit-and-miss for them to fruit, based on the winter temperatures. There’s even a Texas Gold Star variety that is said to be hardy enough to fruit here.
Tropical plants are fun to grow, unique and a challenge in Central Texas. If you are willing to take the risk and aren’t afraid to lose one, look for the right varieties and give them a try.
I had a tropical plant bloom this year for the first time. My flowering ginger gets frost damage but still comes back each year. This year, it stayed green and I got my first blooms.