If growing a banana tree in your garden might seem impossible and mad. Growing one hydroponically will seem worse, but it is vital to the specie’s survival.
Currently, banana production is undergoing a significant crisis.
The industry is reliant on a single cultivar of banana, called the Cavendish. It was bred in the 1950s to beat a deadly fungal pathogen that destroyed the world’s banana plantations, which were called Gros Michelle, and were reportedly better tasting than the Cavendish. Then they were wiped out and the Cavendish was introduced. But this disease has evolved.
Black Sigatoka and Panama diseases are now contaminating soil and spreading rapidly amongst production areas.
While there are estimates that bananas are grown in 150 countries, and there are more than 1,000 different types in cultivation, 95% of Americans eat the Cavendish banana.
However there is hope for your kids favourite fruit: Since the pathogen has spread via soil, this means that growing bananas hydroponically will circumnavigate the issue.
But as you’d expect when growing a tree hydroponically, there are difficulties.
Also read: Best Fruit To Grow Hydroponically
Challenges Of Growing Banana Trees Hydroponically
When growing a banana tree hydroponically, the number one issue is the size. The average height of a banana tree is roughly 16 feet tall. Unless you’re growing in a warehouse, you must select a dwarf tree version.
But if you have the space to grow your banana tree indoors or are planning on growing it outdoors, the next issue is nutrients and water. Trees need loads of water and essential nutrients.
It should be said that a banana tree is technically not a tree but a herbaceous flowering plant in the genus Musa. Banana trees are a vascular plant with no woody stems. And just to be more confusing, the fruit is botanically a berry.
Also, the lifecycle of a banana tree is not the same as other trees.
The tree’s trunk (referred to as a false stem) is what the leaves pop out of. When it starts to fruit, the leaves stop being produced, and flowers spike. This then develops into a bunch of bananas.
One flower from the plant can produce upwards of 60 fruits or berries. The fruit production takes roughly 16-18 months.
Whether or not the fruit is harvested, the trunk dies. They then produce pups (small trees) at the base of the mother plants. And this is how the plant reproduces.
Older species, or cultivars, of the banana tree had hard seeds within the fruit. But with human intervention, they have been bred out. Those little black spots you sometimes see in the banana are all that is left, and they won’t produce new plants.
So it’s up to the pups to create the next year’s crop.
When the tree is producing pups, they need to be maintained to ensure that the nutrients is being used in the correct area. Bananas planted into the ground will require rich soil that drains well.
Bananas are also very sensitive to frost and require heat, humidity, and loads of light.
Those who have built a hydroponic system can attest that these are all elements which require a lot of power and money.
But luckily, when horticulturists discovered how to make dwarf trees, bananas were included. You can order a Dwarf Cavendish, which will now only reach a height of nine feet tall, with the Super Dwarf Version only growing to four feet.
Now that we’ve discussed what will be the main hurdles for growing bananas hydroponically, let’s focus on what is required when growing them this way.
Conditions Needed To Grow Bananas Hydroponically
Bananas originated from, or are native to, tropical Indomalaya and Australia, and were domesticated in Papua New Guinea. This means hot, humid weather, and rainforest type terrains.
When planning a hydroponic setup, you need to take into account that you will need to provide the plants access to loads of water and nutrients. And your pot will need to be big enough to accommodate the extensive roots, or rhizomes, of the plant.
We’d suggest using a container that is between 2.5 to 5 gallons. Depth-wise, you need these containers to be at least 24 inches deep.
The potting medium will also need to support the weight of the plant, as well as the root system.
So we’d suggest using either coco coir, as it is able to hold loads of water and nutrients, or lightweight expanded clay aggregate (LECA).
LECA is able to hold large plants in place, which is useful when growing banana trees.
As we mentioned, temperature control is key to growing bananas. While they can withstand some temperature fluctuations, you want yours to grow at an optimum level.
Keep your indoor grow area between 70ºF to 80ºF to ensure that the trees grow well. This will mean investing in a heating system, which can be either a mat or a heater.
You will also require a mister to ensure that humidity is kept high enough. If you’re looking at harvesting the best quality bananas, some research suggests a humidity level of more than
90%. This high humidity will ensure that the fruit doesn’t fall off prematurely.
Water pH should be between 5.5 to 6.5 pH, with a ppm of around 1260 - 1540 because the plant is prone to root rot due to the high humidity and temperature.
As for lighting, the banana plant needs to around four to six hours a day, if you can afford to run your lights for eight hour, that would be the best. We’d suggest using an LED lighting system, as it is more cost-effective to run when compared to old school methods.
We’d also suggest steering clear of using organic fertilizers within the system as they tend to produce pathogens when subjected to these conditions.
Bananas need loads of potassium, especially when producing fruit. It also needs a wide variety of other nutrients such as:
And you should ensure that the electric connectivity reading is around 1.6 to 1.8 so that the plant is able to absorb the high quantity of nutrients it needs to produce good-sized fruit.
The hydroponic system best suited for growing bananas is the deep water culture (DWC). While you could just utilize an adapted drip irrigation system, DWC though will provide enough water and will make monitoring of levels, a daily task, easier.
Now You’re Ready To Go Bananas Hydroponically
Bananas are a fantastic crop and adventure to grow. Also, if you do grow then you will go a long way to ensuring that the world's most popular cultivar is kept alive.
While it is an expensive crop to grow, if it is tweaked correctly, it could be a great earner, specially as you can produce bananas all year round.
So, go on and save the bananas.