Musa acuminata cultivars



There are over 60 species of bananas and many edible cultivars. Most of those which are commonly eaten are cultivars developed with the species Musa acuminata, as one parent, if not the sole parent.

Bananas originate from hot climates. There are more species and varieties grown and eaten than what most people realize. 


Bananas are a meal in their own right. It's perhaps not surprising that many athletes devour them and others such as mountaineers rely on them because each banana is crammed full of nutrition.  As well as being a good source of fibre which aids with digestion they contain vitamins C, A and B6. They are also a rich source of potassium which is needed to regulate blood pressure and maintain healthy heart functioning.

Bananas are most often eaten raw but they can be added to a range of dishes. Try baking them in banana cakes or adding them to fruit salads. Bananas also taste great when juiced and used in smoothies.   


Bananas are fast-growing, clump-forming, herbaceous plants with underground rhizomes which produce tall pseudostems with very large leaves. The leaves can be up to 2.5 m long and 50 to 60cm wide. The starchy, edible, mainly seedless fruits are popular with animals as well as people. 

Bananas need a sunny position and a humid environment. They also need to be out of strong winds, so a sheltered position near a garden wall or building is ideal. Banana plants will adapt to most soils but avoid waterlogged conditions. If the ground is continually wet then consider building a raised mound to grow bananas. If your soil is very sandy then you'll need to mulch it to retain moisture. They may survive in containers but they'll need to be large and deep - something like a wine barrel.

For best results enrich the soil with well-rotted compost a couple of months before planting. Make sure the soil is loose and not compacted. Place young plants in holes which are slightly deeper than the pots they came in and mound the soil around the stem. It is important to keep humidity levels high especially for young, newly planted seedlings. Spray water onto the leaves several times a day if possible to encourage root growth. Try to keep this up for the first few weeks until leaves start to harden off.  

During the growing season fertilise the soil around plants using a liquid NPK fertiliser every four to six weeks. An all-purpose type fertiliser with higher proportions of nitrogen and potassium to phosphorous is ideal. Try not to get fertiliser on the stem is it may cause rots. Keep the soil moist but not soaking.   When fruits first emerge you can apply some potash to the soil, and maintain moist soil conditions. 


Propagate by offshoots or dividing clumps.


Common banana cultivars include “Cavendish”, “Lady Finger” and “Goldfinger”. 

Plant Health

Pests of bananas include banana root borer, and nematodes. These are usually relatively easy to control. However, bananas are prone to some significant disease problems which growers should be aware of. Diseases such as bunchy top, black Sigatoka and Panama disease require plants to be destroyed by professionals. 

Bunchy top is a virus of major concern which causes bunching of leaves, discoloured flecks, and stunted growth. 

Black Sigatoka disease is a worldwide problem and results in blackened lesions on leaves, and stunted fruits. It is caused by a fungus. Panama disease is also a fungal disease. It is observed as yellowing and wilting of plants and stems splitting. If you notice either of these diseases you must report them.

Bananas need temperatures of 14°C and higher to grow well. Below this temperature and leaves will begin to turn yellow, fruit bunches get smaller, and the fruits take on a dull appearance. Plants will die in frosts. 

They can be protected from frost by growing in a “sun trap” location such as against a brick wall facing north. Some gardeners will wrap the plant in hessian or some other insulating fabric; or build a temporary plastic covered frame over the plant in winter. These techniques may be sufficient to achieve banana growing success in places where it might otherwise not be possible.

You may need to cover the fruit bunches with hessian bags to protect them from animals and birds.

More info

Bananas are known to have been cultivated and eaten in Roman times.  The scientific (genus) name Musa is said to be named after Antonius Musa who was a botanist by trade but also the personal doctor of the Roman emperor, Augustus. It is believed that Musa was the first person to promote the cultivation of bananas. 

Bananas were once used mostly in cooking. Good cooking bananas have a firm flesh, contain more starch, and are often referred to as “plantains”. Sweet bananas that we all know today are more commonly eaten fresh or in deserts have a softer flesh and a sweeter taste.   

In Australia banana growing is regulated by law. You can grow bananas at home, but you must use disease free plants and permitted varieties. You should be right, provided you buy tissue cultured plants from a reputable nursery, and check the web to ensure the variety is permitted by the Agriculture department.

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