Whether you live in a temperate region or somewhere closer to the poles, I think we can all agree that banana plants and trees are majestic sights to behold. Your hardiness zone may not have enough warmth and sunshine to sustain these bountiful beauties year-round. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow them at all.
Make no mistake, banana trees tend to be very thirsty as well as very hungry, during their active growing season due to the rapid rate at which they grow. Therefore establishing a consistent watering and feeding schedule is key to successful growing.
In this article, I’ll talk about how you can have success with banana tree growing, regardless of your hardiness zone, and what they need to add a dramatic, tropical feel to your landscape.
I’ll provide you with an understanding of the best fertilizer for banana plants, as well as how and when to apply it, which will give you a head start toward healthy plants with high yields.
- Choosing the Most Effective Banana Plant Fertilizer
- Understanding N-P-K Ratios
- Best Banana Tree Feed Reviews
- 1. Dr. Earth Exotic Blend Tropical Plant Fertilizer 6-4-6
- 2. J R Peters No.1.5 All Purpose Fertilizer 20-20-20
- 3. Miracle-Gro Shake 'N Feed Palm Plant Food 8-2-12
- 4. Down to Earth Blood Meal Fertilizer Mix 12-0-0
- How to Fertilize Banana Plants Step-by-Step
- When to Fertilize
- Verdict: Best Banana Plant Fertilizers
Choosing the Most Effective Banana Plant Fertilizer
The two key characteristics of a healthy-looking banana plant are a plentiful crop of fruit (if you’re lucky enough to live in the right climate), and sizable, green leaves that are hardy and vibrant. To achieve this for your banana plants, a fertilizer with a sufficient ratio of nitrogen and potassium is fundamental.
According to the University of Florida, if you are growing your banana trees in anything other than nutrient-rich, fertile soil, you will need to apply fertilizer between 4 and 6 times per year.
I typically use a fertilizer with less phosphorous compared to nitrogen and potassium to ensure leafy foliage and fruit production however, it’s worth carrying out a soil pH test to understand what – if any – nutrients are lacking in your soil.
Bananas do best in well-draining soil with a soil pH in the range of 5.5 to 7.0. Understanding the pH of your soil will help you determine the correct N-P-K ratio for your plants.
Young banana plants, in particular, need sufficient nitrogen levels for healthy root establishment and the formation of large, lush leaves. Nitrogen is also key to successfully wintering over banana trees in colder regions, as they rely on this specific nutrient to revive from winter dormancy, indoors.
As these plants progress through the growing season, ample access to potassium will stimulate fruit production. This powerhouse macronutrient also increases a banana tree’s resilience against pests, disease, and extreme summer temperatures. Here, potassium and phosphorus join forces for improved water retention and distribution throughout the plant.
Yellow leaves (chlorosis) and a lack of developing fruit will be tell-tale signs of a potassium deficiency. In this case, you may wish to use a fertilizer with a higher concentration of potassium.
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Understanding N-P-K Ratios
When we talk about providing plants with a specific N-P-K ratio – for example, a good option for banana plants is 6-4-6 – we are talking about providing them with 6% nitrogen (N), 4% phosphorous (P), and 6% potassium (K).
All plants need nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium and in gardening terms, these three elements are commonly referred to as macronutrients.
In real terms, exactly how much they need and when they need these macronutrients depends on the plant species, where they are in their growth cycle, and what soil conditions they are growing in. That is why so many fertilizing options and products are available.
Let’s take a closer look at the different fertilizing methods and how they may best fit into your personal banana tree care regimen.
Granular Vs Liquid Fertilizers
When applied appropriately, end results don’t vary much between granular and liquid banana tree fertilizers. The difference lies in how fast nutrients reach plant roots, how each type is applied and how often. So, it really comes down to personal preference and the current needs of your banana trees.
Granular options slowly and steadily release vital nutrients, at a pace that mimics nature, itself. In their natural habitat, banana trees gradually receive nutrients from the decaying, organic matter around them. This is how they have evolved to receive and metabolize nutrients. So, they tend to respond with equally natural and lush growth.
However, fast-acting liquid fertilizers are a welcome remedy when planting banana trees in less-than-desirable soil. Or when the soil around mature specimens has been depleted. Essential nutrients for healthy root establishment and vigorous growth are made readily available.
Liquid Concentrate or Spray
Liquid fertilizers are generally more cost-effective and versatile. Concentrates can be diluted to varying degrees to meet the ever-evolving needs of your Banana trees, and other garden plants, as they mature. They can be applied as a soil soak or foliar spray to accommodate fluctuating plant needs, as well.
While the shelf life of liquid banana plant fertilizers is shorter than granular options, their application frequency is higher. So, chances are, they won’t be sitting on your potting shelf for long.
The danger, however, is that over-fertilizing and soil contamination are far more common with liquids. Following dosage instructions is critical to their success.
Fertilizer Granules or Powder
Granules and powders are both applied by scattering and working them into the soil, followed by deep watering. They both offer mess-free usage and storage, as well. Yet, their rate of nutrient disbursement is different. Powders often show results within a week vs the two-week timeframe with granules or spikes. the choice between these simply depends on what your banana trees currently require.
Some granule and powder options may also be formulated to improve soil fertility. Typically, these are organic, in nature. But, not always. Be sure to keep an eye out for this bonus feature as we review the four best banana tree fertilizers on the market.
Fertilizer spikes are often the easiest way to ensure your banana trees and plants have consistent and long-lasting access to vital nutrients. Like granules, they’re both mess and odor-free. No need for measuring and pouring, you just need to remove them from their packaging and tap them into the ground with a rubber mallet. They offer a slow-release feeding option that will continue to release nutrients for up to 8 weeks.
In exchange for this convenience, spikes tend to come at a slightly higher price point, compared to other application methods. It’s also worth bearing in mind that banana trees and plants may need more than one spike, as they mature.
Best Banana Tree Feed Reviews
A well-rounded banana plant fertilizer will have a dynamic base of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that is well-supported by calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. These trace elements are critical for the effective metabolism of major macronutrients. The appropriate nutrient ratio (NPK) for your trees will depend on what your soil is already offering.
Through careful research, meticulous testing, and first-hand user experience, I’ve narrowed down all those I’ve tested to the following four products as the best fertilizer for banana plants. All with the intention of removing the legwork so that you can get right on with fertilizing.
My first choice is an organic, 100% natural fertilizer from Dr. Earth that is specially formulated for tropical plants.
What I love about Dr. Earth products is their unique blend of chemical-free ingredients. This one includes a range of minerals and proteins, plus humic acids. All of these work to improve your soil, while nourishing your trees.
I use this fertilizer on my own potted banana trees, just as temperatures begin to warm, in spring. The 6% nitrogen eases them out of dormancy and directs energy toward vigorous growth. The equal portion of potassium focuses on fruit production. This particular NPK is appropriate for trees grown in warmer hardiness zones, that only experience partial dormancy.
Sprinkling this fertilizer over the soil around my flowering tropicals, working it in, and then watering, has become a steadfast part of my springtime gardening ritual. It’s a slow-release formula that lasts for a full 8 weeks. Check prices for Dr. Earth Exotic Blend Tropical Plant Fertilizer here.
If you live in zones 9, 10 and 11, you can make a fertilizer “tea” with these water-soluble granules. Applying it either as a soil soak or foliar spray is a great way to ensure the continued health of your banana trees and preparedness for spring. While it’s rated as safe for pets and people, there is an earthy smell that your pets may be attracted to.
How to Use: For mature banana plants sprinkle ¾ of a cup of fertilizer for every 1 ft of plant height. Gently work this into the soil and water it in really well. Use half this quantity for new plantings or container plants.
- Great way to boost nitrogen and enrich organic matter in the soil
- Can be used as a winter foliar spray in warm regions
- Overuse may raise pH levels too high for bananas
Next up is another easy-to-store, water-soluble option from Jack’s Classic that contains a much higher ratio of micronutrients, intending to support plants and trees in poor soil. Metabolism and absorption of this potent combination are made possible by the inclusion of magnesium, boron, iron and manganese.
This fertilizer is gentle enough to be used every 7-10 days throughout the growing season and is time-saving, allowing you to feed and water your plants at the same time.
When properly diluted, this also makes a fantastic foliar spray to green up yellowing leaves. In warm regions, a significantly diluted dose will keep bananas in warm regions going until spring. Click here for JR Peters All-Purpose Fertilizer from Amazon.com
It is a general-purpose feed, meaning its versatility extends to other areas of your garden and can be used as a fertilizer for vegetable gardens, flower beds & borders, and even to improve your lawn.
How to Use: Mix 1 tbsp per gallon of water for outdoor plants and 1/2 tbsp per gallon of water for indoor and container plants.
- All-purpose and organic – has a multitude of uses for your garden
- Water soluble and gentle enough to use weekly as part of your watering regime
- Offers a balanced N-P-K rather than targeting a specific part of the growing season
Throughout this article, I’ve mentioned the benefits of potassium for banana plants and trees. Once buds appear, potassium fuels the formation of flowers and abundant fruit, be they edible or just ornamental. This Shake ‘N Feed Plant Food from Miracle-Gro may be marketed for palms, but the potassium-focused NPK is perfect for flowering bananas grown in any hardiness zone.
Magnesium and iron work behind the scenes to support chlorophyll cell production and photosynthesis in all that beautiful, multi-hued foliage. This is a non-organic formula, so there’s no undesirable aroma to worry about when applying this to bananas grown as houseplants or potted patio features.
This granular fertilizer offers a slow release of nutrients for up to 3 months. Its ready-to-use dispenser cap allows you more control over granule distribution and protection of stems and trunks. Click here to find Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Palm Plant Food on Amazon
How To Use: Blend evenly into the soil within the drip line and water well to activate, being careful to avoid contact with foliage and stem. Repeat every three months during the active growing season.
- Potassium-rich to support fruit and flower development
- Suitable for use on indoor and outdoor plants
- Could cause fertilizer burn if applied to stems or leaves
This excellent source of pure, organic nitrogen from Down to Earth will focus solely on producing pristine, lush, green foliage. Ornamental and houseplant bananas really benefit from this. As do young trees, just after planting.
While it’s true that colder regions have too short of a growing season to produce large bunches of healthful bananas, there’s no reason why these trees can’t thrive with vibrant, tropical leaves during the warm summer months. If you’re a northern gardener, give your sleepy bananas a dose of this organic nitrogen in mid-spring and robust new growth will appear in no time. Click here for Down to Earth Blood Meal Fertilizer from Amazon.com
Since Down to Earth Blood Meal is an organic product, it comes with the added benefit of increasing the quality of your soil, long-term. Providing your bananas with the right environment to bounce back healthy and strong, year after year.
How to Use: This can be used as both a granular side dressing and a water-diluted tea. Work the recommended amount into the soil and water well. Or, follow instructions for granule-to-water ratios, mix well and apply around the base of your banana. Repeat monthly throughout the growing season.
- Rich source of organic nitrogen
- Focuses on production of lush, green foliage
- May increase acidity in the soil, if overused
How to Fertilize Banana Plants Step-by-Step
Fertilizing banana trees and plants needs to start with high nitrogen fertilizer in spring, right at the start of the growing season. A nitrogen-rich fertilizer will encourage the formation of beautiful, ornamental foliage that holds up well in the summer heat.
Regular feeding, with a high nitrogen feed, should continue throughout the growing season for non-flowering banana cultivars. Fruiting varieties will require a fertilizer with more potassium to fuel flower and fruit formation, just as buds begin to swell.
The type of fertilizer you choose and the method by which you apply it really do come down to personal preference. Organic is always best if you are growing edible fruit.
You may prefer a slow-release fertilizer that will enrich the soil with microbes, before being absorbed by the tree or plant via the roots. Alternatively, your preference may be to choose a fertilizer that can be diluted with water and thus incorporated into the regular watering schedule of your banana tree.
Fertilizing Banana Plants
The secret to strong, healthy growth, lush green leaves and a bumper crop of fruit is consistent feeding with the most appropriate NPK for your particular garden conditions. Avoid getting granules on the stem and leaves, as this could cause fertilizer burn. There are also some slight variances to consider depending on whether your banana plant is growing in the ground or in a pot. Like a higher frequency of application or an altered dosage that coincides with the maturity stage of your tree.
Fertilizing Potted Banana Plants Indoors
Banana plants grown indoors are a great way to add drama and interest to your home. It also means you won’t miss out on growing these captivating plants, even if you live in a less-than-tropical climate.
Dwarf varieties for indoors have proven highly successful. If you’re lucky enough to have double-height ceilings, a full-size variety will make quite the statement. As with outdoor types, indoor bananas will need to be nourished at the same consistent rate for continued health and vitality. Ideally, with a balanced 12-12-12 fertilizer.
Fertilizing In-Ground Banana Trees Outside
Remember, banana trees are heavy feeders. Not only do they need to be planted in nutrient-rich soil, but they also need to be fed regularly during their active growing season. Which will vary depending on the type you’re growing and your hardiness zone.
For new plantings, feed regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Large cultivars may need a slight increase in dosage, once they reach maturity. Banana plants grow quickly and can reach maturity in as little as 15 months.
When to Fertilize
Start a regular fertilizing program at the beginning of spring. An increase in temperature will stimulate the growth of new roots and shoots and banana trees will appreciate regular doses of nutrients from the get-go.
For fruiting varieties, continue to fertilize regularly throughout the growing season, remembering to switch from a nitrogen-focused NPK to one with higher potassium once buds begin to swell.
Ornamentals and non-flowering banana trees will maintain vibrant, well-formed foliage on a nitrogen-rich feed from spring through fall.
Fertilizing during a banana tree’s dormant period is only appropriate in zones 9-11. In these warmer regions, bananas will continue to grow, albeit slower due to lower light levels, and may still require nutrients to sustain themselves.
How Often to Apply
Banana trees and plants need feeding regularly. Depending on the type of fertilizer you choose, this could range from weekly to one or two applications for the entire season.
Liquid fertilizers typically require more frequent use than granules, powders, or spikes. This is due to their quick delivery of nutrients and their immediate absorption.
Fertilizers that need to be worked into the soil offer a more gradual method of delivery and therefore last longer. Usually anywhere from two to nine months, depending on the brand. A thorough watering and warming temperatures will soften granules and spikes, releasing their nutrients.
Soil microbes then convert these nutrients into a form that is more easily absorbed by your plants. The healthier your soil is, the more effective your fertilizer will be.
There are clearly benefits to both types. I find fast-acting liquids really advantageous any time an ailing banana plant needs a quick boost. If time is limited, liquids are also a convenient way to water and feed at the same time.
Slow-release options are the ultimate time-savers, though. Apply them once and your trees are good to go for months. Some are also designed for use with irrigation systems, eliminating the need to manually water them in.
Banana Plant Soil pH
All these fertilizer options for Banana plants and trees stir up a lot of excitement for gardeners. Yet, it’s important to remember that none of these benefits will be realized if your soil pH is blocking them.
It’s helpful to know what the pH level in your soil is before you begin planting and you can test this easily with a soil pH test kit.
The ideal pH level for banana plants is 6.0 meaning it is slightly acidic. Planting in organic-rich compost, mulching, and providing additional nitrogen will enable you to achieve this soil pH and help to maintain it throughout the year.
In 2020, the open-source research community plos.org published their findings that increasing soil ph with lime and CMP (calcium magnesium phosphate) was found to improve nutrient availability and better yet, increase banana yield.
Look out for yellowing leaves, a pink-red tinge on leaf stems and reduced growth, as these are indications of a nitrogen deficiency in banana plants. Other signs include a reduction in crop size and yield, as well as leaf drop.
Being heavy feeders, bananas require consistent access to nutrients, to fuel steady growth and fruiting. A soil pH that’s too high or too low will inhibit vital processes and may lead to plant failure.
Overfertilizing Banana Plants
Luckily, Banana plants are considered “tender”. They’re actually quite robust and therefore not overly sensitive to fertilizers. That said, they can still experience significant root and foliage damage when fertilizers are not applied as instructed.
Labeled instructions include dosage recommendations that apply to both dwarf and full-size banana varieties. As well as those planted in pots vs in the ground. New plantings only need half doses until they mature (up to 15 months) and mature plants need 1.5 doses of the manufacturer’s recommendations, they exceed 10ft in height.
To avoid fertilizer burn on trunks, stems and leaves, make sure to leave a minimum of 3″ of space between the trunk of your banana and where you scatter granules. Scatter them close to the ground to prevent them from landing on leaves and stems. Spikes should be placed within the drip line, at least 6″ away from the plant’s main trunk.
Carefully following these instructions will ensure that your Bananas have what they need, when they need it, to provide you with lush growth and perhaps, a higher fruit yield.
Verdict: Best Banana Plant Fertilizers
Banana plants add drama and interest to your landscape with their majestic leaves and can be grown successfully, even in non-tropical climates. If you want them to fruit, however, they need long periods of sunshine, with temperatures between 60F and 81ºF. It can take up to 15 months for the fruit to fully form, plus a further 2 months to ripen.
Wherever you’re growing them, they will need plenty of fertilizer. Depending on your needs, I hope you’ll find one of my top picks, fruitful. My first organic choice, Dr. Earth Exotic Blend Tropical Plant Fertilizer, is one that will naturally increase vital nitrogen access at the start of the growing season.
When your plants begin to bud, Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Palm Plant Food will infuse your soil with sufficient potassium to support those buds all the way to fruit. JR Peters All Purpose fertilizer will make an effective and versatile addition to your potting shed. This one is water-soluble and can be used for veggies, flowers and lawns, too.