Growing bananas in New Mexico
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Issue: December 15, 1997


Growing bananas in New Mexico

Question:

I was wondering if I could grow bananas in New Mexico. If so, how do I do it?

Answer:

Bananas are from the tropics and will not tolerate cold temperatures. They will probably not tolerate being grown outside in even southern New Mexico. Temperatures only a little below freezing will kill the plant. If the exposure to freezing is brief, the plant may regrow from the "roots." Damage that kills the top will prevent the formation of the banana flowers and fruits.

The top must become rather large in the edible-type banana before it will blossom and form fruit. This will take two or more years. To grow a banana plant to a size that allows flowering and fruiting in New Mexico, you should grow it in a greenhouse, atrium, or inside a swimming pool enclosure which never freezes. You will find that you are most successful in growing the plant to the necessary size if it is grown in the ground rather than in a pot. If the pot is large enough, however, you may succeed. Another option is to grow a dwarf, ornamental banana which does not produce the large, seedless fruit that most of us think of when we think of bananas.

There are several attractive, ornamental banana plants. Some have leaves which are red on the underside, others are blotched with red on the top of the leaf. Others are just dwarf bananas. Most of these ornamental bananas produce fruit containing seeds. The banana seeds I have seen are large and as hard as rocks. You do not want to bite into a seeded banana without knowing there are seeds.

Some of the "bananas" are actually "plantains" which must be cooked to be edible. So, as you try to grow a banana, consider the difficulties and know which type you are growing. If you have the proper environment and the desire to grow exotic plants, a banana will certainly serve as an exotic plant to brag about. To be able to grow them to fruiting will be a further challenge and again provide grounds for bragging. Good luck.