Banana Plant Leaves Not Opening | How to Fix “Choked” Leaves

Banana leaves will not open if they become entwined or choked. This is where the leaf fibers wind together preventing the leaf from sprouting up and opening up. This happens when the weather cools rapidly or the plant dries out quickly. Banana plants can be saved if the stem is cut back below the choke point. This will allow the leaf to grow and open up.

The stem needs to be cut back below the choke point to where the stem is healthy. If the plant is not cut back, the whole stem can die back and die.

This article will explore the main causes of banana plant leaves not opening, how to prevent it and how to solve it if it happens.

Why banana leaves won’t open – “Choked” leaves

Choked banana leaves happen when the leaf fibers wind together stopping the leaf from opening. This causes the leaf to stay curled up and tight instead of growing long and opening up.

Banana leaves will grow and open properly when the plant has enough water nutrients and the weather is warm. When the weather cools rapidly there is not enough water leaves can get stuck, stopping their growth and not opening.

The plants will not have enough energy to push the leaf out of the top of the wrapped stem.

The banana leaf can dry at the top, squeezing the leaf in and stopping it from opening. The leaf can break down, turn yellow and then brown. This can kill the whole stem if the leaf is not able to emerge.


Cut the banana plant underneath the choke point. This could be at the top of the leaf or further down. The leaf can then shoot from the stem and continue to grow.

Remove any old brown leaves from lower down on the stem. This will allow the plant to get more sunlight photosynthesize better and grow back rapidly.

Causes of banana leaves not opening

Banana plants need the ideal conditions to grow well with large healthy leaves. Here are the top causes of banana leaf choke at home.

1. Temperature

Banana plants need warm temperatures to grow well. Air temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit are needed to keep the plant growing new leaves that open up well. When temperatures drop below this or reduce suddenly, the leaf can stop growing, become bound at the top and will not open.

It is important to snip the leaf off below the point that is has become bound or ‘choked’. This will allow the leaf to continue to grow when the temperature warms up.

2. Lack of water

Banana trees that are not getting enough water can develop leaves that will not open. The leaf will dry at the end causing the tough fibers to bind together. Banana trees need a lot of water over the warmer months up to 1-2 gallons per day.

Keep the soil moist and water the plant if it becomes dry 2 inches below the soil surface. Banana plants that get regular water are less likely to develop leaves that become bound and will not open.

3. Lack of nutrients (especially nitrogen)

Banana plants that are not getting enough nutrients can become stunted, slowing their growth and not opening their leaves. Banana plants will need regular nitrogen based fertilizer during their growth phase to grow at their best.

Adding pelleted chicken manure each month around the base of the banana tree is a great way to keep them growing strong. Surround the base of the plant with compost each year and top with sugar cane or straw mulch to keep the rhizome moist.

This choked stem was topped around 3 month ago. It has grown back rapidly. The top of the cut leaf has turned black but the stem is healthy and thriving.

How long does it take for a banana leaf to unfurl?

Once the banana leaf has emerged without being choked or bound it can open within a few days. Plants that are getting lots of water and sunlight can open a 6 foot leaf in 3 days. The less sun the plant gets, the slower the leaf will be to open.

In tropical and sub-tropical regions banana plants will open their leaves up fastest in full sun. Smaller leaves that grow from stems near the center of the plant can take over a week to open. I like to trim back and remove any suckers that grow from between my main stems.

I will leave 3-4 main healthy stems on each banana root system. This allows the plant to focus on growing large healthy stems and produce a good bunch of bananas on each one.

Should I remove damaged banana leaves?

Once the banana leaf is damaged it can be trimmed off. Damaged leaves will develop brown edges, tears or yellowing. This can happen as a natural process when the leaf gets older or if it has become damaged by harsh weather conditions like wind, rain, very hot or very cold weather.

Look closely at the end of leaves that have not opened. If they have become brown or have died back at the end, trim them back to the healthy point. The leaf should look yellow and not brown. The new leaf will emerge from the center within 1-2 days if it has been cut back far enough.

Banana Plant Leaves Not Opening | Summary

Banana plant leaves will not open if the plant experience an extreme weather condition like sudden cold, lack of water, very hot weather than dries the soil rapidly or even damage to the growing leaf. If the leaf end dies back the fibers can wind together and stop the leaf from growing and opening.

Deal with this problem quicky because it can eventually kill off the stem. Trim the stem back to a healthy growing point where it looks fresh and healthy. The stem can grow back within a day and the stem will recover.

Happy growing.