Full sized banana plants can grow up to 25 feet tall and can become heavy on top and unstable. They usually need propping up to stop them from falling over, especially if they are carrying lots of fruit. Banana plants grow shallow roots which are only around 2 feet deep. This means that they are prone to falling over when the top gets too heavy.
As banana plants grow, they keep adding new stems. If the plant does not have enough soil to expand into or if the extra stems are not trimmed, it can push the older ones over causing them to fall.
Banana plants grow from a bulb underground like a daffodil, just bigger. Strong, thick stems can bend over as the top of the plant gets heavy with fruit.
The trunks are technically tightly woven leaf stems rather than true trunks like trees.
Mulch the plant with bark mulch to keep the moisture in the soil for longer
Why banana trees fall over
Here are the top reasons why banana trees fall over and what you can do to solve each one.
1. Shallow roots
Plants are very shallow rooted which is why they can grow in almost any soil, 12-18 inches is usually as deep as the roots grow. Mine is growing in a very shallow soil depth, definitely less than 2 feet and it is thriving.
Heavy clay, rich loam or compost and cow manure mixed together can all work well for banana plants. You can raise them up if you have very poor sandy soils and grow them in a large pot. You will need to keep removing the stems as eventually they can grow large enough to break through the pot.
2. Bananas with heavy tops and lots of fruit
Banana plants that develop large, heavy bunches and loads of leaves on the top of their plant can bend over. My banana has grown a lot of large leaves over summer and large leaves which has slowly bent the plant over. My banana stem is leaning against our wall which is holding it up.
You can also brace these large branches with stakes. Place large posts with flat edges under the heavy stems to help to hold them up and stop the whole plant from falling. Remove any old leaves that have turned yellow or brown to lighten the top of the banana plant.
If the banana plant is leaning over a walkway, then it is best to remove the whole stem for safety.
3. Too many stems
Banana trees that have limited space can end up having stems growing very close together which are not stable. My banana tree is lifted out of the ground and has run out of space in its small pot. The outside stems are starting to fall over as they run out of room.
Banana stems can be removed to give the larger stems more space and to prevent them from falling over. You can leave 3-4 stems to mature on your banana tree and produce fruit. All of the other stems can be removed if you don’t have the room.
Take a pruning saw and remove the suckers before they get more than 2-3 inches wide. This will make it easier to remove and carry them. The stem can be cut into small pieces and turned into compost.
4. Water sprouts
Small ‘water’ sprouts can also grow in-between the larger stems. They grow almost as offshoots of the rhizome, with little root attachment. They can easily bend and fall over as they are not securely attached to the rhizome or in the soil.
How to stop banana stems from falling over
Here are the top ways to stop your banana stems from falling over to save your fruit and your plant.
1. Stake your banana stems
Large stems that have already developed fruit can be staked to keep them upright until the fruit matures. Use strong posts or poly pipe to prop the stem up and hold it in place. You can even use rope or rachet straps to stabilize the plant and secure it to a strong post.
Once the fruit has matured it is best to remove the bent or leaning stem to keep it out of the way and to stop it breaking and damaging the underground rhizome.
2. Remove small suckers
Remove the small suckers that are growing in between your large, fruit producing banana stems. These small plants can take up room and push over the larger banana stems. It is best to chop these off when they are small to make more room for the mature stems.
3. Remove old stems that have already had fruit
Banana trees can produce well with 2-3 large stems that will rotate through and produce fruit. Once the stem has produced its bunches of bananas, you can leave it to die back and then chop it off and remove it. Each banana stem will only produce one flower and bunch of bananas.
If the large stem is leaning over, remove it before it dries up and dies back. If the stem is straight and secure, you can let it die back first so the rhizome can reabsorb the nutrients from the stem. Remove it when the stem and leaves have turned yellow and brown.
4. Prune off any yellow or brown leaves
It is a great idea to continually prune your banana tree to remove any brown or yellow leaves. This will help to decrease the weight of the top of the banana tree and prevent it from leaning or falling over.
5. Choose a dwarf variety
If you have a small space then choose a dwarf banana variety. These can grow and produce bananas with stems as small as a few feet and are less likely to bend and fall over. Dwarf banana varieties include Cavendish, Musa Red and Ice Cream.
Why Banana Trees Fall Over | Summary
Banana trees have heavy, water filled stems with heavy fruit producing flowers and shallow roots. All of this can lead to them bending and falling over in your yard. Prop up leaning banana stems if they are producing fruit or remove them if you already have other large, healthy stems growing.
Once banana trees have grown their banana bunch, wait for it to die back and remove the stems to make room for new ones.
Bananas are an incredibly rewarding and interesting plant to grow. They give your garden a tropical feel, are easy to care for and are fun to watch grow.