The ice cream banana tree is one of more than 1,000 types of banana trees in the world. Its bananas have a creamy texture and vanilla custard taste that make them a sweeter alternative to the typical banana you would buy at your local grocery store.
No matter where you live in the United States, you can grow an ice cream banana tree outside in your yard or garden or in a large pot inside your home. Keep reading to learn how to grow and maintain an ice cream banana tree and where to buy one.
Ice Cream Banana Tree Overview
|Fruit size||Up to nine inches long; tree can grow up to 15 feet|
|Fruit uses||Eat raw or cooked in a recipe like banana bread|
|Fruit color||Blue-green skin before the banana is ripe; yellow skin when the banana is ripe with white flesh|
|Fruit texture and flavor||Creamy texture; vanilla ice cream flavor|
|Region||Most regions, except parts of the North, Midwest, and Alaska|
|Hardiness zone||8–11 in the ground, 4–11 potted on a patio or inside|
|Resistance||Cool weather, wind|
What Does an Ice Cream Banana Tree Look Like?
The ice cream banana tree is long and skinny. Its height varies from 10 to 20 feet tall, with the leaves growing to be as large as nine feet long and two feet wide. The leaves and stem on a healthy ice cream banana tree are lime green, and the blossoms that the banana grows out of are red.
The banana skin is blue-tinted before the banana is ripe, hence its first name—the blue java banana. The banana fruit has white flesh when ripe and its creamy texture and vanilla ice cream flavor give it its second name, the ice cream banana.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Ice Cream Banana Trees
In preparation for your ice cream banana tree, make sure you live in an area with the proper growing conditions that will allow the plant to flourish.
Sun and Shade
This plant does best in temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Direct sunlight is preferred, but the plant can still survive under partial sun. In fact, 30%–50% shade is the best for promoting leaf growth, which is important in the beginning stages of tree growth.
The soil should be fertile and well-drained with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, which is toward the acidic side of the pH scale. Banana trees do not tolerate salty soil well, so if you live in a coastal area, you may have to dig up the ground and replace it with new soil.
To maintain the proper soil conditions, fertilize once a month during warm weather. The best fertilizer grade to use is 3-1-6, which is 3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus, and 6% potassium. The higher level of potassium allows for a quality fruit crop and prevents the plant from drying out.
Ice cream banana trees require waterings about once a day. Make sure the root systems stay wet by giving it a deep watering every time you water the fruit tree. Standing water will kill the plant by rotting the rhizome, so make sure the soil is wet but not soaking.
Ideal Hardiness Zones
The ice cream banana tree grows best in warmer climates in zones 8–11, where you can plant the tree outdoors. If you plan on keeping the banana tree in a pot on your patio or inside next to a window, you can grow one in zones 4 to 11.
How to Plant an Ice Cream Banana Tree
Ice cream banana trees can be planted in your yard, in a large pot on your patio, or inside your home next to a large window.
- If you decide on an outdoor location, dig a hole that’s twice as wide as the pot and just as deep.
- Plant the rhizome—the mass of roots given to you when you purchase the tree—just below the soil surface (an inch or two below the soil), ensuring that it’s level with the ground and standing straight up.
- Fill in the hole with soil, pressing down to prevent air pockets.
- Water and mulch around the tree to conserve moisture and prevent weeds.
From the rhizome, a pseudostem—tightly bound leaf sheaths that look like a stem—will sprout up. The true stem will emerge from the pseudostem 10 to 15 months after planting. From this stem, a bundle of banana flowers will bloom and bananas will grow out of those flowers and be ready to pick 115 to 150 days after they emerge.
Banana trees live for about six years, but each stem only lives long enough to produce fruit. After picking the fruit, the stem will die and a new one will grow from the rhizome to give you your next round of bananas.
Tolerance and Susceptibility
Ice cream banana trees are fairly cold-tolerant and wind-tolerant. The biggest killer of banana trees in the United States is root rot, a disease where the roots rot and the plant decays from excessive water or a fungus that lives in the soil.
There are other diseases and fungi common in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America that can attack ice cream banana trees, but none of these typically affect those in the United States.
Common insects like aphids, moths, and caterpillars may attack the banana leaves on your tree. The best way to prevent this from happening is by spraying an insecticide or applying an organic pest solution.
Read more: How to Fight Aphids Naturally
If you have a moderate amount of gardening skills, planting an ice cream banana tree may be a good fit for your next project. With regular watering and soil maintenance, you can get a banana that dissolves in your mouth and tastes like ice cream.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ice Cream Banana Trees
Is an ice cream banana tree considered a tree?
Banana trees technically aren’t trees—they don’t have woody trunk tissue, which means they’re actually herbs. In fact, a close relative to the banana tree is the ginger root.
How fast do ice cream banana trees grow?
From the time you plant them in soil, ice cream banana trees take about a year and a half to two years to grow ripe bananas.
Can I grow a banana tree from a banana?
The typical bananas you buy from the grocery store have been genetically modified, so you wouldn’t be able to grow bananas from them. However, ice cream bananas do have black seeds in them, so you could replant that seed and hope it germinates into a tree.
Before replanting the seed, soak it in warm water for 24 to 48 hours to soften the seed coating, allowing it to sprout easier. Dig a hole in the soil about ¼ inch deep. Place the seed inside and refill the hole. Follow the same maintenance instructions from above.
Do ice cream banana trees self-pollinate?
Yes. Banana trees self-pollinate, which means you don’t need another tree nearby to help with fertilization. However, planting another tree nearby will increase your yield. Bananas are tropical fruits and grow best in warm, humid climates. Planting another tree next to it will lock in heat and humidity for the portions of the trees that are next to each other.
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