Growing Bananas: Dwarf Brazillian

Growing Bananas: Dwarf Brazillian

This past weekend we started harvesting this year’s little crop of Dwarf Brazillian bananas. The fruit are a perfect snack size banana, slightly dry, very sweet, and with just a hint of acidity.

I was never much of fan of bananas until I started sampling some of the different backyard varieties that members of CRFG brought to meetings to share. After a few years, I decided I really enjoyed the Dwarf Brazillian cultivar and decided to try growing it. I live in Sunset zone 22, a part of Southern California that gets very infrequent frosts and plenty of humidity from the ocean. I was optomistic it would do okay around here, but unsure how it would do in our yard since I didn’t have an ideal spot for one. All of the premium full sun spots were taken up by other shrubs and trees long ago. The only full sun area left in the backyard is the concrete driveway and I didn’t want to grow such a thristy plant in a pot.

banana growing in a pot
Young potted banana tree waiting to be planted in the ground.

For mother’s day, in 2016, my teenagers were kind enough to dig out an old varigated pittosporum on the back side of the house where it wasn’t doing much for the looks of the backyard, it didn’t provide fruit, and it didn’t seem very popular with the local pollinators. The only thing that plant had going for it was the chickens liked to hang out under it to dust bathe on hot summer days and it was drought tolerant. My son said it was a major pain in the —- to remove! Had they realized how hard it was going to be to remove, they would have got me something else for mother’s day. The gift of their hard work was a truely a labor of love because the kids knew I really wanted to try growing the bananas. The area faces South and gets a decent amount of full to half day sun in the winter time when the sun is low in the sky, but by Springtime, the area is predominately dappled shade from our Chinese Elm tree for the entire day, similar to what can be seen in the photo below.

It took a couple of hours to prune and dig out the old shrub that was evicted to make room for the banana tree. The nandina on the left was removed just this past year to make room for more sunlight for the banana and a ‘Unique’ feijoa.

Our banana flowered for the first time when it was about two and half years old, in August of 2018. We picked those first bananas from late April through mid May of 2019. It followed a similar pattern this time around of flowering in summer and fruiting in spring once the weather warmed up.

It has a stout short trunk, in comparison to other varieties I have seen growing around town, and hasn’t needed any support when it fruiting. This is a major plus in my opinion since our backyard is so small. Dwarf Brazillian is more tolerant of shade and doesn’t need as much water as some of the other varieties that are popular in places like Hawaii.

best small variety of banana tree for urban yard
The young banana mat where the pittosporum used to be

However, bananas are NOT drought tolerant. I do give my banana tree plenty of grey water at least every two to three weeks in the dry season and chicken manure once or twice a year. I have heard this variety does well in pots, but I have no experience with growing it a pot longer than a year. I would think it would have to be a really big pot to get it to fruiting age. I usually find homes for my banana pups before they are any older than a six to eight months old. Although it is a dwarf variety, the tippy tops of the leaves are as tall as our roof. The truck is about 7 to 8 feet tall when it fruits and so far, 3 years seems to be how long it takes in my dappled shady yard for it go from a new offset to being mature enough to harvest the bananas.

ripening Dwarf Brazillian banana best banana for socal
The Dwarf Brazillian bananas as they started to change color

Last year, the Chinese Elm tree had a very dense canopy and it really shady out the poor banana. It might be why there were not as many flowers or fruit this year, incomparison to last year. The elm got trimmed in October of 2019 and we will have to wait and see if it improves the number of banana flowers it sets this summer.

It seems to make offsets readily and is happy in the area its planted, but it is way too close to the house. I don’t recommend planting bananas close to a block wall or foundation, but there aren’t many spots in my yard that aren’t one or the other. I am doing my best to stay on top of the spreading growth, and have dug out plenty of pups to share with friends and a few to be sold at the OC CRFG booth at the Green Scene. If HLB ends up killng my citrus trees, I will move the bananas to the back of the property where the Bearss lime tree currently lives. I hope it never comes to that.

comparison of dwarf brazillian to cavendish banana
The Dwarf Brazillian banana is on the left next to a grocery store Cavendish banana, on the right, for size comparison

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you get to enjoy some time in the garden today.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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