Leave bananas standing in winter for next year’s fruit

Pat McCullough cuts the tops off winter-browned banana stalks Thursday. At left is a cut stalk revealing tiny live core at center that will quickly sprout.

Banana trees grow well in southwest Mississippi, but getting them to bear fruit takes extra effort.

Pat McCullough of Ruth learned how through trial and error after getting his first plant in 1968.

He learned not to cut his banana trees after they die in the winter. Rather, leave the brown trunks and leaves as insulation.

“All those leaves fold down and act like an insulator blanket,” McCullough said. “It’ll have a live core to it.”

When the weather warms in early spring — like now — cut the tops off down to a thin, live core. That core will begin sprouting within hours.

“If you leave it too long it will rot,” McCullough cautioned.

Later in the spring, peel the brown outer layer off the trunks to reveal the slick green stalk.

It takes two seasons for a tree to produce fruit.

“I’ve never seen one make a bunch the same year it sprouted,” McCullough said.

Trees will bear bunches of bananas, but the growing season here usually isn’t long enough for them to get ripe, McCullough says.

Once the fruit fills out, cut the bunch off and hang it in a store room until the bananas ripen.

McCullough recalls growing one bunch of bananas that got so heavy it broke the trunk.

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