Monday, May 17, 2010

Taking Down the Banana Trees-For Good

I spoke of removing my banana trees in last month's Vegetable Garden Update post, but here is the process, problems and lessons learned post.

First of all let me say, I simply adore banana trees in my garden. I even really really liked the spot I had the bananas growing in. It was the perfect spot-for them, but not for all the other plants growing in that garden. I really have no other spot that would work for these banana trees in my garden so I decided to remove them from Tiger Gardens permanently.

It began one very nice spring day with a shovel and lots of energy. By the early afternoon the shovel was barely holding up, and the gardener lost all of her energy but the banana roots were all gone-hopefully never to return (Update: a few weeks later a few bananas have showed themselves to be very 'Survivor' worthy and came up in the bed. They've since been removed and are destined for Dave from the Home Garden blog at this week's Plant Swap. Dave, be sure to pay close attention to my warnings:) Banana roots are very fibrous, thick and sinewy. They stretch a good 10-12 feet from the plants. The extensive root system is one reason the banana trees are able to sustain themselves so well during the summers even when the weather is dry. I tried to show the fat thick roots in the above picture. They are really very prominent if you look closely at the bottom of the tuber. The roots make for difficult digging but the rhizomes were really the issue for my energy and shovel. Imagine gigantic canna and/or iris rhizomatous roots that grew three feet down and were more than one foot around. Then imagine there are 20 of these tubers with gigantic rhizomes coming off from them in every direction and criss crossing one another. If you can imagine this mess you can imagine the huge job I had digging out these roots.
The shovel had issue with the big tubers because the tubers were really tough and stringy. Look in the above photo. I am holding a part of the tuber away the other part in order to show you the strings and fibers in the tuber. The tubers were quite starchy like and I wonder if they are edible? I can imagine one tuber would sustain a whole family for one week. It was pretty difficult getting all of the tubers out of the ground but I think I finally did-Not. In the process I found several new banana sprouts. I potted them up for sale at the MG plant sale or plant swap. All banana trees will go with a warning:

Site Musa bajoo carefully because you never ever want to have to dig them out. They need full or partial sun in good soil with an area about 10 feet around where they can spread to their heart's content. Be forewarned, they will spread.

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team,

In the Garden


  1. I have found banana trees to be very persistent. While I am not planning to take mine out, I don't think they would ever go away. Luckily for me, they usually are knocked back every winter.

    Always Growing

  2. I wondered how they survived so well here~That was a lot of digging. gail

  3. Wow those are some stubborn looking roots. I'm sure Dave will find a nice location for them in his garden. Nice of you to pass them along. :)

  4. Ew. How many breaks did you take?

  5. Tina,
    Oh my! My newly planted Zebrine Banana will need to be brought inside for the winter. Guess I will dig it up and plant it in a pot. Not winter hardy here and the bed I have it in is full of all kinds of plox. Thanks for this heads up!

  6. Boy, some plants just don't want to be done away with. What a backbreaking job that surely was.

    Enjoy your reclaimed space and I hope you see no more babies coming up.


  7. So glad you could pass them on to someone Tina. My Hubby will feel your pain on digging out those roots. This french drain is so tough because of all the roots-it is taking forever!
    Have a great day!

  8. Thanks for the warning. I think I will stay away from those. Carla

  9. Oh yea, the bananas are very persistent and are so difficult to remove completely. We Indians never tend them much coz they do it for themselves and gift us with fruits, flowers, leaves, stem.
    We of course eat their fruits, flowers are used in curry, the core of the stem is also used in curry. People who have kidney stones are advised to drink the extract of the core of banana's stem. It is proven cure!
    In traditional Indian marriages and on special occasions, food is served on banana leaves, but this practice (unfortunately) is almost not seen always anywhere these days. Our elders knew the right way to eat on banana leaves. They say, one should scrape the banana leaf with their nails while picking food up from it - so as to consume the nutritious parts of the leaf - not many Indians know it these days and think that it's just traditional!

    I know it's difficult to part from them, but if they're so badly affecting your garden, they oughta go, sadly. You could may be grow a single plant in huge drums??? People who don't have ground spaces do that here in India and believe me they do really well.

    1. Thank you for sharing you knowledge and history. I will add these lessons to our family and share with our friends.

    2. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and history. We will use your lessons in our family and share it with our friends and neighbors.

  10. Never considered growing banannas. Wonder if Chandramouli's suggestion of using a drum would let you have bannans with out them ruling the whole garden. Hope you recovered from all the digging!

  11. Tina,

    Thanks for the warning! I think we have a few spots that will work well for them on our slope area. I had no idea that the root system was that extensive. I've transplanted our bird of paradise several times (it's related to bananas) and noticed it's roots are very thick and heavy. I guess it makes sense the bananas would be too!

  12. Jan, They are so very nice in the garden.

    Gail, Yes indeed.

    Racquel, I actually had to do a bit of work to save a few bananas. The roots were so big that most went to the dump. Dave and another garden friend desired a banana. I hope they do well for them.

    Dawn, None! But I do knock off work in the afternoon-time for the nap then:)

    Randy, Hopefully it will not be too hard to dig. Hat's off to you to dig it!

    Linda, Oh yes, digging roots-no thank you! Good luck to him!

    Carla, They are very nice-just need a lot of space. We only have one acre and it is mostly filled:( If I ever get more land I'll put in bananas-they would look great by a pond somewhere as they are so tropical.

    Chandramouli, I cooked a fish in banana leaves wrapped with twine last year. It was very good! The leaf allowed the fish to steam nicely. I can see where that sap would be good for anything. Too cool on the cure for kidney stones. I don't wish to do anymore pots but that might be an idea...hmmmm.

    GSS, I might try his idea. I am pondering it and will let you all know. I am actually liking it.

    Dave, I'll see you Saturday? A gardening friend of mine is coming. I'm not so sure the Jimster and Mr. Fix-it could suffer through a day of gardening related activities so just her and I. She is bringing a bunch of stuff and working to dig things this week. Mine are all pretty much potted and ready to go. A few special things.

  13. Good morning, Tina. That's a shame, those banana trees were kind of a landmark at Tiger Gardens.

    I know how it is tho, some things take up so much room or are so labor intensive, there just comes a time...

  14. Thanks for charing that experience with us Tina. I don't know if you remember that we tlked about those banana trees last fall and that I was going to plant one of them in the garden this summer. But now I think I'll better keep it in a huge pot instead.

  15. Hi Tina,
    I didn't know that the roots were that big or that they went so deep. That's why they can survive in adverse conditions.
    I know you had a back breaking job to do. Glad it's over, even though you will miss it,this will give you more garden space for more plants.
    Rainy here, 73º. Nice out, good gardening in between the rain which has stopped for now.
    Have a wonderful day all.
    Hey Skeeter.

  16. Hi Tina -wow that certainly looked like and exhausting job. I'm sure some gardens would love such a feisty tree with strong stretchy roots but I can see where it would be a problem with space and location. Busy here with the last few days of school -yeah! Have a great day everyone -Ciao.

  17. Goodness those are some roots you have there and I don't envy you the job you had digging them up. Sorry they didn't work well for you since you love having them in your garden.

  18. Though we have banana plantations at home, I never knew about their root structures... I am really surprised.. Those roots are really gigantic..... Poor them.... I love savoring few festive lunches on their leaves....


  19. Well, at least you found someone willing to take your castoffs. I know it must have been hard to part with them. There are certain plants I become fond of, but then they exceed what I thought their bounds should be, the silly things. I hope the remnants of the roots are history!

  20. Marnie, It really is but change is ok:)

    Gittan, Huge pots will work fine. I'm so glad your wall straightened out!

    Lola, You have fun gardening. Lovely here too!

    Anonymous, I saw Sidekick's picture in the paper. Cut it out to save it for you. Too cute! Yes busy, hard to believe another school year is nearly over.

    Linda, They were fun for a while. Maybe one day I'll have a big yard and grow them. I hope too. Have fun on your anniversary!

    Ashkuku, It is amazing their root system. Really something else. I too enjoy food cooked in their leaves. I'll miss them:(

    W2W, People pay good good money for these babies. I hope they go to good homes in a safe spot for sure.

  21. Holy cow! With roots like that, I wonder why they won't grow up here? Oh well. I'd adore having a banana tree, but I'd NEVER want to remove it!

  22. I would never have imagined the roots to be so big and spread out. I think because it died down for you every year I thought the roots would be smaller. I bet you are glad to have that job behind you. It'll be fun to see where Dave plants it in his garden.

  23. I wouldn't have thought they'd be so hardy either ~ I doubt they'd be that way here if I planted them in the ground. I usually keep them in containers so I can overwinter them in the basement. Maybe I've been doing all the extra work for nothing!

  24. It sounds almost like the work I had to go through to get rid of a well established horseradish plant in my previous garden. Although a banana plant is so much more exotic and I imagine nicer smelling than a horseradish plant. Too bad banana plants are not hardy in my garden because I would gladly give them all the room they wanted.

  25. Hi Tina, it seems like i am not allowed to see and post comment here, hehe! I waited for 35 min to upload everything, realized they have to be uploaded before the pop-up comment box will complete. The photos however did not fully load up but produced some Xs. Finally when i commented, it suddenly said cannot be displayed, OMG, what is happening after typing my long post.

    I am actually amused by your banana experience. In our case we just plant them in designated banana orchard and leave them there alone, just cut the blossom after all the fruits show, cut some dried leaves and go. We dont even water, fertilize or attend to them. Then we just get the mature bunches. The old trunks decompose and new suckers arise. They are happy and we are happy too.

    By the way, i dont often come here because of what i mentioned earlier. Maybe changing the number of posts per page will be easier. thanks and regards to Skeeter. I hope this 2nd comment retype will go thru now! Huh!

  26. Good golly! I had no idea about the roots. What a chore!

  27. It is good to know that about the banana. I have a plant with the same habit in a pot. I am scared to put it in the ground.

  28. Oh my goodness, Tina, my muscles ache just reading this! I think I would have given up before getting all the roots out.

  29. Oh boy, I sure wish they were hardy here as with my space I would sure have me some. Actually I did plant one from seed a while ago in a pot. When we got home last night it was 2 feet tall but I know I will have to bring it in during most of the year so it will never grow as big as yours. If it does I will never be able to bring it in so will leave it out to be winter killed. Interesting to see how many years I can keep it.

    We got home late last night and am very tired but had an awesome month!!!! Visited with Lola last Friday and that was awesome. Now to get everthing put away and catch up on everything.

  30. Tina, I also have bananas, but really love them. I'm sad that you've extracted yours, but understand why. I hope you gave your back a nice soothing bath after that day of labor!

  31. Cindy, Big job indeed.

    Catherine, Those roots are really something. Yes, looking forward to seeing it grow in Dave's garden.

    Kathleen, You are right I doubt if they'd survive your tough climate. I hope it is finally warming up there.

    Melanie, I've seen horseradish grow in a northern garden and I can just be it would be hard to remove too. An amazing plant though. If you lived closer I'd surely share the bananas.

    Andrea, Thanks for telling me. I changed the settings to display only a few posts, hopefully it helps. Things have been slow on here. Maybe I just have too much stuff on this blog:)

    Cameron, Yes indeed! I do hope your trip is rocking good!

    Donna, I don't blame you for being a bit fearful of the bananas but in the right spot they really do add a lot to a garden.

    Rose, I hope it is all done once and for all-sore muscles indeed but rewarding I think.

    Mom, So glad you made it home safely! What a trip you've had. Lola sent me some photos of you all and Uncle Rick said he got to see you too. Sounds like an awesome trip. Now if we only could've gotten that Wilma trip in...

    Kimberly, I really do love them as I can see you do yours, but there is not enough room here. They were such a feature in my yard but it was time for a change.

  32. Hi all.
    Jean glad you got home safe. Had an awesome visit with you. Be safe & get some rest.

  33. Hi Tina -so glad to hear Jean is home safely from her adventures:)
    Hi Lola -hope you all are doing well-it was a cool day up here today.
    Hi Skeeter and Nina -hope you gals aren't working too hard. Busy with kiddos and end of year stuff but always want to see what's happening in the garden. Ciao

  34. Whoa. I had no idea bananas were such a force underground. Good thing my banana is in a spot where I want to keep it. I never want to go through the routine you described.

  35. As you know, I will miss your awesome Banana Tina. I really enjoyed how it greeted me when I arrived at Tiger Gardens!

    I am glad we read this post though. I have yet to transplant the one remaining potted nanner into the Beach themed planter. This nanners mother plant died over winter from the planter. We have now decided to not plant it in that spot for fear it could mess with the house foundation. We dont want nanners growing up through our floor, hee hee. I think we will come up with something else for that planter and place the banana in an open area so it can flourish. I planted another one I over wintered in a pot in the house near the swing in the yard. It seems to be happy ther thus far....

  36. Yippee, Jean and Lola spent some time together! I am so happy you two hooked up for a visit. Now I know why my ears have been ringing. lol....

    So glad to hear Miss Jean and Papa arrived safe in Maine. It was awesome meeting you guys!

  37. I just removed a ton of Japanese anemone. I love them but they're taking over and I needed the room to plant something else--a rose that had nowhere else to go. I'm not naive enough to think I got all the roots & runners, but hopefully. There are some things I wish I'd never planted!