Growing your own tropical and exotic plants is an exciting, interesting and very rewarding process.
Bananas are spectacular plants with magnificent foliage. Every year we harvest between 80 – 160 bananas. The banana group includes plants grown for their inflorescence (flower bud), their foliage and of course their fruit.
Banana plants are available from plant nurseries and there are many websites that specialise in exotic plants. Specialist nurseries will raise hardier plants and should have an expert on hand to help you choose the ideal type of plant for your needs. If you have limited space in your greenhouse or conservatory dwarf varieties are best. If you want to grow fruiting varieties, then try Bananarama or Dwarf Cavendish. The following suppliers will be able to give you more information:
Mulu Nurseries, Worcestershire
Tel: 01625 449013 - www.mulu.co.uk
The Palm Centre, Surrey
Tel: 0208 255 6191 - www.palmcentre.co.uk
Urban Jungle, Norwich
Tel: 01603 744997 - www.urbanjungle.uk.com
Bananas produce side shoots at the base of the stem, these are known as ‘suckers’ and can be cut away using a serrated blade. The best suckers are 15cm - 30cm (6” - 12”) tall taken with some root and preferably in the spring. Pot up newly cut suckers in compost. These need to be kept out of direct sunlight and kept moist until new leaves begin to develop. Give the plant time to establish strong roots. Larger suckers with plenty of root can be transplanted directly into a pot or our Tropical Planters.
Your banana plant will perform best in warm, sunny, humid conditions - we would recommend growing them in a greenhouse or conservatory. If you are planting outdoors you need to ensure that the plant has access to plenty of light. It is also essential to shield the plant from any strong winds that could damage the leaves, and would also recommend wrapping fleece blanket around the plant to protect it from frost. Roots can die quickly if they become waterlogged, so drainage is another key consideration.
In order to prevent overwatering, we recommend using the Tropical Planter, which is suitable for a young plants or suckers. If a small plant looks out of place in the large planter, flowering annuals or other suitable plants can then be planted with the banana.
When the height of your plant reaches 30cm - 50 cm it is ready for transplant, although larger plants can be used. It is important that you have a good root ball before transplanting. Prepare your final planting location, pot or Tropical Planter prior to disturbing the pot grown plant. Open the roots out by teasing the root ball apart from the base and wash away any loose compost. There is no need to remove all traces of compost. Planting out is now complete.
Once in the final pot, your banana plant will need very little care until it flowers. As a general rule they will perform best in warm, sunny, humid conditions, but this will depend on the hardiness of your plant.
A minimum night time temperature of 10˚C - 12˚C is advisable to prevent the plant deteriorating in winter. At a slightly higher temperature (15˚C) it might continue growing, but this will be at a slow rate during winter.
Your banana plant will produce suckers. As explained earlier, these can be removed at any time to propagate new plants, but at least one should be allowed to grow on as your main stem grows larger. Once your main stem has flowered and cropped, it should be cut off at the base. Your next sucker will become the main stem. It is impossible to predict exactly when your banana will flower - this is one of the many intriguing aspects of the plant.
The flower bud will appear from the same point as new leaves, the individual buds will open to reveal hands of small bananas with the true flowers at the end. At some point the flower bud might stop growing and the bananas will remain tiny. As long as the portion of the flower stem that has stopped fruiting seems healthy it can be left, but if it starts to soften it should be cut off after the last hand of good bananas with a sharp knife. This will prevent rotting. Where it is cut will weep quite heavily but do not worry.
It will take about 6 - 8 months for the fruit to swell and ripen. Wait until the fruit is yellow all over, then remove from the plant, peel and savour your home-grown banana. You can expect to harvest between 80 - 160 bananas per flower.
Only one species of plant gives us edible root ginger and this is ‘Zingiber officinale’ – we recommend growing this variety. Zingiber officinale, along with most varieties of ginger are perfect for growing in a conservatory or greenhouse. You can expect to harvest between 1.5kg – 2.5kg from one plant after 8 months from planting.
You can plant root ginger that is bought from a shop or supermarket. This can be planted directly into compost, but we would recommend soaking it in water overnight before planting. Plant-up the ginger root or several small pieces of ginger in the centre of a pot of damp compost.
Ginger requires lots of moisture, so ensure that the soil never dries out – but do not overwater. You can transplant the plant when it shows signs of growth. We recommend planting into our Tropical Planter - wash away the compost and plant-up in the centre of the planter, but do not bury the new stems. Alternatively you can plant directly into the ground, but growth might be affected by cooler conditions.
Ensure your ginger has good, light, airy conditions for growth. A shaded part of a greenhouse or conservatory is perfect and allows you to plant out between April and May. Prolonged periods of direct sunlight can be harmful. Ideally provide a dapple shade during very bright periods. Your ginger plant will benefit from occasional misting (spraying of water).
Ginger will not continue to develop once day lengths have seriously shortened in the autumn (around the beginning of October). When this occurs switch-off the pump and allow the planter to dry out for a day or two. Then harvest by removing the whole plant from the planter, snapping the stems away from the edible roots. If you plant during April, you can expect to harvest during October. A typical harvest for one plant would be between 1.5kg – 2.5kg.
Papaya’s are spectacular plants with magnificent foliage. Our Papaya is the most productive of our exotics. We harvest 20kgs from each established plant every year and the fruit grows to around 25cms long, each one weighs about 800g. It looks and tastes great. If you have the space you should give it a go.
Take the cutting from a side shoot and place in a propagator (we use our Hydropod misting propagator) for 2 weeks.
When the young plants have roots plant them in 11cm pots. In spring put them in the Tropical Planter or your final planting pot, and they will produce ripe fruit by October.
You can use any shop bought Papaya seeds, or from a supplier such as Jungle Seeds. The Papaya we grow is: Carica Papaya Waimanolo.
Papaya plants will bear fruit within a year after being sown, and we recommend sowing during the summer. To get the best results:
- Wash the seed: remove the sticky cover using a coarse sieve.
- Air dry the seeds and store in an air tight container.
- Sow in summer, or on a hot bed in a well-drained growing medium.
- Water frequently, preferably with a fungicide to prevent damping off.
- Harden by gradually reducing the amount of shade it has access to, and plant out the female plants into your final pot or Tropical Planter when about 20cm tall.
As the sex of the seedlings remains unknown until flowering, seedlings are usually planted out in groups of three or four and the male plants are usually removed later unless wanted.
Male plants don’t produce fruit, so you need to identify which are your female plants. Papayas start flowering when they are about one metre tall. The males flower first with long, thin funnel shaped small blooms. Female flowers are usually single blooms, bigger, and very close to the trunk. If you are not sure – send us a photograph. Identify your healthiest female plant and ensure this is transplanted.
Prepare the area where you are going to plant the Papaya – this should have access to the sun, but be sheltered from the wind. We recommend growing Papaya in a greenhouse or conservatory, in a pot or our Tropical Planter. Prepare the pot or planter to receive the Papaya plant prior to disturbing the pot grown plant. Open the roots out by teasing the root ball and wash away any loose compost.
There is no need to remove all traces of compost. Transplant the young plant into the centre of the pot or planter, and planting out is complete.
Your Papaya will perform best in warm, sunny humid conditions. A minimum night time temperature of 10°C - 12°C is advisable to prevent the plant deteriorating in winter. During the winter we reduce the watering and the greenhouse is kept above 11˚C, the fruit continues to ripen throughout the winter.
The fruit grows to around 25cms long, each one weighs about 800g. When ripe they are yellow and smell absolutely delicious. We harvest 20kgs from each established plant every year and it looks and tastes great. It takes 14 months from planting a cutting to harvesting fruit from the new plant. To harvest, cut the stem with a pair of scissors or snap the fruit off by hand.
Papaya will continue to be healthy for 3 to 4 years after which time they should be replaced with new plants because they will be susceptible to disease and will be unproductive.
Pineapples are one of the world’s most unique tropical plants, are simple to grow and taste fabulous.
You’ll need a Pineapple from the supermarket with its stalk still attached. Once you have obtained your fruit, grab the stalk and twist it sharply to remove it, ensuring that 2cms of fruit is attached. You need to expose the mini routes that are just waiting to find moisture. To do this, just peel off the leaves at the bottom of the stalk until you uncover little brown nubby rootlets.
Then allow your Pineapple to dry out for a few days. Place this into a jar of water so that the part without any leaves on is submerged. Try not to let any more of the plant get underneath the water as this will cause rotting and produce mould. Keep the Pineapple away from any temperature extremes (heating or cooling vents/south-facing windows.) After three weeks you’ll see healthy root growth. After about two months you can plant directly into the final pot or Tropical Planter
- Plant the Pineapple in an 8” pot with drainage holes. We’d advise to put in a layer of stones at the bottom and then fill with compost.
- Add the Pineapple and water thoroughly. Ensure the soil is moist but not saturated. It will take six to eight weeks for the stalk to really start sending out strong roots. We put the plant in a heated propagator set to 25°C during this time.
- After about two months, the Pineapple should support itself as a new plant.
- You can then plant this out, and water moderately. We would recommend keeping your plant in a warm, humid greenhouse or conservatory. We grow pineapple in our Tropical Planter, as it provides the plant with the precise amount of water that it requires.
To do this:
- Remove the pineapple from its pot. Open roots out by teasing the root ball & wash away loose compost.
- Transplant into the centre of a pot or Tropical Planter, and water moderately.
Other than routine maintenance, your Pineapple will need very little care. In order to achieve the best results, keep your Pineapple in warm, sunny humid conditions, with a minimum night time temperature between 10°C - 12°C. The fruit will emerge from the centre of the plant 24 - 36months after planting.
Pineapple plants flower once, and produce one pineapple, but they produce suckers which are plantlets. These plantlets emerge between the leaves of the mature pineapple plant. Remove these plantlets when they are about 20-25cms long.
To remove the suckers take hold of them close to the base, and twist and pull. They usually come off easily.
Let the sucker/plantlet dry out and then plant them in the same way as the pineapple stalk. These plantlets produce fruit much more quickly than the plant grown from the pineapple stalk with fruit mature approximately 5 months sooner than those grown from pineapple stalks.
Once the pineapple is ripe, you can harvest it by cutting it from the plant with a sharp knife. You can expect to harvest 1 pineapple from each plant, and the side shoots from the plant can be planted for the next growing season.
If you would like more information on growing tropical plants or simply have a question you would love answering, our Gardening Angels can help.
Give us a call on 0845 602 3774 or drop us an email at email@example.com.