How to Plant, Grow, and Care for ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ Banana Trees

Would you like to grow your own delicious, healthy bananas at home? ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ banana trees are fairly easy to grow, especially if you live in a warm climate, and they can produce harvestable bananas each year. If you’re not sure how to care for a tropical banana species, no worries. Plant biologist Emily Estep will walk you through everything you need to know.

A lush orchard featuring Dwarf Cavendish banana trees with broad green leaves.

Contents

The ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ banana tree has been prized for its fruit since the 19th century, and there’s no reason why you can’t carry on the tradition at home. You can grow these tropical plants outdoors in warmer regions or indoors as houseplants.

With a pseudostem that starts with a rhizome, these plants get taller and taller as each new leaf grows. The leaves initially have eye-catching red and purple splotches that fade as the leaves age. The central stalks can get up to 10 feet tall before they fruit.

These plants are excellent beginner tropicals, as they’re fun and easy to grow. The fact that you can harvest grocery-store-tier bananas from them is a huge bonus.

‘Dwarf Cavendish’ Banana Tree

Dwarf Cavendish Banana Trees:

  • grow 10 feet tall in-ground, and smaller in containers
  • make great houseplants
  • produce high-quality, sweet fruit
  • have low maintenance needs

buy at Epic Gardening Shop

 

Overview

A close-up of a Dwarf Cavendish banana tree featuring several green, unripe fruits.
The Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ is an herbaceous, flowering perennial plant.
Plant Type Herbaceous, flowering perennial
Family Musaceae
Genus Musa
Species acuminata
Native Area Asia
Exposure Full sun
Height 8’-10’
Watering Requirements Average
Pests and Diseases Aphids, nematodes, beetles, Fusarium wilt, leaf spot, banana bunchy top virus
Maintenance Average
Soil Type Fertile loam with good drainage
Hardiness Zone 8-11

What Is It?

M. acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ is a banana tree cultivar with quite a history. Bananas are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits, with cultivation dating back to 8000 B.C. Originally native to Asia, the 6th Duke of Devonshire — William Cavendish — received a gift of bananas in the early 1800s. Though the exact timeline is murky, Cavendish then cultivated and sent the bananas around the Pacific, and the spread of bananas continued.

Over time, bananas have become one of the world’s most important staple crops, and if you live in the right climate, you can grow bananas in your yard. These self-pollinating banana trees produce bunches of edible bananas. They’re perennial to USDA zones 8-11, but in cooler regions, grow them in pots and bring them indoors during winter.

Characteristics

Banana trees thriving amidst lush green foliage in a garden outside a spacious, elegant home.
Self-pollinating banana trees have plenty of fruit and aesthetic appeal.

Dwarf Cavendish is an attractive banana tree with new leaves that emerge with purple or red mottling that fades to green as they mature. This perennial plant will come back year after year when in good health, whether you keep it outdoors all year long or maintain it as a houseplant. 

Relatively easygoing, self-pollinating banana trees should produce fruit each year, and it’s possible for them to fruit in their first year of planting, even when started from a rhizome, in model surroundings. These trees are normally grown for their prized bananas, but they make a lovely landscape plant or houseplant, even without the fruit.

Native Area

Lush banana trees with broad, vibrant green leaves surrounding a bunch of unripe fruits.
The original range of M. acuminata is uncertain due to its ancient cultivation history.

M. acuminata is most likely native to Southeast Asia and India, though its original range may have extended all the way to northern Australia. Its true native range is somewhat difficult to narrow down because bananas have been cultivated for thousands of years. The ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ cultivar was first grown in the greenhouses of Chatsworth House in 19th century England.

Planting

In zones 8-11, plant Dwarf Cavendish in a sunny area with loamy, fertile, well-draining soil. You can either purchase a young Dwarf Cavendish tree or start from a rhizome. A pseudostem will emerge from the rhizome, followed by big, tropical leaves. Consider that these trees can grow up to 10 feet tall, potentially shading out nearby plants when choosing a location.

In cooler zones, Plant these banana trees in large containers and move them indoors when it gets cold. Though it may take a part-time houseplant banana tree longer to grow, don’t forget how tall it may eventually become. If planting in a pot or container, consider placing it on wheels to move it around easily, as moving the plant can be cumbersome. 

Transplanting

A young banana tree with green leaves speckled in brown, thriving in nutrient-rich dark soil.
Protect it from drought in the first month to ensure healthy plant establishment.

When transplanting a Dwarf Cavendish, first choose a bright, sunny location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, if not more. Plant in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil, and amend the soil in advance if needed. Planting in spring is ideal.

Use a shovel to dig a hole that is slightly bigger than the root ball of the tree. Carefully remove the tree from its current pot, and gently tease the roots. Place the root ball in the center of the hole and backfill with soil. Water the base of the tree thoroughly to help prevent transplant shock.

In the first month or so as the plant is first establishing, be careful not to let the soil dry out. Water regularly and protect from drought. Before long, you should see growth.

Growing from Rhizome

A Dwarf Cavendish banana tree displaying vibrant yellow blossoms against green foliage.
Plant the rhizome in a hole or pot and water it regularly.

Dwarf Cavendish bananas are seedless, so these plants cannot be grown from seed. However, they can be propagated from rhizomes. These rhizomes are removed from large, healthy plants and usually have a sucker (or small plant) growing up from them already.

To grow from a rhizome, dig a small hole. Bury the rhizome thoroughly without burying the sucker. Water it in, and then water it regularly in the following weeks as it becomes established.

You can also plant a rhizome in a pot in the same manner, possibly starting a houseplant. If keeping your young plant indoors, keep the soil moist for a week or so but not wet. Then, treat it like a regular banana tree houseplant.

How to Grow

Once established, Dwarf Cavendish banana trees are a breeze to grow as long as they’re planted in the right soil and in a spot with enough light.

Growing indoors can be more challenging, as these plants need a lot of light and moderate humidity. A sun room or an unobstructed south-facing window would be best, otherwise you may need to use grow lights. Bringing your tree outdoors each summer, even if just for a couple months, can have a significant positive effect on its growth.

Light

Bunches of green bananas hanging from trees, illuminated by warm sunlight.
Ensure ample light for your indoor tree to prevent slow growth.

Dwarf Cavendish banana trees require full sun, which translates to at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, though more than six would be better. However, depending on where you live, particularly strong midday sun can be damaging to the leaves, so you may want to find a spot with noon shade. 

If growing indoors, do what you can to provide your tree with the equivalent of outdoor sun—with a south-facing window, skylight, or grow lights—or at least keep it in bright, indirect light most of the day. If you can’t give the plant enough light, note that it will grow slower and will need less water. Be careful not to overwater a slow-growing plant to prevent root rot. If your indoor light is limited, try to move your banana tree outdoors into the sunlight as soon as possible in spring.

Water

A close-up of rain-soaked banana leaves, showcasing their green color and intricate veining patterns.
Use a moisture meter to water deeply only when the soil is dry.

These trees prefer to be in consistently moist soil, so depending on weather conditions, they may need to be watered often. But be careful; while they want to be in moist soil, they should not be left in soil that’s wet. Water as often as needed whenever the top few inches of soil get dry, and do not let the soil dry out completely.

Indoors, use a moisture meter to determine the moisture level of the soil, and wait until the meter reads dry to water. Do not let the soil stay dry for more than a couple days if you can avoid it. Be sure to water deeply, until extra water drains out of the bottom of the pot.

Soil

A close-up of a finger pointing towards a mound of brown loamy soil in a garden bed.
The trees thrive in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil to prevent root rot.

Dwarf Cavendish trees prefer loamy, nutrient-rich soil, but most importantly, they require a mix that drains thoroughly to prevent root rot. Outdoors, plant these banana trees in well-draining soil that’s been amended with compost or other natural fertilizers, and when kept in pots, use a well-draining mix.

Temperature and Humidity

Green Dwarf Cavendish bananas hanging in a bunch from a tree.
Aim for temperatures between 65 to 85°F (18-29°C).

Dwarf Cavendish plants are tropical or subtropical, so they prefer warm climates and moderate humidity. The outdoor conditions in USDA zones 8 through 11 are ideal, and summer weather should match the plant’s preferences in cooler zones, too. They won’t tolerate temperatures below 50°F (10°C), so don’t forget to bring them inside in the fall.

Matching this plant’s preferred temperature range indoors is easy, as they’re pleased with typical room temperature, anywhere between about 65 and 85°F (18-29°C). As far as humidity goes, these plants prefer levels around 50 percent or higher, so consider using a humidifier in winter if humidity levels are low.

Fertilizing

Organic matter decomposing in a mound, creating nutrient-rich soil amendment for gardening.
Ensure regular feeding with tropical plant fertilizer monthly during spring and summer.

Dwarf Cavendish banana trees have a solid appetite and prefer plenty of available nutrients in the soil. When growing outside, amend the soil each spring with compost, and fertilize a few more times throughout summer with an all-purpose fertilizer of your choice.

If grown indoors in a pot, use a tropical plant fertilizer to keep your banana tree well-fed every month or so in spring and in summer when the plant is growing.

Without enough fertilizer, these plants will have trouble flowering and fruiting. Indoors, a lack of fertilizer may also seriously stunt their growth.

Maintenance

A person's arm extends beside lush banana leaves bearing green fruits, illuminated by warm sunlight.
Prune spent stalks to redirect energy into new growth.

While pruning for aesthetic purposes isn’t absolutely necessary, pruning will keep a Dwarf Cavendish looking its best. Using clean, sharp pruners, remove any dead or dying leaves.

Once a stalk has completed fruiting, you may want to cut it down because it won’t fruit again. By removing the spent stalk, the plant can put more energy into growing its next stalk for future fruit. In the edges of its hardiness, this is essential. It’s a good idea to leave at least one growing sucker at the base of the tree to become the next stalk. Other suckers can be removed and propagated or turned into compost, as they’re otherwise zapping critical energy from the host plant.

Propagation

Propagating Dwarf Cavendish banana plants is performed through division by dividing suckers or pups from the host plant and replanting them elsewhere. These suckers emerge from rhizomes that are buried in the soil. The process is fairly easy.

Removing suckers from a host plant is already part of regular banana tree maintenance, so if you grow this tree, you will likely end up with plantable pieces to propagate for your own collection or to give away.

Division

A person holding banana tree cuttings, preparing to propagate them.
Ensure the rhizome is buried but leave the pup above ground.

To divide suckers from a host plant, use a strong cutting tool like loppers to sever the rhizome below the soil level. Be sure to remove a chunk of rhizome that has its own sucker and some of its own roots. Take the divided portion of the rhizome and plant it in new soil.

Bury the rhizome but do not bury the pup. Water in your new young banana tree. Keep the soil moist for the next couple of weeks while the new plant is expanding its roots and settling in. Once it’s established and growing, treat it like a regular young banana tree.

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Harvesting and Storage

A bunch of green bananas hanging from a tree branch, illuminated by sunlight.
Harvest bananas by cleanly cutting the bunch to avoid damaging the plant.

Knowing when it’s time to harvest bananas from a Dwarf Cavendish is not difficult because everyone already knows what a ripe banana looks like. Once the fruits have changed from green to yellow, they’re ready to be severed from the plant. 

Though you could probably pluck the bananas by hand, removing the entire bunch with one clean cut is safer for the plant. This way, you won’t accidentally tug on the host plant too hard. Keep bananas at room temperature and keep them dry. Kitchen countertops are usually best.

Beyond simply eating a peeled banana, your culinary options for bananas are nearly limitless. Throw them in smoothies, use them to bake muffins or banana bread, or chop them up as part of a fruit salad—the choice is yours.

Common Problems

If you live in a windy area or an area that gets hit by strong summer storms, the large leaves of these plants may suffer from wind damage. You can attempt to prevent this by planting near structures for wind protection. Additionally, these trees do not handle drought well, which can be a problem in dryer regions that experience frequent drought.

Dwarf Cavendish banana trees do not suffer from many chronic issues, though they are subject to some pests and diseases.

Pests

Large banana leaf covered in clusters of white aphids, set against a clear blue sky.
Common houseplant pests may appear when growing indoors.

You may find your Dwarf Cavendish tree under attack from a few different pests:

  • Aphids, which may cause leaves to curl or shrivel up
  • Nematodes, which attack from below the soil level and cause absorption issues
  • Scarring beetles, which leave spots or “scars” on leaves and fruit

Depending on the offender, insecticides and nematicides can help. Natural pest control methods, such as companion planting and crop rotating, may also assist. Inspect your plants regularly before problems get out of hand.

If growing as a houseplant, common houseplant pests may also show up to the party, including mealybugs and spider mites. Mealybugs can be removed with a cotton swab soaked in 70% or less rubbing alcohol. Spider mites prefer dry air, so keeping your humidity levels moderate can prevent them in the first place.

Diseases

A banana leaf showing Fusarium wilt disease with yellow discoloration and brown spots.
Remove infected plants to prevent the spread of banana bunchy top virus.

Avoid root rot by planting in well-draining soil and not overwatering. Otherwise, look at out for these potential diseases:

  • Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease, causes stunted growth and wilting leaves, eventually resulting in death; there is not much that can be done to prevent Fusarium wilt, but thankfully, Cavendish cultivars are resistant to multiple strains
  • Leaf spot, which is usually fungal, so you can minimize the likelihood by watering the ground only, not the leaves; prune away damaged leaves
  • Banana bunchy top virus, which causes bunched-up new leaves and is often caused by aphids; once a plant is infected, it should be removed to prevent the spread

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for a Dwarf Cavendish tree to produce fruit?

Mature, healthy trees can produce flowers in about nine months and fruits a couple of months later, but younger trees and recent transplants may take up to two years to produce harvestable fruit.

Why are my banana tree leaves turning yellow?

There are multiple reasons why a banana tree’s leaves may be turning yellow, but a common cause is overwatering. Only water a banana tree when the soil begins to dry.

Do banana trees like Epsom salt?

While banana trees can potentially benefit from added magnesium in the soil, your best bet is to fertilize regularly with an all-purpose fertilizer or amend the soil with compost unless soil testing has revealed that your soil is magnesium-deficient.

Final Thoughts

If you’re ready to take on a tropical species, consider growing a Dwarf Cavendish. Indoors or out, give these banana trees enough sun, water, and nutrients, and before you know it, you’ll be harvesting your own home-grown bananas.

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