I’ve been learning about how to care for banana plants, and I’ve seen some growers get banana plants with droopy leaves. I wanted to learn more about what causes it and how to fix it, so I did some more research. Here’s what I found.
Banana plants get droopy leaves from over or under-watering, transplant shock, a lack of sunlight, and bearing too much weight. However, the most common causes are under-watering and transplant shock. To prevent droopy leaves, keep your plant in well-draining and moist soil and provide 6+ hours of sunlight.
Even though banana plants can recover from droopy and wilting leaves, how can we tell what’s causing it, and how can we fix it?
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Over or Under-Watering
Banana plants commonly get droopy leaves from over or under-watering. Over-watering banana plants tend to cause leaves to droop, yellow, and fall off, while under-watering typically causes drooping, wilting, drying, and browning. For best results, only water banana plants when the top 2-4 inches of soil gets dry.
Both over and under-watering can be a fairly normal occurrence for banana plant growers and both can lead to drooping leaves, along with other issues such as yellowing and browning leaves.
The best way to avoid over and under-watering banana plants is to first get well-draining soil. The goal is to have soil that stays moist, but not sopping wet. Provide 1-2 inches of both compost and mulch to dramatically help the soil retain water and prevent evaporation. From there, only water when the soil is dry.
The best type of water to use for banana plants is soft water. If you’re using tap or irrigated water, chances are that the water is pretty hard. Consider using soft waters such as filtered, reverse-osmosis, or rainwater if possible.
Compost is amazing at improving the water retention in the soil, to the point that every 1% in soil richness can hold an additional 20,000 gallons of water per acre.
Mulch helps protect the banana plant’s roots and beneficial soil life from the sun, wind, and rain. Without protection, the soil can easily dry out from the sun and wind and erode from the rain. Mulch is incredibly helpful in all climates, and especially those that are hotter and drier. Some good mulches for banana plants are leaves, bark, straw, and pine needles.
When applying either compost or mulch, place them on top of the soil under the canopy of the plant, and at least 3 inches away from the trunks or stems to avoid mold.
Transplant shock is often caused by relocating or repotting banana plants and can stress the plant, leading to droopy, wilting, and dropping leaves. Some shock can also occur when there’s an extreme swing in temperature, such as moving a potted banana plant indoors. For best results, relocate carefully and gradually.
Like all plants, banana plants can get stressed from being relocated or repotted. This is because the plant’s rootball can get damaged and take time to establish a new root system. It can take most fruit trees up to a year to fully recover from transplant shock.
For example, I recently repotted my avocado tree, and luckily—it recovered almost immediately. If you’d like, here are some steps that I commonly use to prevent transplant shock with my plants:
- Have the new ground (or pot) prepared
- Remove as much of the tree’s current topsoil as possible, without damaging the shallow roots
- Grab the base of the tree’s trunk and wiggle lightly
- Using your other hand, scoop up and support the rootball
- Lightly place the tree in the new ground (or pot) and fill it in
- Make sure the soil is at the same level on the trunk as before
- Apply 1-2 inches of compost and mulch to the top of the soil
- Water generously and add more soil as needed
However, since banana plants are more of a plant than fruit tree, and have a quicker lifespan, it can take just weeks to months for them to recover. However, this depends on the amount of stress from the move.
Banana plants can also get stressed if there’s a dramatic swing in weather. This stress can easily cause drooping or wilting leaves.
If you have an indoor banana plant and need to move it during extreme weather, try doing it gradually if possible. For example, 1-2 weeks before moving it inside, move it to the shade first. You can also mist it with water daily.
Banana plants are native to the tropics, so they’re used to hot and humid weather. For this reason, many growers with indoor banana plants like using a humidifier to make it more comfortable and reduce the chance of drooping leaves.
Lack of Sunlight and Extreme Weather
Like other tropical plants, banana plants do best with 6+ hours of direct sunlight. However, they’ll still do well with 4 hours. Any less, and banana plants can get droopy, yellow, or brown leaves. For maximum sunlight, face banana plants in a southern direction. Avoid temperatures above 100ºF and below 57ºF.
Sunlight is incredibly important for banana plants as they use photosynthesis to get their sugar (their primary energy source). Without enough energy, banana plants will have a hard time supporting their branches, roots, leaves, blossoms, fruit, and more.
Most banana plants grow best in USDA hardiness zones 9-11 but can be grown on patios in zones 4-11.
If you’re in a colder climate, place banana plants in a south-facing direction or along a south-facing wall for maximum sunlight and warmth. If the temperature dips below 57ºF, bring the banana plant indoors. Again, try to do this gradually and get the banana plant used to your indoor temperature and humidity.
While plenty of sunlight can be good, there can be too much of a good thing. For example, in hot and dry areas that exceed 100ºF such as Arizona, Nevada, and California, banana plants can quickly dry out and occasionally—burn. This weather commonly causes drooping, wilting, and browning leaves.
If you live in a hot and dry climate, provide 2 inches of mulch, afternoon shade, and mist the plant daily.
Creating some afternoon shade is a great way to give the plants a break from the hot sun. The afternoon is typically the hottest part of the day, so even giving a two-hour break from the sun can go a long way.
Planted banana plants can be shaded from an umbrella, other plants, or shade sails. If you’d like some good recommendations for shade sails, check out this page on Amazon.
On the other hand, potted banana plants can simply be moved to the shade.
Keep in mind that even if you’re not in an ideal climate for banana plants, you can create a microclimate and slightly influence the weather to better support them.
For more information on microclimates, check out the video below by Gardener Scott.
Collapsing From Weight
Occasionally, banana plants can get droopy leaves if the leaves aren’t properly supported or have too much weight. Droopy or collapsed leaves can sometimes be caused by squirrels or other critters jumping on the leaves. Other times, extreme weather can weaken the branches.
Weirdly enough, droopy and wilting banana leaves can be caused by squirrels, raccoons, and other small animals jumping on the leaves. When the weight is too much for the banana plant’s leaves, the branch gives and collapses. If critters did cause it, you should be able to see signs such as scratch marks, droppings, or eaten leaves or fruit.
Additionally, weather that’s cold or dry can weaken the banana plant’s branches, causing them to collapse easier. This can then occur from the wind, critters, or even from the leave’s own weight. Sometimes, the leaves can break.
In any case, collapsed branches don’t have a good chance of recovery. Fortunately, then new branches should regrow quickly.
So, to reduce droopy banana leaves, avoid extreme temperatures and keep critters away from the banana plants if possible.
While drooping and wilting leaves on banana plants are commonly caused by improper watering, transplant shock, weather, and critters, there are other, less likely causes. For example, a lack of nutrients can mean the branches don’t have the resources to keep the branch sturdy and it gives in from the weight.
Generally, hold off on fertilizing your banana plant until it recovers. However, if you’ve checked everything else, and believe it’s likely a nutrient issue, then provide a balanced fertilizer such as a 5-5-5-. If you’d like a recommendation on fruit tree fertilizers, you can check out my recommended fertilizer page.
You can also provide 1-2 inches of compost every 1-2 months as a fertilizer replacement.
If you’ve tried all of the above, and it’s still not helping, consider reaching out to the seller, local professional orchard, or your county extension office. They’ll have specific information for your region and should have some ideas of what your banana plant is going through.
Is Your Fruit Tree Beyond Saving?
Generally, you can tell if a fruit tree is still alive by either pruning or lightly scratching off some bark from a small branch. If there’s any green inside, the plant is still alive.
In the off chance it’s not alive, revisit what may have happened (ask yourself if it was the wrong climate, watering, nutrients, etc) and adjust as needed for any remaining plants.
If you’re looking to replace your fruit tree, or add more to your orchard, the best places to get them are your local nursery or an online nursery. For example, I got my Fuji apple, brown turkey figs, and bing cherry tree from Fast Growing Trees, and they were all delivered quick, neat, and healthy (see below).