Cold-hardy bananas from seed

I’ve got seeds for 3 varieties of edible (albeit seeded) banana that I’d really love to try out for cold hardiness in zone 8b, and I’m now about one month into trying to germinate the first half of my seeds for each type:

5 x Helen’s hybrid (Musa interspecies hybrid)
5 x Balbisiana (Musa balbisiana)
5 x Thomson’s (Musa thomsonii)

All three were purchased from the Seedman bananas website, which recommends basically the following germination technique:

  1. Soak 24-48 hours.
  2. Sow in a well-drained potting mix (I used perlite + seed starting mix in 3" pots under a humidity dome).
  3. Alternate daytime heat with night-time cool (for mine, I have a heating pad under seed starting tray on 12/12 timer).
  4. Wait 1-6 months for them to sprout, keeping “damp but not wet” as the seeds are prone to rot if soggy.

Well, I’m on step 4 and it’s been 1 month and I’m wondering if I should try some different technique for the other half of the seeds because so far I’m at 0%. Anyone have a method they use that works well and perhaps faster? Maybe some scarification or something to speed things along? I get that it can often take 6 months to germinate but also I’m impatient, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask!

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First one finally popped today! This is one of the Thomson’s. So at ~6 weeks I’m at 1 out of 15.


Another week-plus goes by with no new bananas sprouting, but the lone Thomson’s seedling is looking good at 8 days old. I’m too used to instant gratification with germination, I’m not cut out for even two months, let alone 6! I can see why bananas usually aren’t grown from seed :joy:


Mere days from the two-month mark, and we have our second seedling emerging! This one is Helen’s hybrid:


No further seeds have popped (still at 2 of 15), but the Thomson’s has outgrown its pot, time for a new home!


So another month+ has passed, and still no other seeds have sprouted.

The Helen’s hybrid seedling is growing very slowly and looks a bit sickly:

But the Thomson’s is both vigorous and healthy looking:

And in case I didn’t mention it above, none of the second half have germinated yet, so current germination rates for the entire bunch of seeds are:

  • 0% Balbisiana
  • 10% Helen’s hybrid
  • 10% Thomson’s

I am thinking these seeds may not have been the freshest…


Learned a new word today while trying to figure out why the Thomson’s plant is covered in water droplets every morning:

Guttation is the exudation of drops of xylem sap on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants, such as grasses, and a number of fungi. Guttation is not to be confused with dew, which condenses from the atmosphere onto the plant surface. Guttation generally happens during the night time.


I’m thinking the M. thomsonii seedling is not going to last much longer in this 1 gal pot, roots are already starting to appear at the drain holes:

Should I just go ahead and put it in a 15 gal pot next, or should I do a 5 or 7 first?


Decided to go with the ~8gal pot. The roots had already been circling quite a bit, probably should’ve potted it up sooner!

Today is exactly three months since it sprouted. The leaves are starting to show nice reddish tones on the undersides:

The Helen’s hybrid seedling is finally starting to pick up the growth rate a little bit, too, but still zero other seedlings have sprouted beyond these first two:


Your unbounded enthusiasm is delightful! Always look forward to seeing what new project you have going!

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I had lost patience with the bananas and reused their soil when I repotted some things last month. Of course now one of them sprouts, when I have no way to know which of the three types it is:

The lesson… maybe wait more than 6 months for banana seeds?


It ended up being 4 that sprouted >6 months in. So… be very patient? And all germinated soon after I reused the soil, so maybe also stir the soil after a few months, since they seemed to react to the soil being disturbed?

The older ones in the ground are loving this heat:

M. thomsonii says hi:


strong work @swincher ! There aren’t many who grow bananas from seed, so your endeavor can be a game changer. Maybe just a side hobby on your part but growing from seed may produce a new cultivar that someday would be the world’s next mass-produced bananas, as the current one(cavendish) is at risk of going extinct.

below is a short documentary about bananas at risk and about pollination and germinating them from seed, which unfortunately involves a boatload of patience. Apparently the old-fashioned way is the only approach, as currently seems can’t be genetically engineered


It’s possible! But I’m zone pushing these pretty intensely so there’s a slim chance they will survive until fruiting. I’ll keep the little ones in the greenhouse over the winter though, and plant in the ground next spring, so it’s possible they will fruit before the first frost of next fall.

I don’t understand banana breeding well enough to know how to breed for seedlessness, which I think will be required for any commercial variety, but if I get both a male and female to flower at some point then I’ll definitely at least attempt some crosses just for fun.

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I tried germinating M Velutina a couple years back… I gave up after 4 months of nothing emerging…

I left the pot outside (it was just soil as far as I know) so who knows if something was going to germinate…



I just spent a bit of time looking for info on seedlessness in bananas and this website looks like it has some interesting info:

An excerpt:

The seedlessness of bananas is due to two separate mechanisms. The first is sterility - bananas can be male or female, sterile, or both, and this property varies depending on ploidy level as well as parentage. The second is parthenocarpy, and currently three genes (probably amongst many others as the A and B genomes each have about 36,000 genes) are known that control this. However these two separate mechanisms don’t always go hand in hand; this means you can have bananas that are fertile males or females with the parthenocarpy genes producing seedless fruit. It is this property I intend to exploit in an effort to cross some domestic cultivars with wild species.

That website lists Helen’s hybrid as a seedling selection of M. sikkimensis which is more info about its lineage than I’d found anywhere else. Most of the discussion is over my head, though. Here’s another one over my head:

it i sadly one of nature’s catch-22 situations : (
the relatively(if not totally) seedless varieties, just like cavendish etc are at risk of extinction due to evolving pathogens which we haven’t found a cure for. Thus said, seeded new cultivars(that happen to have passed testing for disease/pest resistance) would need to be crossed with relatively seedless ones in the hopes that a few seeds may be produced in the process, and in the hopes that subsequent seedlings be seedless and disease- or pest-resistant as well. Only then can they be mass-produced via tissue culture technology and pup-poaching.

i sometimes think that clonal ageing/deterioration might play a part in causing decrease in resistance to pests/pathogens, but impossible for me to prove it. But regardless of whether that is proven right or wrong, it doesn’t change the fact that we will have to grow bananas from seed to increase diversity of cultivars, and in the process discover new varieties that would prove hardy to pests that keep evolving.

quite sad that some of the most solid proof of evolution which scientists can point out to creationists would be the evolution of viruses(sars/covid being a couple of them) and antibiotic- or pesticide-resistant pathogens/insects.

This article states that the common banana is triploid and parthenocarpic. It’s interesting because there are great apple varieties that are triploid, but not parthenocarpic (Gravenstein and Jonagold come to mind, but there are many). There are various ways to create polyploid plants. Most irises and daylilies now are tetraploid, which is created using colchicine or other treatments. Apparently the modern banana was created by crossing diploid with tetraploid varieties.

I remember embryo rescue being used to create seedless grapes. That would be beyond the skills of most if not all hobbyists.

I think the best hope for the banana is genetic engineering, moving disease resistance genes from wild bananas into cultivated types. That could even bring back the Gros Michel, supposedly much better but almost extinct.

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I got a “mystery box” from Miami Fruit last year and it included a couple Gros Michel bananas, along with about a half-dozen other bananas. I thought they were almost indistinguishable from Cavendish. Some of the smaller dessert types were much better in texture and flavor. They do also have boxes of just Gros Michel for anyone willing to fork over the $$:

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@swincher, at $67 for a 3 to 5# box of bananas, I wont be eating any anytime soon :rofl: Especially with your review.

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