Dwarf Banana Tree: Growing Banana Plants as Ornamentals

Ed Wike
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Dwarf Banana Tree Overview

Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a dwarf banana tree, or Musa Dwarf Cavendish. They are smaller versions of the more common banana tree and have a bushy, compact structure. Musa Dwarf Cavendish grows to a maximum height of 6 feet and a width of 4 feet, with a tropical palm-like appearance and can be used as a houseplant for indoors. Considering their small size, Musa Dwarf Cavendish are surprisingly vigorous and are hardy enough to grow outdoors if protected from temperature extremes.

These small banana trees are commercially grown for ornamental purposes, particularly in malls and office buildings. Their beautiful, glossy green foliage and long bunches of bananas hanging from their leaves add a tropical feel to any location. Adding one to your home has that effect as well, and makes you never want to leave the house.

A dwarf banana plant makes a great gift for a relative or friend, and you can even take the time to pack a few baby bananas in their leaves for that special touch. The practice is quite easy, as long as you keep several things in mind.

Types of Dwarf Banana Tree

There are many reasons why people grow banana plants “ a great snack, shade for the patio, big tropical flowers, an attractive lawn feature, or even a container plant in the summer.

In the warmer parts of the country, you can grow banana, plantain, or a number of other kinds of banana plants, as a shade tree on your property. In the garden, banana plants are short, wide, tropical-looking trees with big leaves and big yellow, pink, or purple flowers.

Because they are so tropical looking, banana plants are one of the finest and most dramatic plants you can grow. They are home to many varieties of white, pink, purple, red, yellow, and even green-colored flowers.

Some banana plant varieties produce tiny fruits that are used in cooking, while others produce big fruits which are always eaten cooked.

They all grow easily from cuttings …

Musa acuminata (AAA Group), ‘Dwarf Cuban Red’

In the tropics, bananas are pretty much everywhere. But they are also the most common ornamental banana tree. Dwarf banana trees are smaller than standard ornamental bananas and are easy to fit in smaller areas.

Dwarf banana trees, however, are not always what they seem to be. Many dwarf bananas are not true dwarfs. Many, in fact, were prime examples of the genetical engineering we call selective breeding. For example, dwarf bananas usually ripen much faster than the more traditional non-dwarf varieties. This is a short term advantage, but the fruit is smaller and dries up much quicker.

Some dwarf banana varieties are fairly disease-resistant and have attractive ribbed bark that stays on the tree long after the leaves have dropped.

Now, let's take a look at the most common varieties of dwarf banana trees. The following are a few of the most common dwarf banana plants and how to take care of them.

Musa acuminata (AAA Group), ‘Dwarf Cavendish’

The dwarf bananas look more like a palm tree than a typical banana plant. Although they are not much taller than a foot when mature, these plants can help you create a tropical look in your garden by making them the centerpiece. You can create a small grove, or a single, proper tree to create a stunning display.

If you are familiar with growing banana plants, you may wonder how ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ can be dwarf if it’s removed from the giant Cavendish banana group, to which it belongs. The reason is that this species is adapted to produce smaller fruits, which then have been named ‘Dwarf Cavendish’.

This plant’s popularity in creating a unique garden display is also why this is the most common and well-known dwarf banana plant. It has been in demand for decades for its unique-looking banana-like fruit, which are smaller than their normal counterparts.

When it comes to the full-grown product, however, it is the roots that command attention, not the banana-like fruit, which is a mere side benefit of the plant. The roots resemble a thick, fat wire that has been wrapped around the trunk, making an almost perfect circle.

This plant should be positioned near a wall or fence in order to provide it with support.

Musa acuminata (AAA Group), ‘Giant Cavendish’, ‘Williams Hybrid’

And ‘Grand Nain’.

The Dwarf Banana tree, Musa acuminata (AAA Group), is a small, fast growing plant with a single stem and a thick, palm-like trunk. It is much smaller than the traditional types of banana.

The Dwarf Banana tree can reach only about 6–10 feet (2-3 m) tall and is often grown as a houseplant (or inside as a tropical plant as it cannot survive frost).

Part of the Dwarf Banana tree's stem is a pseudostem which grows from the trunk; the leaves emerge directly from this stem.

Dwarf Banana trees are evergreen. This means its leaves do not fall off and they don’t die at the end of the growing season.

Musa acuminata (AAA Group), ‘Gran Nain’, ‘Chiquita’

Dwarf banana trees are beautiful ornamental banana varieties. Capable of reaching 12 feet in height, dwarf bananese are perfect in small spaces.

We find them used indoors year-round as potted plants or in outdoor settings for a tropical effect. Both young and mature trees are available at nurseries. Trees are best grown indoors in filtered sunlight. They are tolerant of interior heat in large cities. In the winter, a north-facing window with indirect sunlight and a tray of water will help maintain the plants. They are tolerant of cool temperatures as long as they are in bright, well-lit locations. Bananas are the world's most popular fruit–and the world's most popular ornamental plant!

Plants will produce edible fruit, however, they are generally too small for conventional use. This is a key plant for anyone with small space to grow. The dwarf cultivars are most common, however, larger sizes can be found in specialty nurseries. This plant requires well-drained soil. A sterile black substrate is ideal. These require high humidity and moderate light levels. Avoid over-watering at all costs, especially in winter.

Musa acuminata (AA Group), ‘Lady Finger’, ‘Sugar Banana’

‘Giant Cavendish’.

As a tropical crop, the banana tree is ubiquitous even in countries with freezing spells. The dwarf banana tree is probably one of the most adaptable plants that you can ever come across. It can be grown in pots on window sills and ponds, it is a workhorse of the landscape industry, and it is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant.

Banana plants are generally grown for the production of food. There are more than 1000 cultivars, with differing and changing economical values, but the most popular ones include the Dwarf Cavendish, Dwarf Ladyfinger and the Giant Cavendish. When grown out of sheer curiosity to the ornamental market, it takes on the scientific name Musa acuminata (AA Group), the same cited for commercial banana plants. In this guide to growing banana trees, we will focus on the Lady Finger variety.

Planting dwarf banana trees requires a tropical or sub-tropical climate. They are tolerant of soil that is rich in organic matter and well drained. The soil-moisture combination must be ideal to provide the roots of the plant with enough water to grow, but not so much to have the base of the plant sit in water.

When planting dwarf bananatree, select an area that is protected from strong winds. The tree is best planted near buildings, fences or walls which form a natural wind barrier.

Musa x paradisiaca (AAB Group), ‘Latundan Banana’, ‘Apple Banana’, ‘Silk Banana’, ‘Pisang Raja’, ‘Brazilian’

‘Supertina’, ‘Dwarf Cavendish’.

Colorful, robust, easy to grow, and not invasive … banana plants are one of the most popular ornamental plants grown within the home landscape. They grow in containers, and they grow in the ground, as a perennial. Native to the tropics, these tropical plants only need enough frost-free days to set fruit.

The International Banana Society recommends bananas for coastal and inland areas of Florida, as they are frost-tolerant and are grown for decorative purposes, or for as a Pacific Rim hobbyist who collects edible bananas. These banana plants may be temperamental along the coast or tropical areas of Florida, depending on who you speak with … but they are generally quite tolerant. In central and northern areas of Florida, and the southeastern US, try Puerto Rican species, S. sapientum, (both ‘Cavendish’ and ‘Gros Michel’) Dwarf Cavendish and of course the famous Goldfinger banana.

Musa x paradisiaca (AAB Group), ‘Raja Puri’, ‘Rajapuri’

‘Rajapuri Giant’, ‘Raja Pusi’, ‘Dwarf Red’, ‘Dwarf Variegated’.

There are two types of dwarf bananas commonly used for ornamental purposes; “Trinidad Dwarf” and “Rajapuri Dwarf” (Musa x paradisiaca (AAB group), ‘Raja Puri’, ‘Rajapuri’, ‘Rajapuri Giant’, ‘Raja Pusi’, ‘Dwarf Red’, ‘Dwarf Variegated’; the dwarf red banana is produce by grafting a dwarf yellow banana onto a dwarf red banana trunk.

“Raja Puri” or ‘Raja Pusi’ is the most commonly seen dwarf yellow banana. It is a miniature kind of dwarf banana.

Musa sikkimensis, ‘Red Tiger’, ‘Darjeeling Banana’

‘Elva’, ‘Pisang Raja’, ‘Prince’, ‘Ice Cream’, ‘Mars’, ‘Red Ihol’.

The Dwarf Banana Tree is an evergreen ornamental plant that grows slowly, often taking several years to exhibit its mature size (hence the name, Dwarf Banana Tree). Dwarf Banana Trees are often kept in traditional landscapes or in a tropical-like atmosphere and are used as an ornamental feature.

The Dwarf Banana Plant is not really a banana (it is a member of the Araceae family, and is part of the genus MUSA).

Most banana plants have pseudostems, which is a very unusual characteristic for a true tree. The Ornamental Banana Tree does have a true trunk and is slow growing. The pseudostem is solid and not hollow. Leaves usually emerge from the base of the pseudostem followed by flowering and fruit. The fruit of the ornamental banana tree is edible, but sweeter and softer than the fruit of the edible banana tree.

Musa ornata, ‘Flowering Banana’

Dwarf banana trees are the easiest and most rewarding houseplants to grow and take very good care of. They are hard to spot when you look at them from afar.

The dwarf banana tree is a very popular indoor plant because they are easy growers that are perfect to decorate your home, office, or even school.

Banana trees are known as exotic plants. They can reach a height of 150cm. But you can still keep them at about a meter high.

Growing bananas is not easy enough. A person who has tried to plant seeds before will tell you that it is a difficult task to do.

They say that planting banana seeds is a task you might have to postpone because it is too hard to do.

If you want to give it a try, you are bound to fail. If you still insist to do it, be ready to lose your money and the hope to grow your own dwarf banana tree.

Even if you can plant the banana seeds, the dwarves that come out of the seeds are not guaranteed to look like the dwarf banana trees that you want to plant.

It would be much easier and helpful if someone could give you a dwarf banana tree that is already growing. But where can you get a dwarf banana tree?

Dwarf Banana Tree Care

The dwarf banana tree is a distinctively small edition to the banana tree family. Originated in Hawaii, its bright green leaves unfurl to make uniquely thin leaves just a few inches long. Like the typical banana tree, the dwarf version comes in both single- and multi-stemmed versions.

Unlike its larger banana relatives, dwarf banana trees are typically considered ornamental plants. That's because they are so delicate that they usually do not survive in outdoors in most areas except the tropics.

However, if you live in a warmer region, such as Florida, Arizona, or Southern California, and if you can offer the dwarf banana tree additional support, you can find that it can make a unique houseplant. They are also effective in containers.

Other Factors

Like other banana trees, the leaves of the dwarf variety have incredible interior nanostructures. These nanostructures enable the leaf to absorb and store large quantities of water.

Like the other fast-growing bananas, the dwarf banana is easily propagated through cuttings.

Light

Banana plants thrive in light, rich, well-drained soil and thrive in temperatures ranging from 60 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees to 32 degrees Celsius). Bananas are not frost tolerant and will die if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). If you live in an area with cold winters, you can plant banana trees in pots and store them indoors for the winter. Dwarf bananas are grown for their fruit, although they are not as sweet as more common varieties. They are grown for their ornamental appeal, and grow best when they are grown in an area where they will receive at least eight hours of sunlight daily. Because they grow quickly, they make excellent indoor plants.

Bananas require a lot of moisture when they are first planted but they don’t need a lot of watering when they reach maturity. A good tip is to check the soil to see if it’s moist before you water and go by that. Water the plant when the dirt on top of the pot feels dry, or about once a week in hot weather. Because they are large plants, and are prone to falling over in high winds, make sure that your banana plant has support when it is planted. You can also wrap the trunk with a tie and coat it with tree tape to keep it from splitting in the wind.

Water

Ing, Feeding, and Care.

Because banana plants may start to look sickly in the winter, it’s a good idea to bring them inside.

These plants are very easy to care for in the home, as long as they’re given enough water and fertilizer.

Here are some things you need to know before bringing a banana plant indoors.

Watering:

  • To learn when to water the plants, try testing the soil to see if it’s dry at least an inch into the ground.
  • Don’t overwater your plant! Banana root systems grow best when they’re given lots of air. Therefore, the plants must be allowed to dry out a bit between watering. Keep in mind that when you bring your plant inside for the winter, the amount of light in your house will be lower, which means that it will need to be watered more frequently. Don’t overwater and make sure that the plant is getting direct sun for at least some part of the day.

Feeding:

To get the most out of your dwarf banana tree, fertilize it about once every other week with a high-potassium liquid fertilizer.

Soil

Banana trees like deep, loose, and well-drained sandy soil. They will grow well in heavy soils like clay, but you will need to dig out a couple of feet of the heavy soil and replace it with light soil. They also need a lot of organic matter, so add topsoil, peat moss, or manure to the soil before planting the banana trees. Use your garden tiller to loosen the soil before planting the dwarf banana trees and to mix the soil amendments with the soil.

The dwarf banana tree also likes organic fertilizer and water. Don't fertilize the tree until after it's been planted, but apply fertilizer to the soil in the spring and summer. If the tree is located in a windy area, it is going to lose a lot of nutrients with the wind, so make sure the area is well fertilized to replace any nutrients lost.

Plant the banana tree around 6 feet apart because they spread out. Dwarf banana trees can grow to be 6 feet tall or you can trim them to be less. They will grow on a variety of hardiness zones. Florida has a lot of banana plants, but they are killed by the cold. When they are harvested, the bananas are cut off the trunk and the trunk remains. After they have been harvested, the farmers replace their bananas with new ones.

Fertilizer

The Dwarf Banana Tree can eat up to a tablespoon of fertilizer a week, but be careful not to overdo it. Fertilize once a week, but do not fertilize when the tree is still in the soft and juvenile stage, because fertilizer can burn the tender growth.

When the tree is older, the side growths are thicker, and the main stem has swelled up, you can fertilize more often.

At that stage, a half tablespoon of fertilizer (a recommended organic fertilizer) is okay to use every three weeks.

You can also use a slow-release fertilizer that’s formulated for fruit trees on the Dwarf Banana Tree, but if you don’t want to use chemical fertilizer, you can also use a natural fertilizer that you make with organic matter and granules.

You can mix bananas and pineapple skins with manure, but if you want to feed the Dwarf Banana Tree a purely organic diet, use coconut shells, wood chips, or banana leaves.

These organic materials contain trace elements, just as chemical fertilizer does. They are also safe for the environment and for you and your family.

Propagation

I've noticed many people asking about growing dwarf banana trees. I have previously posted extensively about growing bananas as ornamentals and I'd like to take it one step further describing how to propogate dwarf bananas.

Dwarf bananas are small and elegant looking and can make a stunning ornamental. They are a bit more complicated to propogate then regular bananas but it is well worth it. To understand dwarf bananas you must understand how regular bananas grow.

The oldest banana trees are over 10,000 years old and are found in Africa. The most widely cultivated banana in the US is the Cavendish. There are 2 different ways to grow regular bananas.

The first way is to use suckers on the trunk. A sucker is a short shoot of a growing banana. This is the most common way to grow regular bananas.

The other way is to use rhizomes to propagate the bananas. A rhizome is a thick, fleshy, underground stem. In regular bananas rhizomes are very easy to propogate using some very simple steps.

Repotting

Dwarf banana trees will require frequent repotting to keep them at a height you can part with the top of the compost inside the pot. This is a routine task and shouldn’t worry you.

The potting mix for the dwarf banana tree should be kept loose enough to absorb water up until the level of the soil surface. It should retain water without getting soggy.

Dwarf banana trees are often repotted in the spring. Repot only when the top few pairs of roots have filled the pot. Roots will typically reach the top of the pot within a year.

Mature dwarf banana trees can handle a transplant from smaller pots. Cut away about 1/3 of the outer root mass.

This will encourage new root growth.

Carefully trim off the new shoots from the trunk.

Try to maintain a trunk of about 6” (15 cm) in diameter.

Water the banana tree thoroughly after repotting.

It is a great idea to use a water-soluble fertilizer at one-half the normal strength once per month.

You may wish to keep medium to large size specimens outdoors over winter. However, this could require the sacrifice of a whole season. You may want to consider growing new plants from cuttings instead, to replace and outgrow the older ones.

Fruiting

The Dwarf Banana: Nurturing “Little Bananas”

Many gardeners plant bananas for the purpose of enjoying their large, tasty leaves. If this is your motivation, you should plant a standard banana plant. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in the plant’s flowers and stems, then you might consider growing a dwarf banana tree.

Although dwarf banana plants can’t produce the giant fruit that standard banana trees do, they do offer another advantage: the lower height. Dwarf banana trees produce shorter leaves and flower stalks, which some people find more appealing than the large leaves and stems of a standard banana plant. In addition, some dwarf banana trees produce fruit, which makes them a fun decorative addition to your home or garden.

One of the biggest downsides to growing dwarf bananas is that they are susceptible to a number of diseases that can lead to death. If you wish to grow dwarf banana trees, knowledge and preparation are your best weapons.

Pruning

The banana plant or Musa acuminata (musaceae) is naturally formed into a nice clump. The basic care principle for banana plants is to only prune the shoots that are undesirable.

The most common problem when growing banana plants indoors, is too much growth of new shoots and in the wrong direction. This leads to a tangled mess, that you won’t even know where to start carefully pruning. Whenever a banana plant is pruned correctly, the result should be a nice round clump, that looks like a nice plump bunch of bananas.

The first thing to do when working on banana plant pruning, is to isolate the plant and place pruning scissors/knife at the ready. Select a group of leaves of the plant, and pull them together.

This will ensure that your pruning cuts are consistent, since you will be working on the same level with each set of pruning cuts.

Make several horizontal cuts at the same level. These are normally about one third to half an inch apart. Encourage the plant to throw new leaves from the center of the plant.

This will result in a nice round clump, that looks lush and full.

Overwintering Dwarf Banana Trees Indoors

A Dwarf Banana Tree makes a great ornamental for home and garden landscapes. The Banana Tree is one of the most popular plants grown for its beautiful floral display. The Dwarf banana plant will grow and produce just like a regular banana plant, with the only difference being that this variety has smaller leaves and a smaller fruit.

Although the Dwarf Banana Tree is a beautiful and popular plant for indoor plantings, you should know that it is an herbaceous perennial. Like all ornamental plants, the Dwarf Banana Tree will die once winter arrives.

Here’s how to make your beautiful dwarf banana tree survive the winter until you can bring it outdoors into your warm, sunny garden.

Overwintering Dwarf Banana Trees Outdoors

One of the easiest ways to get your dwarf banana as a houseplant or garden tree, is to plant a sucker in fall. All you need to do when you bring it into your home is put it in a sunny spot and watch it grow. Before you move it outside, it’s best to refit it with the stake. Gnawing on it can weaken the plant prematurely. Then place it in a place where it can get plenty of light and do some pruning. Apply a 4-6-4 fertilizer in spring and fall and you’re all set.

In time, it will likely outgrow its space. When that happens, you can pare it back to a permanent woody trunk and a few branches on which to hang some flowers. You can use an air pot to make it easy to plant the tree in the ground (after determining the approximate depth to set the root ball).

Just be sure to put it in area where it will be protected from frost and winds. Depending on the duration of your southern winter, it might need to be brought indoors for a time. That’s not difficult if it’s small or container-grown.

Before transplanting, fertilize once again.

Exercise and Fitness

Aerobic exercise describes any exercise that builds the heart and lungs and causes more rapid breathing to occur.

Problems

Dwarf banana trees are not quite true bananas. They are natives of Southeast Asia and are evergreens. Despite their similarities in appearance to the bananas we buy at the supermarket, these flowering plants are not edible. The dwarf banana plant has long leaves with reddish undersides and produces showy, white flowers. The flowers die after a day or two, but during that time, they give the plants an airy, light airy appearance. The plant prefers partial shade and well-drained soil. After the flowers are gone, the female plant will bear small, green fruit, which resembles a miniature banana.

There are two ways to propagate dwarf banana plants. In the summer, the plants will produce long, jointed, banana-like stems known as stolons that will grow into additional plants over the winter. In early spring, each severed stolon will produce a new crown at its tip. You can also take new stem cuttings from the plants in the spring for propagation.

Problems can appear when the young plants come into contact with the soil. The dwarf banana is susceptible to root rot. If the root system is damaged or is planted too deeply, the dwarf banana plant as well as its young fruit will die. On top of that, the fruits are also susceptible to attacks from thrips, aphids, and spider mites.

Pests

Banana plants are commonly used ornamentally, either as a full-size tree or as a compact dwarf. As a houseplant, it is an attractive, tropical-looking addition to any home. You can plant a dwarf banana tree in a pot and place it on a table or in a room, or grow a banana tree in your garden and hang its fruit for easy access. Dwarf banana trees are a unique addition to any home, and they are adaptable to a range of conditions, so they are ideal for inexperienced growers.

Some care is necessary, though; banana plants are susceptible to a number of pests. The common banana we see in the grocery store is very susceptible to a number of banana diseases all the way up to total fungus destruction! Unfortunately the nursery trade has not seen fit to carry disease resistant varieties. So the most important thing to remember is to thoroughly inspect the plant when you receive it, and discard any plant that has any sign of disease or pests.

Diseases

There are two prominent diseases that may infect banana trees.

The first of those is known as Panama disease. It is always spread by the same vector – a race of banana weevil, that is commonly known as the fruit weevil.

This disease is quite devastating and used to be treatable by simply moving the affected plant or trees to nearby host plants. However, this remedy proved to be rather ineffective, which is why bananas are now officially banned on a large number of properties and agricultural fields.

The other disease to watch out for is a bacterial disease called Black Sigatoka. This is spread by insects, and gets its name from the black streaks that appear on the leaves of infected plants.

Although bananas may be absolutely fine for quite some time, they can be infected with black sigatoka and eventually perish if no treatment is provided.

Black sigatoka is spread by two insects known as the spiny leafhopper and the black-leaf streak.

Both insects are usually present in many yards and agricultural areas. However, these diseases are not the type that ravage their hosts, and more than one or two of these types of sigatoka can rarely get out of control.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best place to plant a banana tree?

Place them in a container with a loose, well-drained medium. Dwarf banana trees can tolerate full sun, but partial shade or filtered sun is recommended to prolong their life.

What is the minimum temperature for growing dwarf banana trees?

Banana plants can grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 8 and above. In USDA zone 7 and above, plant dwarf bananas in a container that can be moved indoors during the winter.

How big do dwarf banana trees get?

Their mature height ranges from 5 feet to 15 feet. As to how big your dwarf banana tree will get depends on the cultivar. Dwarf Green Wichuraiana reaches about 5 feet tall. Dwarf Red Wichuraiana reaches about 10 feet in height. Dwarf Singapore is about 20 feet in height. Dwarf Golden Yellow Citrus is about 5 feet in height.

How do you care for a dwarf banana tree?

Because they are so sensitive to cold, you must bring them indoors in USDA zone 6 and below. It's also not a good idea to prune banana trees in summer, as bananas should only be pruned when dormant, which is in winter in this hemisphere.

Do dwarf banana trees flower?

Q: Why are the edges of the leaves of my plant turning brown?

A: Because it is a dwarf variety, Dwarf Yellow Baby is small-leaved plant that looks quite different from larger-leaved varieties. Chlorosis, which is the browning and stiffening of the edges of the leaves, is caused when the plant is too wet or too dry. Browning can also occur if the temperatures are too high. Keep the plant in a warm, but shaded place; avoid overwatering and make sure its roots are well-drained.

Q: Are bananas going extinct?

A: It is likely that within the next 3 decades, all that will be left of the banana plant is the dwarf variety, which will be used for ornamental purposes, and possibly for novelty potted plant sales.

Yes, bananas are going extinct, and they are going extinct at a brisk pace. The world’s largest banana seller, Chiquita Brands International, owned by the same family for 100 years, officially filed for bankruptcy in 2007. The world’s most popular variety, the Cavendish banana, has all but disappeared, and is nearly bankrupt. In 1998, there were 23 major banana growing countries. By 2002, there were only 19 bananas growers left.

The reasons for this is there are now three company’s conglomerates that own 98% of the banana companies. These conglomerates have all but turned their bananas into a cash crop, by rapidly commercializing their farming and management by providing all inputs, management, and labor in exchange for a 80% profit share. This has caused bananas to be brought to the consumer at a price that sometimes is below the cost of production. The value of a banana has not been tied to its natural value to help produce an income that reinvested in the business, so there is also no money to put back into research and development to find a suitable and cost-effective replacement for the fruit.

This is why bananas are practically extinct.