“Short Cycle” is a term given to Musa varieties that complete an entire fruiting cycle faster than other varieties. A Musa cycle includes the major growth during the vegetive phase, flowering, and finally the fruit filling in enough to ripen and harvest. Some varieties flower fast but have a long filling period. Others take longer to flower but when they do flower they fill/ripen in 40-50 days. Either works as long as they can finish before winter. During growth we can “push” them by using a lot of Fertalizer. Some like gran Nain can be “pushed” all year and harvested before frost. They will not be as plump as one in the store, but they will taste much better and ripen fine. Many can also be used as “plantains” just before first frost. A thin plantain is better than no plantain. We cook a lot of them in the fall. In India they “pickle” under-filled bananas. I’ve never tried it but hear they are good.
Besides “pushing” with lots of fertalizer, there are a few other “tricks” I will share to get your short cycle plant to produce before winter. You can find my fertalizer schedule here on my site. This is very close to my exact fertalizer schedule. It is just slightly weaker. If you are in clay or poor drainage soil I would weaken it even more. Always start weak and increase slowly! Heavy Nitrogen until flowering. Then heavy Potassium to help filling.
Managing pups! Each pup pulls energy/growth from the mother plant. So I keep pups to 0 until fruiting. Mid to late flowering I will finally allow pups to grow.
Deflowering! When the bud opens and female flowers show (on ends of the fruit), deflowering is removing these flowers. Wait until 3 or more lower hands have progressed before snapping them off. They should snap off fairly easy. If it’s hard and breaks just wait another week or so.
Bud Removal! After 3-4 male hands has appeared simply break off the big male bud. It should snap easily.
Pruning! This sounds crazy and many people have trouble pruning, trust me! It is one of the most important tricks to speed filling! Some varieties like Raja Puri or Veinte Cohol must be pruned to get the best quality fruit! Pruning is simply cutting or snapping off the fruit! I typically prune at the same time as I remove the bud. I like to use my hand instead of a knife because it is one less thing to contaminate or have to sterilize. Pruning allows more energy to fill the remaining hands. The remaining hands/fingers will be a lot larger and fill faster. It is done with most all fruits. Apples, peaches, even bananas! I normally prune between 1-3 hands. Always prune the lower hands!
I do research for the USDA on season extension of Musa! So finding short cycling varieties that will grow fast and fill/ripen before winter is my goal. Sadly most fast varieties are also very sensitive to cold and stress. Depending on your zone, you can start with a larger plant in spring to make up for a shorter season. Most of these short cycle types love heat! But will go dormant with temps of 50f and below. So if you are colder than zone 7 or so I do not recommend short cycle types!
Short Cycle List
- Veinte Cohol – fast grower that flowers early and fills in 60 days! Dwarf.
- Patupi – very close 2nd! Longer to flower at 10’ but flower to filled in 40 days!
- Senorita – the 40 day banana! Flowers early and fills in 40 days.
- Kluai Khai – fast grower and fast filler. Very good sweet fruit.
- Iholena types – like Tigua. Longer to flower but fills fast in 50-60 days.
- Monthan – One of my new favorites! An ABB type making it cold hardy! Slower than the ones listed above however it fills in 50-60 days! Truly unbelievable for an ABB type! Huge great tasting fruit!
- Gros Michel types – like Highgate. They hate cold but can be pushed to fruit fairly fast and be mostly filled.
- Gran Nain – and other cavendish. They can really take the fertalizer! Fast growers and flower fairly fast. I have harvested some for the past 3 years outside!
Each year I trial several new varieties! It normally takes 2-3+ seasons to test and verify results. I have high hopes for a few new ones. Monthan has really shocked me and surpassed my expectations. It is a little tall, but is a must have for zones 8-10.