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Plant of the Month: Musa hybrid

Little Prince

Latin Name: Musa hybrid ‘Little Prince’
Common Name: Little Prince banana
Flowers: none
Foliage: large, upright leaves splashed with red
Mature height: 2 1/2 ft.
Hardiness: sub-tropical hardy to Zone 7 with protection
Soil: not picky
Exposure: full sun to light shade
Water usage: medium
Sources: mail-order or local nurseries

Just in case you’ve been out of touch for the last couple of years, tropical-looking gardens are back in style. Bold foliage, bold color and bold containers are all the rage worldwide and, for once, it’s a gardening trend that us Texans can not only attempt, but absolutely out-do anyone else! Our long, hot summers are ideally suited for this color and plant palette.

At the forefront of this garden trend is a wave of compact sub-tropical plants with bold foliage, such as bananas and elephant ears. Everyone is looking for plants that are striking and large, but will still fit into today’s smaller gardens.

To me, and many other gardeners, the iconic plant for “tropical gardening” is the banana, but who has room for a 20-foot-tall monster plant? Even some of the supposedly dwarf forms still get more than 10 feet tall in our long Texas summers. So what are you to do if you are limited on space? Try this incredible new plant, Musa ‘Little Prince.’

A couple of years ago, one of my great gardening friends in Chicago sent me some tiny liners of a new dwarf banana to test. Typically, I was skeptical, but my friend promised me that I would asolutely love them. Those little 3-inch-tall liners I planted in early May never reached more than 3 feet tall and they looked awesome right up until our first frost in November. Needless to say, my friend has been quite effusive with the “I told you so’s.”

Little Prince banana is true garden royalty. This super-dwarf banana rapidly forms a stocky 8- to 10-inch-thick trunk crowned with upright leaves flecked with red. This plant is a perfect addition to summer containers or for mixing into a bold-colored border for an upright accent.
I discovered by accident that the smaller the pot you use, the smaller the plant stays; it automatically sizes itself to the container. A couple of plants I was planning to use at home ended up staying in 2-gallon nursery pots all summer and the plants never got more than a foot tall! Banana bonsai, anyone?

Little Prince, like any other banana, easily stands up to full sun or light shade and has few pest or disease problems. It likes regular watering and fertilizer. Unfortunately, this banana doesn’t really flower or make fruit, so don’t be expecting to pick your very own bananas anytime soon. Little Prince is listed as hardy to Zone 7, but if you live north of this or don’t want your banana to freeze to the ground, plant them in containers and move them inside the garage during periods of extended cold. They also make one of the coolest houseplants!

If you can’t find banana Little Prince at your local nursery, shop for it online at Plant Delights Nursery (