Pentas-Starry flowers bloom in heat and engage pollinators in our gardens

July 7, 2021

An Easy Annual Plant

Pentas lanceolata– has three-inch-wide, dense clusters of small, star-like blooms. The plant provides steady color and low maintenance. Flowers are in bloom year-round in their hardiness zones and for the full warm-weather season in temperate zones. Not a true annual leading its entire life in one year, it is perennial in zones 9-11. This is an easy addition to any garden for color and upright form or to attract pollinators. Each tiny star-shaped flower is attractive to pollinators and blooms in heat.

It is useful to us that the starry flowers bloom in heat conditions as well as engaging the pollinators.

If a plant has a short botanical name we tend to use it. So Penta, Coleus, Vinca- we know the proper names for these plants because they are short and easy and we don’t need to learn a bunch of extra names. Don’t I wish they were all like that?

An Important Advantage of Pentas

This is one of many choices of warm-weather plants. What makes it different is that as summer wears on, becoming hotter and wetter, the number of surviving plants gets progressively smaller and bare spots appear. Pentas do not care. They keep blooming. A plant that was attractive in June becomes progressively more beautiful!

Simple Names-Simple Plants

The Pentas is a perennial plant, a small to medium herbaceous shrub hardy in zones 9-11. Elsewhere it is a popular annual and if you live in a northern climate you can make it into a winter house plant. It is easy to grow, healthy, and strong and blooms almost constantly. It has large clusters of tiny 5 petaled flowers. You can find them in red, pink, white, lavender, and magenta.

Size

Pentas in their native homes can grow to 6-8’tall. As we grow them they can reach 2-3′ in height and about as wide. There is a neat, compact dwarf variety that reaches 12-15″. They share the same colors and appearance. Choose the one that fits your spot.

How Can We Use Them

A bright, upright, colorful plant with steady color throughout the season you can use the two sizes in many garden locations. Here are some ideas:

  • Beds and Borders
  • Containers
  • Pollinator Gardens
  • Window Boxes
  • Hanging Baskets-“falling star pink bicolor” is a trailing form, the only one I have found
  • Cut Flower For The House
  • Pollinator attractant, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds

Wildlife

Pentas are not considered to be attractive to deer and rabbits. (Of course, we can never trust deer and rabbits.) For pollinators, however, it is a major attractant. You may notice butterflies choosing this plant before others in the garden.

Where Did They Come From

Our backyard flowers are native to East Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Pentas is a word of Greek origin and means a series of 5 in reference to the five-petaled blossoms. They are also called Egyptian Star Clusters, and Star Flowers.

How To Grow Pentas

Planting

Plant in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun, spacing the plants about 18-24″ apart.

Soil

Pentas perform best in well-drained soil that will not retain standing water after rain. (Soil information.) For plantings in containers use high-quality potting soil. (For how to choose potting soil.)

Water and Fertilizer

Pentas will require regular water. You can allow the soil to dry out to a depth of about one to two inches. Fertilize in with water-soluble fertilizer on a monthly basis.

Trimming

When some flower heads become too high and the plant appears ragged you can simply trim the stem back at a bud just below the other blossoms. You should be able to root your cutting in water.

Pests And Diseases

Pentas are known to be tough and resilient. They are however subject to Aphids and spider mites.

Aphids are tiny (under 1/4″) soft and rounded. They may be hard to see but leave behind a sticky substance. You will also notice curled, yellowed, or stunted leaves. Remove any damaged leaves or leaves with signs of damage. Wash the foliage well, you can also use an insecticidal soap.

Spider Mites, relatives of spiders, do similar damage. They are highly prolific and damage can be done before they are spotted. The treatment is the same, Observation is a good tool!

Summary

Pentas are dependable plants which we have enjoyed for a long time but there are many new varieties with new features. New varieties offer more color ranges and even new trailing varieties. This piece is by one of the breeders.

Companion plants-Any plants accepting similar growing conditions will work with versatile Pentas. For an interesting texture consider the spiked appearance of Angelonia. The taller versions of Marigold will work, along with Salvia and Lantana.