When I came to Southwest Florida, I couldn’t wait to plant flowers year-round. The Northeast only had 2 1/2 seasons to plant … summer, spring and early fall because there would be early freezes or snow. To my delight, I found my favorite perennials that require little maintenance here in this part of Florida … pentas. Of course, I had to research … what are these pentas? They make a spectacular flamboyant flower show!
Here is what I found … pentas are native to Yemen, Madagascar, the Comoros, Southern Africa and the Arabian peninsula. They are also called Egyptian starclusters or star flower for they have blooms with five lobes at the end of each flower. Pentas Lanceolata is a genus of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae.
I found pentas are very easy to grow. They are non-stop bloomers and it’s not necessary to dead-head … another reason I love them so much. They come in a variety of showy colors … lavender, red, white and pink. The best part is that I have also found that the butterflies love them for their nectar. I have heard that pentad are a favorite of hummingbirds although, sadly, I have never seen one in my garden. However, happily, I have lots of monarchs, sulfurs, and zebra butterflies who enjoy the food that pentas has to offer.
There are many varieties of Pentas Lanceolatas from dwarf, which grow to a foot high, to full size, which can grow to 3 feet. Good news, pentas grow in full sun and can tolerate some shade. When I started my garden, I had absolutely no shade so I was very excited to have a flower that will tolerate our afternoon sun!
When you first plant, water daily (true of any plant or tree). I make sure to water daily for an entire month for it to get established. After that, pentad are drought tolerant. Although during our long dry season, I do water and they seem to flower more and are happier.
Make sure to fertilize during our dry season every six weeks with a balanced slow release granular fertilizer. Rainy season, please do not fertilize anywhere in your garden as it is environmentally unsafe for our waterways.
Always use mulch but never against the stems as it will make them die quickly. The dwarf variety will live for about 3 years and the full size about 6 years. You can prune pentad whenever the plants grow too tall or too wide for your landscape. Generally, pentad are disease free.
What a great flowering plant!
I like to plant in the same color clusters so it makes for a dramatic effect in my garden. However, there are four different colors of pentad to choose from and you can make a fun arrangement with all four colors! That’s the joy of creating your own garden. It is an empty palette when you start and an artistic outdoor multi-dimensional painting when you are done.
I’d like to share my special gardening quote from Alfred Austin:
“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul!”
Ann Block is co-president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. Visit us at www.gardenclubofcapecoral.com.