Pentas are butterfly, hummingbird magnets

Starcluster pentas. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Starcluster pentas. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Looking for some great summer color for your landscape beds from now through the first killing frost this fall? Of course! Who isn’t? Butterfly series pentas will give you that – and maybe even more.

The series includes a variety of colors – Butterfly Deep Rose, Butterfly White, Butterfly Blush, Butterfly Deep Pink, Butterfly Light Lavender, Butterfly Lavender and Butterfly Red. Butterfly pentas were named Louisiana Super Plants in 2011.

Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) are also called Egyptian star flowers. The flowers are highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

The Butterfly series are great nectar plants. Clusters of five-petaled flowers appear continuously all summer from spring to first frost. A single plant may produce 15 to 20 flower clusters at one time. The large flowers make excellent cut flowers, too.

Butterfly pentas. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Butterfly pentas. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

The seed-propagated Butterfly hybrids are distinctive for their compact growth habit and larger flowers than other pentas. They also have excellent garden performance. Superb heat and humidity tolerance make this summer bedding plant a reliable choice for Louisiana gardeners.

You can expect excellent garden performance from the Butterfly pentas and most of the other varieties as well.

Pentas do well when planted later in spring. Mid-April through May and even into June are fine. Pentas prefer full sun, part sun or light shade.

Mature height of the Butterfly pentas is 18-24 inches. They will grow to be 12-18 inches wide. Ideally place plants 12-16 inches apart in a well-prepared, raised landscape bed. You can also plant in containers as a filler or “thriller” plant.

We recommend fertilizing at planting with a slow-release fertilizer, but liquid fertilizer every couple weeks could be used as an alternative.

Pentas do not need a lot of irrigation. Just water to get them established, then irrigate once weekly in the absence of significant rainfall. Remove faded blossoms and lightly pinch back overgrown plants to encourage non-stop flowering.

You will have an abundance of butterflies anytime you have pentas in the landscape, and even more butterflies when you have Butterfly pentas.

You can plant pentas in combination with other plants, such as Serena or Serenita angelonias. You also could mix them with Profusion or Zahara zinnias, lantanas, coreopsis, perennial verbena, butterfly bushes, agapanthus and ornamental grasses.

In addition to the Butterfly series pentas, you may consider New Look and Graffiti pentas as well as Starcluster, which were introduced by Syngenta Flowers in 2013.

 

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