How to Care for a Pentas Plant
Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) are flowering plants native to East Africa and the Arabian peninsula that thrive in heat and humidity. They are popular for mass plantings and containers and can also be used as hedges, although pruning reduces flowering.
Pentas are winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 10 through 12. They are often grown as annuals outside this range.
Pentas Plant Identification
- Flowers: Also known as Egyptian star flower, pentas get their name from their five-petaled, tubular flowers, which grow in 4-inch-wide round clusters known as
corymbs. Colors: These plants come in a variety of colors, including shades of red, pink, magenta and lilac. There are also white cultivars available. Pentas flowers, especially those that lean red in color, are magnets for butterflies and hummingbirds. Leaves: Their leaves are oval-shaped and dark green, with lengths of up to 6 inches. The leaves and stems are pubescent, which means they are covered in fine hairs.
- Height: Pentas plants have typical heights between 2 and 3 feet and widths of 15 inches. They can be easily grown in garden beds or containers.
How to Care for Pentas Plants
Pentas can be grown from softwood cuttings as well as from seed, although they take much longer to grow from seed. In colder climates, seeds can be started indoors about two months before the last frost of the spring and transplanted into garden beds when conditions are right. Additionally, according to the NC State Extension, pentas are deer resistant.
- Sun Requirements: They can handle some light shade, but for maximum performance, they should be planted where they will receive full sun, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.
- Soil Preference: Pentas can grow in many types of soil, provided the soil is fertile and offers good drainage.
Watering: Water pentas plants on a regular basis at first, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Established plants can handle some drought.
Fertilizing: The University of Florida IFAS Extension recommends feeding pentas plants every six weeks with a balanced fertilizer but only during the growing season.
- Pruning: For bushier pentas plants, you should pinch back young plants, which involves pruning part of the main stem to encourage multiple stems to grow from the node below the cut.
Winter Care for Pentas
Pentas are often grown as annuals. However, you can opt to overwinter pentas plants indoors, either by cutting back and digging up plants in garden beds or by bringing container plants inside.
They can be killed by frost, however. Therefore, they should be brought inside before the first frost of the season and placed in locations with temperatures between 50 and 59°F, says the Missouri Botanical Garden. You should reduce watering during the winter months.
Pentas can also be kept indoors year round as a houseplant if you can situate them in a room that gets lots of sunlight and has high humidity.
With indoor plants, you'll want to keep an eye out for whiteflies, which are sap-sucking insects that may find a home on the undersides of pentas plant leaves. Infested plants should be isolated and affected leaves removed.
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.