Penta flower is a reliable, cost effective way to bring year round color and texture to your garden. Classified as a warm region, tropical flowering plant, the penta flower is so called because the petals have 5 points. Available in a range of rich jewel tones, these attractive ornamental plants will attract scores of butterflies and hummingbirds as well as pollinators to the garden.
Colorful and attractive, Egyptian star adds color and structure to your garden. It is also a popular plant with pollinators.
Penta flower (Pentas lanceolata) or Egyptian star is an ornamental shrub reaching up to 6 ft in height and with a spread of about 3 ft. If allowed to, the plant can start to look unruly but the bright, long lasting blooms more than make up for an occasionally untidy appearance.
Slow growing and reliable these are good container and bedding plants. They are also pleasingly diseases and problem free. A perennial plant in USDA Zones 10 and warmer, in cooler climates they die back as the temperature falls. You can also grow the penta flower indoors as a houseplant.
Different Varieties of Penta Flower
As well as garden stores, specialist and online plant nurseries also sell a range of pentas. Online retailers will ship plants to you when they are ready to plant.
When selecting a penta flower you may find it difficult to choose between the seemingly endless range of plants that are currently available. Take the time to look through the different varieties and select one that not only appeals to you but also suits your garden.
New cultivars and hybrids are regularly developed, meaning that the range of Egyptian starts on offer can seem overwhelming.
Some of the more reliable cultivars include the Graffiti series. This range of penta flower cultivars is known for producing colorful, long lasting blooms. Graffiti Red Lace is a showy cultivar that produces compact plants that rarely exceed 8 inches in height. When in bloom, the plant is covered with deep red flowers.
Graffiti Violet produces 12 inch plants packed with deep purple star shaped flowers that are full of nectar. Butterflies in particular like this variety’s flat flowers. A heat tolerant variety Violet can, in the right conditions, flower from spring until the fall.
Another popular member of the graffiti series is Lipstick. This colorful plant is ideal for pots and floral beds. Its dense, brightly colored star shaped blooms are an attractive draw for pollinators.
Northern Lights is a cool weather loving variety. It produces large, attractive blooms that are a magnet for pollinators.
Kaleidoscope Appleblossom is an early flowering variety. It is prized for its vigorous growth habit and rich blooms. A heat loving plant, it is ideal for mixed beds and containers.
Falling Star Pink Bicolor is a trailing variety which is ideal for hanging baskets and containers. Achieving a height of 12 inches and a spread of 24 inches, Falling Star Pink is also an ideal choice for colorful ground cover. With a similar height and spread to Falling Star Pink, Falling Star Rose is also ideal for baskets and pots.
Starcluster Lavender produces 22 inch high plants that are clustered with lavender colored blooms. This is a great plant if you want to take cut flowers. Like Starcluster Lavender, Starcluster White is a heat loving cultivar. It achieves a height and spread of 24 inches.
Take the time to look through the different varieties to find one that best suits your garden.
You can either buy young plants, ready for transplanting into the garden or packets of seed. Growing from seed is often more affordable, offering you access to a wider range of plants for less money. However, it also takes longer.
Growing from Seed
You can begin sowing seeds indoors around 7 to 9 weeks before the last frost date.
Sow seeds in trays or pots filled with either fresh potting mix or starting formula. Moisten the soil before sowing.
Scatter the seeds evenly across the potting medium. Do not cover the seeds. Place in a propagator or cover the trays with a plastic bag.
Keep the seeds at around 75 ℉ to encourage germination. This should occur in 14 to 21 days depending on conditions. In cooler temperatures germination may take a little longer. If you struggle to maintain a regular temperature, a heated propagator, such as the iPower Heating Seed Starter Germination Kit, is a great investment.
As soon as seedlings emerge, place the trays or pots in a light place such as on a sunny windowsill. If you don’t have a sunny windowsill allow the seedlings to reach about 4 inches in height before placing under grow lights. Place the seedlings under the lights for 16 hours a day. This enables them to enjoy about 8 hours of darkness during the night.
Start seeds off in trays undercover. This gives you a head start and enables you to plant out as soon as the last frost date has passed.
As the seedlings grow, gently water the soil to prevent it from drying out.
When the seedlings are about 4 weeks old apply a starter solution. This is simply an indoor fertilizer or houseplant food diluted down to half its strength. A liquid fertilizer is easy to apply, simply incorporate it into your watering routine.
If you have started the seeds in trays or cells, transplant the seedlings into 4 inch pots when they have at least 2 pairs of true leaves. This encourages the seedlings to develop a strong root system.
As the last frost date approaches begin to harden your seedlings off. Once the soil is workable, and the seedlings are acclimatized, you can transplant them into their final position.
How to Plant
Plant your penta flower in late spring in well draining moist soil. These plants do best in a sunny, light position. While Egyptian star plants can grow in partial shade, ideally they need at least 6 hours of bright light every day in order to flourish.
Before planting work the soil over to a depth of between 6 to 12 inches deep. As you dig and weed the soil, take the opportunity to work in some organic matter such as compost or leaf mold. This enriches the soil, giving plants a boost.
While you can plant at any time of day, many gardeners try to plant either in late afternoon, once the sun’s glare has started to fade, or on a cloudy day. Planting in cooler conditions helps to reduce transplant shock.
To plant, dig a hole deep enough to hold the root ball of your plant. Remove the penta flower from its pot and gently loosen the root ball.
Position the plant in the hole, the top of the root system should sit slightly above soil level. Planting at a slight elevation encourages drainage away from the plant. This helps to prevent root rot.
Firm the soil down and water well. If you are planting more than one penta flower, space each plant 18 to 24 inches apart. The exact spacing required, depends on the variety. Larger plants require more space to flourish. Consult the plant label or seed packet for the exact spacing.
The penta flower is also suitable for growing in pots, as part of a container garden. Plant in a medium or large pot, which is clean and has drainage holes in the bottom. Fill your chosen container with fresh potting soil and plant as described above.
Penta Flower Care
Once established, the penta flower is a pleasingly low maintenance addition to the garden.
Regularly weed around the plants. This is particularly important straight after planting, when the plants are young and vulnerable. Quick growing weeds can smother young plants, depriving them of moisture and nutrients. This can kill smaller seedlings and stunt the growth of larger specimens.
As well as watering and fertilizing your plants, a layer of mulch, about 2 inches thick, is often beneficial. Not only does this help the soil to retain moisture but it can also deter weed growth. Finally, a good layer of mulch can help to keep roots cool during warm periods and insulated during spring frosts.
Keeping the soil around the plants weed free helps them to flourish.
When to Water
The penta flower does best if it is regularly watered. Particularly when planted in a full sun position, these attractive specimens require lots of water to flourish fully. Additionally, while they are considered moderately drought tolerant, Egyptian star plants require more water during the warmest summer months.
Wait until the soil starts to dry out before watering. Apply about 2 inches of water for every 2 to 4 inches of dry topsoil.
Fertilizing your Plants
Apply a slow release 13-13-13 granular fertilizer in the spring.
The amount of fertilizer you need to apply depends on the height of the plant. This information is provided on the fertilizer packet, but a good rule of thumb is to apply one cup of granular fertilizer for every 5 ft of plant height.
Water the soil well the day before fertilizing. Sprinkle the fertilizer around the plants drip line, covering as much of the root system as possible.
Regularly watering and fertilizing your plants encourages blooms to form and bloom.
Exposure to cold or freezing temperatures can kill the Egyptan star. In milder climates plants can be protected from cold temperatures by a horticultural fleece. The Tierra Garden Haxnicks Fleece Jacket provides an easy way to insulate shrubs and small trees.
In cooler climates plants will need to be lifted and replanted in pots filled with fresh potting soil. Place in a warm, bright room away from draughts. Harden off in the spring as soon as temperatures reach 65 ℉.
If you are growing plants in pots, simply move the pots undercover as the temperatures begin to fall.
An attractive ornamental plant, the penta flower works well if planted alongside a range of other plants. A popular plant amongst pollinators, try planting with similarly attractive blooms for a colorful ornamental flower bed that is full of life. Angelonia, Lantana, Salvia and taller varieties of marigold all provide attractive planting combinations.
Pruning the Penta Flower
Pruning and tidying up your plants on a regular basis helps to keep them healthy. Pinching out the stem ends of a young plant encourages bushier plants to form.
As blooms fade, deadhead spent blooms. This encourages more buds to form and extends the bloom period.
If you are growing penta flower as an annual it does not require much pruning beyond this general maintenance.
If you want to keep the plant, more pruning will be necessary. Pruning helps to create a strong branch structure and prevents plants from becoming leggy. Cut tall stems back by about two thirds, to a few inches above the top of other branches. The cut stems can be used for either floral displays or rooted for new plants.
Annual plants can be pruned at any time. Perennials can also be tidied up as and when necessary but are best pruned in the fall.
How to Propagate
Pentas grow easily from seed or softwood cuttings.
Allow spent blooms to remain on the plant. As the blooms fade, seeds begin to emerge. These look similar to petunia seeds but are a lot smaller. Allow the seeds to dry on the plant.
Once the seeds have dried shake or tap the stem. This causes the dried seeds to fall from the plant. Catch the seeds in a container as they fall. You can also cut the flower head from the plant and shake the seeds into a container.
Store the seeds in a cool dry location before sowing in late winter or early spring. When you are ready, sow as described above. Remember to date and label all your seeds.
Cuttings are best taken in the spring. Select healthy softwood shoots that are connected to a leader or main branch. Softwood is a young branch or stem, usually this year’s growth, that is still green and pliable.
Take the cutting early in the morning while it is healthy and hydrated. Use a sharp knife or garden scissors to take the cutting about one inch below the second leaf node from the tip of the stem.
To prepare the cutting, remove the leaves closest to the cut end of the stem. This creates nodes at each side of the stem from which roots can emerge. Place the cutting on one side on a flat surface. Use a knife to strip or shave away small sections of bark, no more than half an inch long. This creates more space for roots to emerge.
Fill a pot with a potting medium and moisten it. You can also root the cuttings in damp sand or other suitable soilless mediums. Dip the stem in rooting hormone, ensuring that all the wounds are covered with powder. Tap off any excess powder.
Make a hole in the center of the potting medium and plant the cutting. The top leaf node should be about half an inch below the soil surface. Firm the potting soil down around the cutting.
Place in a light place and keep the potting medium moist. Roots will begin to emerge within a couple of weeks.
Allow the cuttings to grow on during the winter before hardening off and transplanting in late spring, once the last frost date has passed.
Common Problems and How to Solve Them
If properly cared for, the penta flower is a pleasingly problem free plant.
Regularly check plants for signs of infestation. Aphids as well as whiteflies and gnats can target the plants. Spider mites may be an issue during hot periods. Insecticidal soap is easy to make and is a great, organic way to combat infestations.
Over watering or high humidity levels can cause issues such as botrytis or mildew. These, like leaf spot, can be treated with a copper fungicide spray. When applying the spray take care to only treat the affected leaves.
The distinctive 5 petal blooms give the penta flower its name. Colorful and easy to care for this is a great addition to the garden.
An attractive ornamental, the heat loving penta flower is at its best during the hottest days of summer. The plants dark green foliage and bright blooms add color and interest to pots and flower beds. They are also a sure fire way to attract scores of pollinators to your garden.
Attractive and easy to care for, why not add a penta flower or two to your garden today?
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.