Pentas lanceolata, commonly called Egyptian star cluster shrub, is a tender perennial from USDA zones 9a-11. In colder climates it is planted as an annual.
Red Pentas in our back yard. A Swallowtail butterfly is enjoying the blooms.
(The blue flower beside the Pentas is a Plumbago.)
Pentas flowers bloom in white, pink, red, and purple.
There is even a rare cultivar with variegated leaves.
I've experimented with all of them (except the variegated one) and found the red-flowered cultivar to be the strongest grower and the hardiest of the lot.
It forms a 3 foot tall and wide bush with evergreen, velvet-textured foliage. It covers itself with clusters of star-shaped blooms from early summer to frost.
I've often seen butterflies congregating around it. Hummingbirds are also attracted to its red flowers.
Egyptian star cluster shrub prefers a mildly acid soil. It is fairly drought tolerant once established. If you plant them in full sun, you will need to keep them well watered or they will tend to wilt.
If a freeze burns the foliage, wait until all danger of frost has passed before cutting it back to 6 inch sticks in the spring. If the roots were not damaged, the plant will recover.
It has been known to survive as far north as North Carolina with the protection of a pine straw mulch. Where it is hardy, the lower portion of the shrub will become woody with age.
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Pentas is the favorite food of the Tersa Sphinx moth caterpillar. I know of no other insect with a taste for them. Even if most of its leaves are consumed by one of these caterpillars, the plant will recover.
Pentas lanceolata can be easily reproduced by seed or softwood cuttings. To get seed, let the seed heads dry on the plant. Sow the tiny seeds in moist, fertile soil. The seedlings will germinate within two weeks and bloom in approximately three months.
Feed them two or three times per season with an all-purpose fertilizer.
This is the shrub to plant if you wish to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
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