Pentas lanceolata, or Egyptian Stars, is a perennial herb or sub-shrub native from Tropical East Africa to Southern Arabia. In nature and planted in the landscape, this shrub will reach up to 4.5 feet (1.3 m) tall and about half as wide. Dark green leaves are ovate to lanceolate, up to 3.5 inches (8.8 cm) long, and they are quite hairy. These are outstanding plants for both containers and for the landscape. Here in Oklahoma, they tolerate our very hot summers with temperatures running in the high 90’s to over 100 degrees F (32°-38°C). The only drawback here with these plants is that they need to be treated as annuals in the landscape. In containers in the greenhouse, they will bloom all year long, as long as temperatures stay above 65°F (18°C). There are new varieties that are more compact in growth habit. Plants are perennial in USDA zones 8-10 and treated as an annual elsewhere.
Blooming: Plants will bloom all summer long in the landscape and all year long in a warm greenhouse. Flowers are in terminal corymbs and can be anywhere from magenta to pink, lilac or white. Flowers are very neat in that they deadhead themselves. Very showy!
Culture: Pentas lanceolata need full sun and warm temperatures with a well drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam to 2 parts sand or perlite. The plants are well watered and allowed to dry slightly before watering again. We fertilize the plants on a monthly basis with a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. Plants in the greenhouse are fertilized all year long although water should be somewhat restricted during the winter months, but not enough to cause the plants to wilt.
Propagation: Pentas lanceolata is propagated by cuttings over bottom heat, and from seed. Seeds should be surface sown and will germinate in 5-12 daya at 70°F (22°C). Plants will bloom in 15-19 weeks from sowing.
Pentas lanceolata was featured as Plant of the Week June 20-26, 2008.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week: