by Kyle Sweet, CGCS

Today’s busy lives make maintaining a home and home landscape more and more difficult. I truly appreciate a well – maintained home and a well – maintained landscape just as much. Is it possible to have a great looking landscape that doesn’t take all of your time or doesn’t cost a fortune for someone else to maintain for you? I think so, and with this weeks “Sweet Shot” subject may be a good addition to your landscape to help you on the quest to low maintenance beauty.

Pentas, Pentas lanceolate, is a perennial planting here in our Southwest Florida landscape that can provide great seasonal color and texture in the winter months and actually survive or hot, humid summers.

Pentas have widely become known by their Latin name, much like other popular a more seasonal plants we know, Coleus and Vinca ( Periwinkle). Pentas may also be referred to as Egyptian Star Flower.

Pentas is a suiting name for this perennial, as there are five lobes at the end of each tubular flower. There are a myriad of colors that Pentas are available in and cruising through the American Farms website, can give you some great color choices. I’m sure you will find just the right color for your taste.

Pentas are known throughout the landscape industry as butterfly and hummingbird attractors. They are a mainstay in many butterfly gardens and although aren’t host plants, provide valuable nectar and pollen for pollinator survival. If you’re interested in Pentas for a butterfly garden, you might consider planting Milkweed, Lantana and passion Vine along side of it. With these added, you will be providing valuable host plants to the landscape with the food providing Penta.

For best results with these low – maintenance perennials, plant them in late spring in a full sun site that has well – drained soil. This could mean a large container just as well as a ground garden site. They grow to a mature size of more than a foot wide and two to three feet tall, so be sure to plant and space appropriately. Like nearly any new planting, Pentas will require daily watering until well established and then can be watered once the soil dries out or the plants reach the early wilting point. Use a good slow – release fertilizer to help maintain plant health all throughout the year.

Once mature, it’ll be important to keep your Penta’s in shape, which is not difficult. Hand pruning with shears or pinching stem ends will be best way to keep them managed and encourage fresh, new flowering growth at the branch ends. If left to their own, Penta’s can become leggy and good pruning will help the plants to maintain a full, bushy presentation.

Pentas may be a great plant to add to your island landscape that will accomplish several landscape goals. Dark green foliage with good texture, year – round color of your choice and a valuable nectar source for pollinators is a great combination. I know I’m planting some soon at the club and I hope that you look into them and give them a try this winter season.

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