Flower of stars - Pentas

Flower of stars - Pentas

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Pentas lanceolata

Plant native to Africa and the Middle East, pentas lanceolata is widespread in cultivation; in nature it is a small shrub, which generally does not exceed one meter in height, well branched, and with beautiful wrinkled, lanceolate leaves, dark green, rough to the touch. In fact in the nursery numerous hybrids are available, obtained from seed or from cuttings, many of which do not exceed 35-45 cm in height.
From spring to autumn the star flowers produce innumerable small star-shaped flowers, gathered in showy umbrella-like inflorescences, red, fuchsia, white or in a good number of shades of pink. Over the years the varieties of pentas they tend to increase, and lately they have also been obtained pentas with light or even white or variegated foliage, very decorative, especially in the case of large varieties.
Pentas are perennial plants, which bloom for a long period of time in the right climatic conditions; if the heat is sufficient they begin to bloom in late winter and continue until the autumn. During the cold months they continue to bloom sporadically only in areas with a very mild climate, such as the Italian islands, where the thermometer hardly drops below zero.
In general, many varieties benefit from the removal of withered inflorescences; the small varieties tend to be self-cleaning, that is to say, once they have dried, the flowers fall on their own, without the need for intervention on our part.

Star flower cultivation

This perennial is widely cultivated, especially in low varieties, because cultivation is very simple; they are often cultivated as annuals, replacing them every spring, in full earth or in pots. They love sunny positions, where the direct sun favors the continuous flowering; the specimens placed in half-shade bloom a little less, but they better resist the summer heat.
They love a good fresh soil and enriched with mature manure and a little slow release granular fertilizer, for flowering plants, which guarantees the right dose of fertilizer every time we water the plant. Watering must be fairly regular, to be carried out whenever the soil is well dry, therefore almost every day in summer, every 2-3 days in spring. Before watering, we check the humidity of the soil, if it is still wet, we refer to watering. Generally they tolerate drought well; long periods without water can bring the plant to the withering, especially with regards to potted specimens; as soon as water is supplied, the plant tends to recover.
Avoid keeping the soil always damp, or we will favor the onset of rot, which is very harmful to the plant. The species of star flowers fear intense frost, so if we live in areas with winters that have frequent frosts, we place them in a cold greenhouse when autumn arrives, or in any case in a sheltered place. They are however well adaptable plants, which can survive even in the apartment, where they can also bloom if the light is sufficient and the climate is not excessively dry.

The butterfly garden

As with other plants, the star flowers are very suitable for the butterfly garden, or their continuous flowering attracts butterflies, bees and other useful insects into the garden.
In addition to pentas, buddleia (whose common name is "butterfly tree"), ivy, climbing honeysuckle, sage, heliotrope, alyssum, zinnia, rue, and nasturtium also have this value. the sedum, the primroses.
As you can well see the plants suitable for butterflies, which will invite these beautiful insects to stop in your garden, they are not only flowering plants, some plants are called nurses, as on them the butterflies like to lay their eggs, to then eat of the foliage. Don't worry, butterflies generally don't produce schools of devouring caterpillars, and your plants won't be aggressively disturbed by the presence of the caterpillars.
Remember, however, that if you wish to host in your butterfly garden, in addition to arranging the most suitable plants, you will also have to follow some rules concerning insecticides and pesticides; these insects are in fact very sensitive to any insecticide or fungicide product used in the garden; avoid using them to avoid exterminating the insects you have tried to attract quickly.

Fior di stelle - Pentas: Practical advice

Generally, however, it is useful to use insecticides of any kind, even biological ones, only on non-flowering plants, which do not even have buds, otherwise, in addition to butterflies and insects harmful to the garden, we will also become exterminators of spiders, bees, bumble bees, and other very useful flying insects.
If we really fear the aphids on our beautiful varieties of roses cultivated with so much love, and we don't want to give up our garden for the butterflies, we can think of positioning it in a corner in its own right, far from the rest of the garden, where therefore it will not be reached from possible treatments applied on other plants. Clear that for such a project it is necessary to have a large area, in order to leave a lot of space between the butterfly garden and the rose garden.