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On Gardening: Butterfly Pentas, an award winning name

March 7, 2016

Pentas work great in both the cottage and tropical garden.

Gardeners everywhere it seems are planning their flower display for the warm season landscape. I, too, have been pouring over availability lists seeing what will be available in our market this spring. One group of plants, pentas to be exact, caught my eye. It wasnít just pentas but it was the varieties that will be offered that caught my attention,

When it comes to flowers like pentas, your first thought is does it really make any difference on varieties? In a way I suppose you might be right because having pentas of any variety is better than not having any. But let me tell you a little story about a trial in which I was a participant.

When you do a varietal trial of plants, you always plant in randomly replicated plots so that all selections have equal opportunity to shine. So obviously I was helping evaluate pentas. Pentas, called Egyptian Star cluster in some parts of the world, are known to be great hummingbird and butterfly plants.

What transpired in our trial however was most unusual. We were looking at about a dozen varieties, some old, some very new at the time. All the plants did fairly well because once temperatures start sending you indoors to the air conditioner pentas become workhorses in the garden.

As we were evaluating we noticed butterflies on one particular variety in much better numbers, actually, they were covered while the other selections just had a few. From a distance we could see each replication of this variety was covered in butterflies. All pentas were showing great flowers but what was special about the one that had all of the butterflies?

To be honest we donít know what was so special. Perhaps the nectar somehow was just more readily available but was it possible that butterflies could read. Why would we even remotely consider that? Well the answer is that each plot that was loaded with these wonderful winged creatures was labeled with the varietal sign BUTTERFLY PENTAS.

Butterfly Pentas were new at the time and though there have been countless new varieties it is still at the top of the charts. I just recently heard Dr. Allen Owings from Louisiana State University tell a large crowd that this variety was a Louisiana Super Plant Award winner that should be tried by everyone. Oh yes and it was named Mississippi Medallion Award winner, too, after my trial was conducted. Butterfly Orchid is their hot new color bringing the total to 7 colors and a mix.

Another of my favorite pentas is the Graffiti series which is similar to the Butterfly series, being an F1 hybrid. The Butterfly series reaches 20 to 24 inches tall, while the Graffiti series is more compact, reaching 12 to 15 inches. The Graffiti Red Lace is stunning producing deep red flowers positioned well above the foliage. The lace description comes from tiny white filaments protruding from each individual red floret.

No matter which pentas you choose, the flowers will be produced in abundance all summer long if beds are prepared correctly. Choose a site in full sun for best flower production. Prepare the bed by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter, and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While tilling, incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release, 12-6-6 fertilizer.

Pentas again, are treasured by both butterflies and hummingbirds and fit any style of garden. I like them in a tropical setting in front of bananas and elephant ears. In traditional gardens, pentas look right at home with rudbeckias or gloriosa daisies and my favorite the agastache or hummingbird mint. Youíll like them best, planted in informal sweeps or drifts versus lined up like soldiers. By the way, they're also great in the vase as cut flowers. I hope youíll try Butterfly Pentas if you see them and then let me know if you had an abundance of butterflies too. Keep your eyes open for Graffiti, Northern Lights, and Bismarck as well.

 

 

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