Pentas lanceolata is commonly referred to as the Egyptian Star or simply Pentas. This beautiful herbaceous plant belongs to the Rubiaceae botanical family, which makes it a distant relative of the coffee tree and gardenias. Its genus, Pentas, contains fewer than 20 flowering plant members, most of which are native to North Africa and the Middle East. Let’s see how to propagate, grow Pentas and their care.
Where to Grow Pentas
Pentas not only do well in gardens, but also in pots. If you live in an area with very cold winters, you should move your Pentas indoors for the winter, as this plant does not tolerate freezing temperatures.
If you want to grow pentas in the garden, look for a place with plenty of sunlight, sheltered from the wind as much as possible and not waterlogged when it rains.
In winter it must be protected by placing a blanket over it, the ideal is to use transparent nylon so that it receives the light.
They can also be grown as houseplants. They will have the same general living requirements, but the fact that homes tend to be drier during winter can stress plants.
In the winter, they will need to be near a window that receives direct sunlight, to maximize their exposure to light.
How to Propagate Pentas
Pentas can be propagated in two different ways, either by sowing its seeds or by propagating it by cuttings (stems), let’s see each of them below.
Begin germinating Pentas seeds indoors seven to nine weeks before the last expected frost (if you live in a frost region).
Place the seeds on a well-moistened growing medium, you can use part garden soil and part sand.
Pentas seeds are unique in that they need light to start germinating. Therefore, it is essential not to bury them, but simply sprinkle them above the ground.
Cover the seeds with a transparent plastic lid to create an ideal microclimate. Place the growing medium in a place where it has an average temperature of 24°C. Spray with water as needed to keep soil evenly moist.
Once Pentas seedlings begin to germinate and have at least two pairs of leaves, they can be transplanted. They can be planted in the garden in the spring, as soon as the last frost (if any) has passed.
Propagate Pentas by cuttings
Choose a mature, attractive Pentas to take the cuttings from. A new plant from cuttings will be virtually a copy of the parent plant, so choose a healthy plant that you like.
Look for leafy softwood stems. Cut the stems first thing in the morning so that your Egyptian plant has more water on its stems. Using a clean, sharp tool, cut a 4-6 inch stem from the parent plant.
As soon as you pick up the stem cutting, wrap it in damp paper towel. It is best to plant your Pentas cutting as early as possible to have the best chance of rooting.
Remove all the bottom leaves leaving a few at the tip and dip the cutting in rooting hormone (optional). All you have to do is plant your cutting in moist soil, bury the base about 2 cm or so.
Place the pot in a location where it receives sunlight but no direct light, at least until you see new leaves growing. Once the leaves start growing, that’s a sign that you can transplant them to another location. Remember to always keep the soil moist while the cuttings are developing.
Cultivation and care
Growing and caring for pentas is not difficult, but gardeners should know the preferred conditions of Pentas lanceolata and learn about this plant to help it thrive.
Pentas will thrive in temperatures between 70 and 75°F (21 and 24°C), although, being subtropical, they can do just fine in higher temperatures.
A Pentas will not be able to overwinter if temperatures drop below 10°C, and in this case it can be grown as an annual or, if grown in a container, it must be moved indoors (in a greenhouse, if available) to spend the winter.
Pentas can thrive in full sun, in conditions where these plants have access to six or more hours of direct sunlight per day.
However, they are also quite shade tolerant. When they then receive two to three hours of direct sun and partial shade, these plants will be able to continue to flower successfully. Since they are of subtropical origin, they grow best if grown in a climate with high relative humidity.
Pentas lanceolata is a moisture-loving plant that thrives in wetter climates. This means it needs regular watering to thrive and maintain its beautiful bloom.
However, they may do well in dry conditions for a while, but they will never show their best face in prolonged drought conditions, and any Pentas plant that has just been through a drought also becomes vulnerable to mite infections.
Pentas grown in the ground need one to two centimeters of rain each week to thrive, so the need for supplemental irrigation depends on the rainfall patterns in your area.
Pentas grown in pots or planters will need to be watered more often, as the soil in these conditions will inevitably dry out faster, and indoor plants do not have access to rain. In the summer, they may even need daily watering, especially in hot climates.
If you notice it wilting or feel that the soil 1cm from the surface is completely dry, that’s a sign that your pentas need more water.
Pentas need fertile soil with adequate drainage. These plants do best in slightly acidic soils, with a pH around 6.0, and like clay or sandy soils.
The ideal soil mix for growing pentas would be; 1 part of garden soil and another part of horticultural or river sand.
When it comes to fertilizer, it’s important to consider a few things. If your garden soil is more alkaline, you can use natural compost to kick it into the acidic range that Pentas loves.
During their growing seasons, which run from spring through late summer, Egyptians will enjoy a balanced flower feeding routine once a month.
If you want to get the most showy blooms possible, opt for a high-phosphorus fertilizer. On the other hand, if you want to encourage this plant to sprout lots of new leaves, choose a nitrogen-rich fertilizer instead.
As for pruning, some people like to grow pentas as summer hedges, or want to prune them to a specific shape.
Although pruning does not stress these plants, flowers appear on fresh growth, so pruning will result in less abundant blooms.
It may also be interesting to read: How to propagate, grow bromeliads and their care.
It is recommended to remove dead shoots to keep them strong, shiny and healthy, which can be done at any time of the year.
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