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Pentas lanceolata (Forssk.) Deflers 1889
pronounced: PEN-tass lan-see-oh-LAH-tuh
(Rubiaceae — the gardenia family)
common names: Pentas, Star Flower, Star Cluster
This upright evergreen shrub or tall perennial, a native of north-eastern Asia and Egypt, grows up to a metre tall, depending on the variety, and is decorated for a large part of the year with 8–9 cm wide, dense clusters of small, long-tubed, star-shaped flowers. Flowers can be white, pink, red, lavender; some are two-toned. The plant comes in different varieties: larger specimens are erect with woody stems, while smaller plants are low mounds, and herbaceous. The leaves are a lush dark green, lanceolate, 8–12 cm long, hairy (as are also the stems), with deep veins. Full-sized pentas are often sprawling, as tall stems will topple over.
The flowers are self-deheading. In warm weather, the plant grows quickly and stays in bloom constantly. It is an ideal container plant, and can also be used in beds and borders, or as a houseplant in a sunny room.
Pentas are usually propagated from stem cuttings, and are easily grown in medium wet and well-drained organically rich, fertile soils, in part shade to full sun.
To keep pentas bushy and shapely, the tips of stems may be pinched off and the plants kept to a lower height.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2008, 2009
Page last updated 13th January 2017