Pentas lanceolata



Pentas lanceolata

(Forssk.) Deflers 1889

pronounced: PEN-tass lan-see-oh-LAH-tuh

(Rubiaceae — the gardenia family)

common names: pentas, star flower, star cluster

Pentas comes from the Greek word πεντε (pente), five, referring to the number of petals in the flower; lanceolata comes from the Latin lancea, a lance or spear, and means ‘lance-shaped’.

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.

All varieties of pentas are extremely attractive to butterflies, and pentas goes well with buddleias, ixora and lantana in a butterfly bed. Lepidoptera larvae that feed on the plant include:

      • the Vine Hawk Moth Hippotion celerio;
      • the Coprosma Hawk Moth Hippotion scrofa; and
      • the White-brow Hawk Moth Gnathothlibus erotus.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2008, 2009
Page last updated 7th March 2019