PentaPentas are the journeymen of the flower world because they are easy to grow, dependable, comfortable in full sun or partial shade, attractive to butterlies and bumble bees, and provide a constant show of star-shaped flowers. A native of East Africa, they have erect, slender stems to 4 ft. high.

The tubular flowers come in lavendar, pink, red, white and pink and white stripes. I like the whites and reds planted together. They each set the other off. And, I have one rosey pentas that grows fast and furious. I have to trim it back twice a year. It's also provided numerous cuttings that quickly root and begin blooming within three months.

In Central Florida, pentas are usually grown as perennials. In more northern climes, they are grown as annuals because they don't like cold tootsies. Last December, during our annual winter freeze, I couldn't cover everything so elected to cover the larger, more expensive plants. That left the pentas to fend for themselves and it was a tough night. I ended up cutting a lot of dead stalks off the plants, but they came back this spring. I doubt they would have survived if the temps had dropped much more. However, because pentas are fast growers, they are an easily replaced plant.

a bright red pentaPentas are spreading plants, and can grow up to 3 ft. tall. The leaves are long and the stems are topped by lovely clusters of small, star-shaped flowers. Growers recommend lopping off the spent blossoms to prolong the bloom period. They are hungry eaters and should be fed monthly during the summer months. Pentas also make excellent cut flowers as they last a long time.

My pentas get entirely too leggy and woody in just one growing season. You can either take cuttings and root down new plants or simply replace the plants with fresh stock. Either way, the butterflies and hummingbirds will love you for your efforts.