Pentas

The Egyptian star flower, or pentas plant, attracts pollinators to the garden. The new Sunstar Red variety has won top performer awards.

If you like a lot of action in your flower garden, pollinator plants are a must.

Who doesn’t love watching a hummingbird or butterfly visit your flowers for a friendly snack. It would be nicer if they left a tip after, but that’s not happening. Since most of my summer is spent outside on the patio, I need a little additional excitement besides watching my grass grow.

Pentas, or Egyptian Star Flowers, are a great add to the pollinator garden, and, with the newer improved varieties, you will have blooms from spring until frost with no deadheading.

To be perfectly honest, I never cared for them. But there was a time when I didn’t care for salads either. Lately I have managed to eat one every once in a while, after all the carrots, olives, and red cabbage have been delicately removed and left for the next guy to enjoy.

Proven Winners has introduced a new variety called Sunstar Red, which blooms from planting until frost. It has cherry red star-shaped flowers, which form large clusters of blooms just on top of the green foliage. The plants reach a height of 18 to 22 inches and will spread 16 to 24 inches wide.

You can grow them in full sun to part shade. The minor drawback to them is that they need a sweet soil. A pH of 7 is best, so you might want to add a bit of pelletized lime to your soil or container. If you have clay soil like me, they will grow best if you add 3 to 4 inches of compost to the hole. As far as fertilization goes, just add a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote at planting and again a few months later. Then all you need to do is sit back and watch all the action.

There are four varieties in the Sunstar series, which include Sunstar Pink, Sunstar Lavender, Sunstar Rose and Sunstar Red. It has been reported that Sunstar Red is the best.

If you like to grow plants that have won awards, Penn State and Michigan State gave it a 2019 Top Performer award.

Bees are also attracted to this plant. I know as a child I was stung many times by accidentally tramping on one in my bare feet. It’s hard to overcome this fear, but bees are extremely important to us. I read somewhere recently that they are the most important pollinator.

Bees only attack if they are confused, stepped on, or threatened, so as long as you keep the plants far enough away from you, there should be no problem. I’m not sure how not to confuse a bee, so just try your best.

There might be one other problem. I was reading that they have run tests to see if bees recognize you. It seems they do recognize faces. I wouldn’t call them any names or tell them they are ugly just in case. They will remember.

Apple and cherry trees, and blueberries are all pollinated by bees, so planting a few pentas around them should help your production rate.

If you are brave, and don’t mind a few bees on your patio, they are great for container plantings, and the flowers can also be used for cut flowers. Just remove the bees before cutting.

As far as my plantings, I have several pollinator plants, but only get two butterflies. They haven’t done any testing about butterflies recognizing you yet, but that may be the problem. They remember me as a handsome young lad, thin, with a head full of hair. They have no idea who that fat, bald guy is watching them. They probably think I’m creepy looking and stay away.

Make your space a green space.

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