Plant tall, old-fashioned red pentas, not the dwarf pentas to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
When I first moved to Florida, I made the mistake of planting dwarf pentas that came in a variety of colors such as pink, white, purple and lavender. Nothing is more disappointing to a butterfly gardener than finding out their time and effort was wasted by selecting the wrong kind of plant.
Since the dwarf pentas do not produce as much nectar as the tall old-fashioned pentas, they don’t seem to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
After I purchased the tall, old-fashioned red pentas from Florida Native Plants, 730 Myakka Road, Sarasota, Florida, I knew I was on the right track. I planted old-fashioned red pentas in my butterfly garden border near my slash pine trees and my solo Red Bay tree. The pentas thrived in the acid soil created by the fallen pine needles.
I enjoyed watching several ruby throated hummingbirds sipping nectar from my tall, old-fashioned red pentas. Several butterflies also made visits to my pentas as well as my Necklace Pod and Sapphire showers.
Here are some tips for growing the tall old-fashioned pentas in your hummingbird and butterfly Florida gardens:
No. 1: Which kind of pentas is best?: Look for the Pentas lanceolata from the Rubiacae or madder family. Make sure you are not purchasing a “dwarf” variety of pentas.
No. 2: What are other names for penta?: You may also hear Pentas lanceolata called by other common names such as star flower or star cluster.
No. 3: Where can I grow pentas?: Tall red pentas grow best in USDA zones 8-11.
No. 4: How to grow pentas: Pentas grow best in full sun, but can tolerate some shade.
No. 5: How much do you water pentas?: If you stick with the tall old-fashioned pentas, you don’t need to worry as much about watering which is great for xeriscaping in Florida. Use water wise practices during droughts.
No. 6: Are pentas native to Florida?: No. Pentas are native to Africa, but the tall, old-fashioned pentas are Florida-friendly plants.
No. 7: Should you deadhead pentas?: No. Pentas self-deadhead, which means their dead flowers naturally fall off.
No. 8: How tall do pentas get?: Tall pentas grow to be about 2 feet. Pentas are fast-growing.
No. 9: Should I plant dwarf pentas?: No. The dwarf pentas such as the “Graffiti Red” grows to about 10 inches. Avoid the dwarf varieties and ask specifically for the “tall, old-fashioned red” pentas.
No. 10: Should I prune my pentas?: It’s not necessary to prune pentas. Pentas may die during a frost in parts of Florida, but mine always return the next year from the same location.
If you are like me, and love the Florida state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing; then, plant the tall, old-fashioned red pentas in a shady spot along with some other Zebra Longwing favorites, the Florida native Firebush. If you want to attract other kinds of butterflies, plant your pentas in the full sun in a flower bed with milkweed to attract monarchs.
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