By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
The Louisiana Super Plant spring season is in full swing. Now the LSU AgCenter spotlight is on the superb Butterfly series pentas.
Are you looking for some great summer color for your landscape beds from now through our first killing frost this fall?
The Butterfly series of pentas will give you that – and maybe even more. (These plants can survive mild winters and often return for another year of blooms in south Louisiana). Superb heat and humidity tolerance make this summer bedding plant a reliable choice for Louisiana gardeners.
Expect excellent garden performance with this Louisiana Super Plant.
The series includes a variety of attractive colors, including Butterfly Deep Rose, Butterfly White, Butterfly Blush, Butterfly Deep Pink, Butterfly Light Lavender, Butterfly Lavender and Butterfly Red.
The genus and common name comes from the five petals of the star-shaped flowers. Pentas comes from the ancient Greek word “pente” meaning five.
The flowers are not large, but they’re produced in showy clusters that provide lots of color in flowerbeds all summer long.
A single mature plant may produce 15 to 20 flower clusters at one time.
Butterfly pentas are notable because their flowers are larger than most other types of pentas.
The flowers of pentas are full of nectar and highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
No butterfly garden would be complete without pentas.
In Mississippi State University trials, observations were that butterflies visited the Butterfly series more in side-by-side comparisons with other types of pentas.
You’ll have an abundance of butterflies anytime you have pentas in the landscape, and possibly even more butterflies when you plant Butterfly pentas.
Butterfly series pentas is a seed-propagated hybrid that is also distinctive for its compact growth habit.
Plants generally stay at 2 feet or shorter, making them excellent for use in beds or containers.
Should plants grow larger than desired, pentas are very tolerant of pruning. Simply cut the plants back as needed to control their size. (Pentas root easily from cuttings, and you can use the trimmings to grow more plants.)
They will quickly come back into bloom again. Sometimes this is desirable in August after the summer growing season to make plants more compact and shapely for bloom from September to first frost.
Pentas do well when planted from mid-April through May, when the weather is warm and settled. Planting can continue through summer. Pentas prefer full to partial sun – that is, about 4 to 8 hours of direct sun during a day.
Plant transplants about 12-16 inches apart in a well-prepared, raised landscape bed. Fertilize at planting with a slow-release fertilizer. They do not need considerable irrigation. Just water regularly to get them established, and then irrigate once weekly through the summer in the absence of significant rainfall.
To keep plants looking neat and encourage continued flowering, remove faded blossoms regularly if you can (this is not critical). Feel free to lightly pinch back plants through summer to encourage full, bushy growth.