Penta help?

rockyn(Austx8b)May 8, 2006

howdy all!

I had a small penta, but I lost the tag to it. Seems like it was a SUN plant.

Planted it in the sun this spring and it started to shrivel. I figured either it didn't like the fumes from my swimming pool, or the earth drained too fast for it.

So, put it back into an el cheapo pot and it seems to be growing again. It now gets morning and noon sun, afternoon shade. Darn it, I really thought it was a sun plant.

Then, I saw an established penta that blew my socks off. In a large pot, in a sheltered entryway, but facing west. This thing is humongous and had many, many heads of flowers. The owner said it had wintered in the pot, on the porch. Which means it got next to no sun during the winter.

Have I totally misunderstood pentas? Where do y'all place yours for best growth and flowers?

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It is a sun plant. But I think it prefers some protection from intense sun and heat. I have never had much luck with pentas. Maybe it was just the fumes, or maybe even that the plant was small and not established. But it sounds as if moving it helped, so I'm betting it just got more sun than it wanted.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 1:57PM
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skeeterbait1(z8 TX)

I have several of them and they do the best for me in dappled shade. They get about 4 hours of morning sun and the rest of the day the tree semi-shades them. I was having the same problem you had until I moved them. I think srburk is right about the intense sun.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 2:30PM
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jeanne_texas(Z 8B TX)

I have them growing in full sun and they love it and are huge....Jeanne

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 5:47PM
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I grow them every year and have started loads of them from seeds.

There are tall pentas and short pentas so make sure you have a tall onve "Butterfly" and not a short one "Graffiti".

I have mine in part sun because that's all I have. They definietely get afternoon sun. Pentas don't want to dry all the way out. They'll come back for you , but they'd rather have fertilizer and a weekly watering in the summer.

If you let yours really dry out, the leaves go crispy and it looks awful, just remove most of the crispy leaves...need to leave it some green even if it's ugly...give it a good watering with water soluable fertilizer and in no time it will leaf up again.

I have brugmansias that need weekly fertilizer, I like to give my pentas a shot about every 2-4 weeks when I think of it.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 11:41PM
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Dena Walters

I love the Pentas. I have them just about in every bed I have. Some morning sun, some just evening sun, and then alot ot them in ALL day sun, from sun up to sun down. All are doing great. Its why I bought more this year because they are so hardy even for our Texas heat. Although I do have a tendency to water my plants by hand about every 3rd day and feed about once a week.
Hand watering gives me the chance to really scope out my flowers and pull weeds too. Very relaxing to me after a hard day at work and traffic

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 9:02AM
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jeanne_texas(Z 8B TX)

I think the watering must be the key for full sun..I water almost every other day....Jeanne

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 3:39PM
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fertilizer is important for them too. As soon as they begin to show green as tiny seedlings they will literally stop growing until you give added fertilizer on a regular basis. Of course, everything wants some water in this heat. Just because a plant is listed as drought tolerant doesn't mean it wants a drought. That was a big lesson for this gardener.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 9:54PM
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Thank you all! This advice is exactly what I was looking for.

Thanks especially for the fertilizer heads-up. I really didn't know pentas were so hungry.

I have some caladiums that oddly seem to like the same light this wee penta is getting. I may mix them together and see what happens.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2006 at 8:41AM
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It seems that too much sun and heat of 102 to 110 definetly will shrivel the Pentas..I had a terrible experience with them after a day of intense heat and then a slight cold fron..they just shriveled up but it seems like the bottom part of the plants are perking up..they might still survive..

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 9:49AM
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I found the old time tall red penta at my local nursery las weekend. Haven't seen them in the big box stores. If you want this type, they are out there. I bought these in 1-gal containers to tuck into bare spots among my salvia Black and Blue. It's a really pretty contrast.

I also found a new smaller variety called kaleidoscope whose colors are really vivd. I went for the carmine.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 10:10PM
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jardineratx(zone 8, Texas)

Bingo!!that's what I will try with my black/blue salvia. I hadn't thought of that combo. Cynthia, how do you start your penta seed? Do you sow indoors, direct sow, what temps are best for germination. I have some seeds of the tall red penta but need info on growing them from seed. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 8:15AM
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Pentas can take all the sun you can give them as long as they are watered before or as soon as they begin to wilt. In containers that can be every day, depending on conditions. After a flush of blooms, when they begin to fade, pinch all the old flower heads off, keeping the globular shape of the plant, fertilize, and soon you will have another "crop" of beautiful flower heads. They do respond well to a balanced fertilizer. Deadheading doesn't take long, and is well worth it.
They are listed for partial shade also, but I don't know that they bloom as profusely.
By the way, the word is pentas, even if you're talking about one plant. It just happens to end in "s" like bus, focus, and lots of other words.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 3:56PM
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Pentas from Seed:

I tried to follow the rules and failed miserably. I threw my seeds onto pots in the greenhouse in winter and had a lot of success. Here's what I think they like:

Moist fertile soil temp in the 80s is great. They can take more heat but need moisture. Don't even try with plain peat.

They are tiny, so a plain container from produce with a lid and tiny holes helps it stay moist. Sow on top of the soil, keep moist and in light. They take a a week or two to start to germinate. They are tiny and slow growing [that's why they cost a little more]

You'll need to divide them because they are so tiny they are often very close together. I guess you could use Jani's techniqe of sand in a shaker as she suggested for sowing poppie. When you divide, the container need not be deep because the roots are slow to grow. I've planted small ones because I got tired of fooling with them directly into the garden in part shade in the heat of June and many of them grew nicely. I had so many it didn't matter.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 10:57PM
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jardineratx(zone 8, Texas)

Thanks Cynthia. I'm going to try it. I need quite a few plants as I want to mass-plant them so growing from seed will be a giant plus. There are too many other plants and garden stuff I want to buy so I don't want to spend a bunch of money on them.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 8:19AM
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i'm losing my pentas one by one. they go from a lush green to a thinning plant with brownish yellow leaves. i can't see any visible bugs on them???? any ideas.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 6:40PM
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as the days get shorter, this is natural.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 12:32AM
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they might be making seeds. Notice brown, crisy centers where there used to be flowers. Pinch them out and save for next year if your interested.

I like to use the 1/2 size manilla envelopes and put lots in.

The seeds are powdery as they fall out, but I've found no wat to separate seed from chaffe without putting the whole thing in a deep envelope letting them dry and release then shaking it out over moist medium.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 11:08AM
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i have both red and pink pentas and love them because all the butterflies and hummers they bring to the yard would it be beneficial to dig up one of each and put in my small greenhouse that i use to overwinter some of my favorite things from the summer for next year i know they can be rooted fairly easy to start new plants

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 8:52PM
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geekgranny(NC Tx USA zone8a)

I've had Pentas for several years now in containers, in Full Texas Blazing Sun and they do very well AND and they do like water. I feed them every couple of weeks alternating organic and balanced chemical 20-20-20. I usually turn on the drip system daily for most plants, including Pentas, early to mid afternoon for a drink and to cool the roots.

They are pretty finicky about cool weather and prefer temps to never get much below mid 50's. The only way I've saved them for another year is in heated greenhouse but they seem to be much more sensitive to low temps in the greenhouse than many of my other tropicals. It is very easy to overwater in winter gh storage also. Reduce water drastically.

I'm in the woods surrounded by parks and preserves; therefore I do refrain from using insecticides unless absolutely necessary; rarely anything stronger than neem, especially outdoors. We have many butterflys. They prefer the medium pink to darkish pink colors above all others out here.

I have trouble finding good sized plants this time of year and usually don't find good sized ones until later in summer. When I do purchase good sized ones there are usually four plants in each pot.

They are my only "must have" seasonal plant for outside garden (well the tropical and hardy hibiscuses and Brugs and Daturas too, now that I think about it). Butterflys flock to them in many times larger the numbers than they do to other plants including Butterfly bushes (buddleia).


    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 9:17AM
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lindseyrose(8b/9 Texas)

This is a wonderfully interesting thread to me! I posted last year about snagging some red pentas cuttings and two of them lived once I stuck them straight into the soil (they stayed alive in my house in pots but wouldn't make roots after 6 weeks!) They are in the ground and had to make it through winter with a little help from me. I did cover them each time we got close to freezing. Most of their leaves got sad-looking but the plants didn't die. I cut them back to nearly the ground once I saw new growth squeezing out of the stem (I cut above the new growth).

My question now is, why is one flourishing and one lagging way behind? I have them within a foot of each other. The smaller one was also smaller last summer, never caught up to its friend. Here's a picture so you can see the difference. I'd love to hear any ideas that might be causing the growth retardation in the one plant.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 10:51AM
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lindseyrose(8b/9 Texas)

That picture was supposed to link back to Flickr. Oops! Anyway, I wanted to add that my pentas get good sun but not for hours upon end. Most of the day they are in dappled sunlight. And the bed tends to stay very wet, which might help keep them watered, like the people above mentioned pentas really need.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 10:54AM
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Pentas (the name ends in s, just like bus) can take the most glaring all-day sun in the hottest location you have, even in containers, if you attend to their watering needs. In containers you may have to water them twice a day in the worst of the heat. They cannot get too much sun.
They are gross feeders. When the are short on fertilizer, they just sit there. Hit them with lawn food every 2 or 3 weeks and they will bloom spectacularly.
They WILL get lanky eventually, and that is the time to prune them back by about 1/3. They will look horrible at first, but within a couple of weeks they will have new growth and will start a new bloom cycle.
Some years this pruning is done once; other years it is necessary to do it two times.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 12:12PM
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lindseyrose(8b/9 Texas)

Don--any idea about my pentas, why one is so much smaller? Also, how would they feel about alfalfa tea or just powdered alfalfa watered in? That's one fert. that I already have. I am trying to stay organic this year.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 12:53PM
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Hi, lindseyrose. Unfortunately, breeders have developed intermediate size and dwarf size pentas. The original plants grew to at least two feet in height. Sometimes the
"three bears" get mixed up at the nurseries. I'm sorry, but I know nothing about so-called organic fertilizers. I respect gardeners who feel strongly about using "chemical" fertilizers, although everything that exists is made up of chemicals. My understanding is that herbal teas and so forth are very slow acting. As I said, pentas will simply stop growing if they aren't fertilized regularly. They are worse than pansies in that respect. I am not trying to influence you, but I grow mine in fairly large containers and I simply use a balanced granualar lawn fertilizer on them and they respond extremely well. I wish you the very best.
By the way, the lavender varieties, which are beautiful, seem fragile in comparison to the whites, reds and pinks. Just thought I'd throw that in.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 3:33PM
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lindseyrose(8b/9 Texas)

Thanks Don. These are the deep red and were taken from a largish bushy plant (both cuttings from the same plant) that was flourishing under complete neglect (abandoned house). I'm not exaggerating when I say that they got no water or fertilizer for a year, because that house was empty for all of 2006, owned by a bank that only sent yard guys out to cut the lawn down (way too short, of course) once a month.

Anyway, that was the last year for those pentas, I'm afraid. They appear to have died due to freezing this past winter. :( The bushes were about 2 feet tall, but I don't know if that was due to overgrowth or if they were the tall variety.

I will try the alfalfa meal watered in, once I make sure it's not going to *harm* the plants. If it does nothing, well, I'm not out much. But I'm glad to know about their need for fertilizer, because that may be the problem with mine (someone described it as "stopping in their tracks" or something, which is what my little one seems to have done.)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 4:43PM
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I've not done pentas with alfalfa, they need a nice balanced mix to flower well.

There are many different sizes of pentas, I even have 1 that has varigated leaves. The tall reds are the old fashioned ones and propagate easily by cuttings but I have not had luck with them from seeds, so I dug mine up and overwintered them. Hopefully they'll fill in and keep their height.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 11:02PM
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lindseyrose(8b/9 Texas)

I just remembered that I have leftovers of Garden-ville lawn fertilizer. They bag is outside in the shed so I don't know the NPK ratio numbers...okay, Googled it and it's 7-2-2. Is that balanced enough or should I probably shop for something different?

I'm excited now to have something to try. Maybe my little one is just doing nothing because it is HUNGRY!!! The big one is getting ready to make flowers.

Good to know about the seed thing, too. I have a hunch that I have the old fashioned kind but of course I can't be certain. Once I have blooms, I'll post as well as closeups of the leaves. Maybe y'all can help me ID it, at least a good guess, anyway. :)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 1:25AM
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It pleases me a lot to read the enthusiasm for this plant. I don't know of any other pest-free, disease-free flowering plant that insects like that rewards the grower so splendidly if he simply waters when they begin to wilt and fertilizes as needed. Most years mine are blooming their heads off when the first freeze kills them. I just replace them in late spring every year. I get as many compliments on them as on any other plant I grow,

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 3:22AM
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I love them too! Have you seen the kaleidoscope series (I hope I got that right) I saw them the first time last summer. They are deep vivid purple and carmine red. I saved some of those as well as the old time tall reds and pinks just in case they aren't around this year.

They are easy to grow from seeds, but you need to be patient.

lindseyrose, I think you'll get more flowers if you have something more balanced like a 7-7-7. Remember, nitrogen the first number grows leaves, the 2nd number phosphate is for flower, and for some reason I've learned that the 3rd number really helps the flowering too.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 10:04AM
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lindseyrose(8b/9 Texas)

Thanks. I'll look for a more balanced organic fertilizer next time I have the chance!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 7:46PM
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There are some wonderful ones. I use a Fertiloam product on my roses. In the past I've used espoma (sp?) but locally I can only find it in small bags now.

Just look at the list of minerals and nutrients and you'll be amazed. This year I used an old bag I got on sale of Bulbtone on my roses and they loved it. The also make a rose tone which would make your pentas happy, but not your pocket if you have to buy in small bags.

Look for unusual deals. Last spring I bought greatly reduced organic Pansy food! I used it all summer and my summer plants didn't know how it had been marketed

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 11:47PM
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Plant foods designated for roses or hibiscus or pansies or what have you make for good marketing, but the plant don't know what was on the label! For plants in soil, a soil test will reveal what formula of fertilizer to use. Use whatever the soil lacks. Extra nitrogen is usually a good idea every 6 wks. or so EXCEPT it can cause excess leaf formation and fewer flowers on some plants.
For container plants, the nutrients don't build up, but are washed out the drail hole(s), so a balanced fertilizer works for most plants. 7-7-7, 21-21-21. The only difference in balanced fertiliers is the CONCENTRATION of each of the 3 components. Therefore, those with higher numbers have more potential for burning if applied too heavily or not watered in properly.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 12:10AM
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four(9B (near 9a))

> Posted by donquixote102
> lanky eventually, and that is the time to prune
> within a couple of weeks they will have new growth

MANY in-ground P. lanceolata, tall, deep pink, continuously flowering.
Propagated from cuttings.
From small to big and forevermore, there is no height at which a plant is not lanky
(thin-stemmed, needing support).

Reduction of height of course eliminates flowers until new lanky stems have grown,
on which flowers then grow.
Nothing gained.

Wind and rains tip supported stems and flowers, shift them around.
Time consuming to repeatedly mess with this.

Is it the experience of readers here that
cuttings from lanky stems inevitably make lanky new plants?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2014 at 8:40PM
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