It's hard to beat this tropical African native for continuous, eye-catching color. Spreading, multistemmed plants reach 23 ft. tall and wide, thickly foliaged in deep green, lance- shaped leaves to 6 in. long. During warm weather, 4-in.-wide clusters of red, pink, lavender, or white starlike flowers appear above the leaves. The blooms attract a host of butterflies and hummingbirds; cut flowers can last for two weeks.
The hybrid Butterfly series, to 1220 in. tall and a little wider, is a better performer, offering larger flowers on denser-foliaged, rounder plants. The Graffiti series features compact plants growing 1218 in. The Kaleidoscope series stands 1222 in. with large flower clusters. The New Look series offers compact plants to only 1215 in. tall and wide. The Starla series grows 1222 in. and has proven to be extremely drought tolerant. 'Stars and Stripes' is about 1224 in. tall and combines showy red flowers with green-and-white variegated foliage.
Thrives in fertile soil with good drainage; will not tolerate drought. Feed monthly in summer with water-soluble 20-20- 20 fertilizer; remove spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Pentas can be grown as a perennial in the Coastal and Tropical South; prune it heavily each year (before spring growth begins) to keep it compact and encourage flowering. It can also be used as a houseplant: Set in bright west- or south-facing window, keep soil moist (barely moist in winter), and feed monthly from spring through fall with a general- purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer.