Star-cluster – Pentas lanceolata

The Star-cluster is a very decorative house plant, and looks well if given a position on its own. Yet it will also fit in a group of sun-loving foliage plants.

The Latin name Pentas refers to the plant’s five-petalled flower. An east African plant, it is grown for its multitude of red, pink or white flowers. Even young plants will produce a number of flowers. They first flower in the spring and continue to bloom for many months, until cold weather sets in. Individual flowers have a long tube at one end with five star-shaped petals. In the centre of each ‘star’ is a small white ‘eye’.

The leaves are about 10cm (4in) long and have clearly visible veins. The entire plant is covered with small white hairs, particularly the stems and leaves.

Size and growth Star-cluster - Pentas lanceolata

Star-cluster is a fast-growing plant. A young one may grow into a bushy 30-40cm (12-16in) plant in one season. Older plants can reach a height of 90cm (3ft).

Colour and varieties

Pentas lanceolata usually has pink flowers, but is also available with red or white blooms. Newer cultivated varieties come in a range of colours, including bright red, different shades of pink and pure white. Some varieties are pink and white. The small white ‘eye’ in the centre of the flower makes a pretty contrast, especially in the pink varieties.

Display ideas

If you grow several different coloured varieties, you might like to group them all together in an indoor window box, positioned on a shelf or table near a window. In summer, plants can be put out on a patio or balcony.

Making new plants

1. Take cuttings from February to April. Take 8-10em (3-4in) tip shoot cuttings from just below a pair of leaves. Remove the lower leaves and tip.

2. Dip stems in hormone rooting powder and place in a moist mixture of equal parts peat and Perlite.

3. Cover pot with a polythene bag with holes in it and keep at 21°C (70°F). Cuttings Remove lower leaves will root in 1-2 weeks.

Potting on

Carefully lift new plants before the roots are too long. Pot on in small pots and put in indirect light. Pinch out tips when plants are growing well. When roots have filled the pots transfer plants to 15cm (6in) pots. Put 3 in each container.

Place gravel and charcoal at the bottom. Use a rich potting mixture and press lightly around roots. When roots have filled pot feed weekly until September.

Plant Problems

  • Leaves turn yellow or brown and droop. This occurs if the plant is too dry.
  • Prevention: Water regularly, especially in hot weather when daily watering may be necessary.
  • Tiny red dots on the undersides of the leaves are red spider mites, and are due to hot, dry conditions.
  • Prevention: To discourage the mites, mist regularly to keep the air around the plant humid and the leaves clean.
  • Whiteflies are tiny white insects that fly up from the plant when it is shaken or moved. Eggs appear on the undersides of the leaves.
  • Treatment: Spray with an insecticide. Several applications may be necessary to get rid of the adults and to kill the young insects as they hatch from the eggs.

GENERAL CARE

This plant is easy to look after if kept moist. Pinch out tips of young plants and cut back older plants in the spring. Remove flower clusters as they fade.

Potting: Repot in spring or summer. Older plants need to be repotted every two years.

WATERING

Water several times a week in summer, or daily if plant becomes dry. In winter, water only enough to keep the plant from drying out completely.

Feeding: Feed once a week from April to September.

CONDITIONS

Light: A plant grown indoors needs bright light if it is to flower. It can be moved outside in summer; place in partial shade.

Temperature: Keep at 13°C (55°F) in winter, and 16-18°C (62-65°F) in summer.

When to buy Available from nurseries and large garden centres; larger nurseries may stock several colour varieties. Buy in spring when the flowers start to open.

What to look for

The plant should have healthy, dark green leaves and should be growing well. Make sure there are no brown tips on the leaves and that there are no pests on the plant.

Lifespan

Given proper care, Star-cluster will live for many years.

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