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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pentas and Butterflies

The color red is one of my favorite colors. Butterflies like it as much as I do. They seem to be especially attracted to the Pentas lanceolata, 'Ruby Red'. This one is resting on a chair while others are being put into the ground.

Over the years all colors of Egyptian Star Clusters, Pentas lanceolata have been purchased and grown here at Hoe and Shovel. Cuttings are taken and plants are multiplied easily.

These plants work especially well here in Florida for year round satisfaction. They are non-stop bloomers and they can take the humid, hot summers. That makes them a hardy, Florida-friendly choice highly recommended for sunny to partially sunny locations.

They do, however, freeze to the ground when the temperatures reach below 32. But, not to worry, often times they will return when pruned back to new growth.
Freezing to the ground was the case for all of my Pentas this winter. When the garden center got in a fresh shipment of red ones this week all my resolve to wait for mine to return was immediately erased from the sensible side of my brain.
Too easy. Buy more and plant them in more places. That means waiting for the old ones can still be done and buying new ones is justified. It works. Try it. :-)

The first day of spring arrived in the most glorious way.
The day was stunning. It was the kind of day that beckons all humans to get outdoors and breathe in the beauty of a new season. Touch the earth. Thank God to be alive. Pay attention to the works of His hands.
It was that sort with crisp cool air in the morning, clear skies and sunshine all day that draws every gardener and non-gardener out of their coccoons of winter to notice the wonders of nature around us.

The butterflies noticed, too. They showed up as if they knew it was the first day of spring.
This Giant Swallowtail Heraclides cresphontes flitted around on this one plant for so long it made me wonder if it was possible to empty a flower of its nectar.
Happy spring! Get out and make the most it! Meems


  1. Beautiful Memes! It was glorious here in Northeast Florida as well. However I did resist going to the garden store. I'm looking forward to the pictures of your garden this spring.

  2. These images enlarge for a really good look. Thanks for the show. I plant quite a few pentas to keep our yard full of butterflies. Red is the back yard theme so in the front butterfly garden we use "Butterfly Deep Pink". In my household we have this discussion about which varieties have more nectar but without doubt, Butterfly Deep Pink brings them and and keeps them there feeding. After the winter from H*#@, I started over but this year I did the Pot-in-Pot method using 3 gallon size pentas. I want to be able to put them in the garage instead of frost cloth next winter. I think i can maintain them better too by focusing a drip tube in each pot and watering as needed instead of watering the whole bed when I am allowed. I keep you posted.

  3. I love Pentas too. They are one of the few plants that those of us with black thumbs can plant and have a reasonable chance of survival. The Red ones are lovely, and I like the Magenta ones too.

  4. Like your beautiful butterflies, I wish you a Happy Spring, Meems!

  5. Meems,

    Enjoyed the photos as usual. Pentas don't like it here in NC, they do terrible and the butterflies rarely will visit them.

  6. I can' tell you how much I enjoy your amazing site.
    Here in the Port Charlotte area [9B 10A]almost 1/3 of my plants died. This is such a challenging area as the heat kills many zone 9 plants, while zone 10 plants are marginal. Cutting of 4 feet of dead shrubs every year isn't practical. Does anyone know of cold tolerant/ heat tolerant plants? I've looked on u of FL sites without success.

  7. Meems - what a wonderful post and photos!

    I've tried pentas, but they weren't too happy here in my garden.

  8. That's great photography Meems. I'm weak on insects, but butterflies could be a great place to start. Was just up in central Florida by the way ... to Gainesville (and saw Weeki Waachi).

  9. Hi Meems, the butterfly on your beautiful red blooms are so warming. Like your temperatures!

    I do so agree. Why wait and see what happens to the frost bitten beauties. It is far more beneficial, to the soul, to see new fresh plants going into the ground.

  10. Meems: Happy spring to you! Those are very beautiful pictures with butterflies on ruby red pentas! You just can not wait for your old ones growing back from the ground, huh? LOL. For some reason, I only can see bees in my garden, hardly the butterflies. hmm, Maybe I should buy/grow more of Pentas!

  11. Beautiful photos! I'm also a big fan of pentas over here in the tropics. I've got many different colours and they provide the most brilliant all-year round colour.

    I wish the butterflies that visit the pentas would stay still long enough for me to get fabulous shots like yours!

  12. Meems - These photos are incredible! Should you ever publish a coffee table book of your gardens, please let me know. I'll be first in line!! -Shyrlene

  13. What a great way to start Spring. Those photos are gorgeous. My pentas are just a few green leaves starting to grow up under the oak leaves. After seeing your new plants attracting those butterflies, I think I'm going to have to hit my garden center for some new ones too.

  14. Great presentation of a butterfly magnet.

    Pentas are so iffy here, I take cuttings, which are also iffy when taken late, but I do have some. I think Ruby Red has finally died out here but I'll find more. Pineapple Sage has put out sprouts, but I see no Pentas sprouts. Yet. They can be really slow.

  15. Meems, I just love that all these butterfly's are out and about. I have planted EVERY plant they need to lay eggs, eat, but they are slow to arrive this year. Where all these types in your yard on the same day? Do you have Dutchman's Pipe vine in your yard?I guess I will plant more Pentas. Janis

  16. Marina,
    It really was a perfect "Florida" spring day. My garden store visit was earlier in the week... yesterday was the day for planting.

    I admit I do love the pink ones, too. I kind of had the idea to go with all red this year. If I do it will be the first time without the pink. 3 gal pot in pot with drip irrigation sounds like a good plan to avoid the frost cloths. Definitely will be curious to see how that works out for you. But let's hope for a milder winter next.

    You are right... it is hard to mess up a good penta. Once established they don't require much water. I do find they need to be pruned a bit to keep them growing upright in a nice form. Other than that they kind of take care of themselves... something any gardener can take advantage of.

    Happy spring to you. Hope you are enjoying new signs of life up your way.

    I find that so interesting. Pentas must thrive on our humid nighttime temps.

    I was pretty surprised to see how much damage Port Charlotte got this year. The tropicals really thrive down there except for odd years like this when the cold reached so far south. You could probably go to one of the gardening forums to chat with folks from your area to see what conclusions they have come to for cold hardy plants. I know I am using lots more natives and grasses for foundations then adding the tropicals for accents. Citrus trees do great down there. I hope you can find some solutions for your garden.

    Randy said the same thing about your area. But you have so many wonderfully flowering plants your garden wouldn't miss a few pentas like mine would

    I'd think you see lots of insects in all the tromping around you do in Big Cypress. I used to love Weeki Wachee as a child... it's gotten kind of rundown now but still a good FL adventure.

  17. Cheryl,
    In some cases it just makes sense to purchase additional plants. They are relatively inexpensive and like you said... give some refreshment to the soul on a beautiful spring day.

    Bees are really fun, too. But the butterflies need to have host plants as well as nectar plants. The giant swallowtails probably come from my neighbor's citrus trees and then nectar in my yard. The pentas would definitely draw some butterflies to your garden.

    I think once the ground warms those pentas will come back pretty rapidly. And I'll wait for them. But in the meantime, it is nice to have some blooming ones, too. It makes me and the butterflies happier. :-)

    Seems like the consensus is the pentas like it further south. Nice that we have a few of those flowering plants we can count on down here. I don't have any pineapple sage although I admire it.

    You have done the right thing and they will come. It was so cold this year I'm amazed at the fortitude of any of these butterflies. I saw some sulphurs (yellow and orange), skippers and swallowtails on Saturday. Not any dutchman's pipe here.

    I've noticed the hummingbird moths really love the pentas as well. Now they really don't hang around long enough for great photos.

    You are too kind. But nice to know I have a fan... should I ever...

  18. I'd been looking at the pentas. You convinced me to get a few. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  19. Rhonda,
    I don't think you can go wrong with pentas in your yard. I hope you end up liking them as much as I do.

  20. That sensible side of the brain just goes to the wayside sometimes..beautiful and yes Spring was ushered in very nicely this year...note to pentas!

  21. Sensible smensible! The pentas are beautiful and the butterflies need them right now! They are Mr I's favorite plants and since he rarely notices most plants I will be adding them to my containers! Meems, your photos are so delightful~I wish you could see me smiling as I look at them! gsail

  22. There is so much "eye candy" in all of your amazing pictures. I can't tell which I enjoyed more, the Pentas or the butterflies.

  23. Meems, these are beautiful butterfly/pentas shots! I love pentas in my garden, though I must wait patiently in bad winters, as money is definitely an object here at PITV. So far, patience is rewarded, as new growth is arising from the ground as I type.

  24. Meems what beautiful butterfly pictures. They sure love the Pentas. Glad I have some growing from seed for them this summer.

  25. meems,

    seeing your butterflies injects me with hope of seeing them up here soon. spring is here but it is cool and wet...not a stunning entrance for us...but soon.
    the grass is greening and some pansies are trying to bloom.(except for the fact that my dogs seems to love to lay right on the freshest bloom...silly dogs.)
    i am so glad you chose the red pentas and you have been able to get them in the is instantly gratifying when the butterflies show up and give you such a show. thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos.
    happy springtime.

  26. Lost my pentas to the frost this year. Can't wait to get more - the butterflies did love them. Very interested in Rick's Pot-in-Pot method. Will have to try that with a few of my other plants as well . . .

  27. Darla,
    The sensible side of my brain is absent a lot when it comes to plants for some reason. You've got me wondering if pentas will do well for you in zone 8???

    Ah, Gail,
    I knew I could get an Amen from you! I don't regret buying the extra pentas... there ARE starving butterflies out there after all.
    oooo... I want to see your pentas in containers... good for Mr. I.

    That butterfly was big show-off... I couldn't get enough of him and he seemed to like it. :-)

    I'm with you on the budget. I'm pretty sure I've already blown mine and it's only the first week of spring. :-)

    Hi Lona,
    I've not ever tried to grow them from seed. Good for you to get them started early. Your butterflies will thank you.

    Not to worry... we had rain and cooler air come in yesterday and today. I was able to garden all day again today and never broke a sweat... gotta love that in March!

    Nice to hear your grass is greening... always a sure sign spring is upon you. You will see butterflies soon I'm sure. Once those warm days start transitioning from your cooler ones they will gladly appear again.

    Go to Rick's blog he has the whole pot in pot method posted in several blogs. I'm pretty sure there is a link on his side bar to them. It is quite an interesting concept. He knows what he's doing!

  28. It definitely was the best day of the year so far. We, too, were excited to see butterflies floating from flower to flower. As for can't beat them in Florida. They take the heat and humidity in stride.

  29. Susan,
    They are especially nice because they never stop blooming those pretty clusters of color, too.

  30. I had to laugh, Meems. Oh, I've tried it. In fact I live by it. Just this past weekend I was at my favorite nursery just to look...yeah right. Among other things, I ended up buying a bunch of small hardy fuchsias to replace the ones that I'm sure are victims of the cold. If I were a patient gardener, I'd give them another month and come to think of it, I probably will. Then when they rise from the dead, I'll have TWICE as many fuchsias!! Sounds perfectly sensible to me.

    I love your Pentas. They can be grown as annuals here and I've had them in pots when the temptation becomes too irresistible. I bet they just trhive in your garden.

  31. Hi Meems; so nice to make a visit to my garden. Yes, it has been a while!
    Your pictures with the red Penta and its beautiful visitors are stunning and gorgeous. It needs patience to catch the models. I love Pentas in my garden. In my garden I have no frost and I cut them back in winter. From time to time I make new cuttings in summer from the hardier fresh growth.
    This red one you bought is really beautiful. I applause the Pentas as they are such treasures in the warm climate garden. I wish you happy spring plantings. T.

  32. How lucky you are to have butterflies. We have bees, but I haven't seen a butterfly yet.
    Your Pentas are gorgeous and the butterfly photos are simply beautiful.
    You have a way with that camera :)
    Happy spring dear Meems!

  33. Meems! These photos are over-the-top spectacular! How did you get so close? The butterflies are way too "flighty" here ~ I barely get a shot off before they flit off.
    Your red pentas are gorgeous. I can see why you succumbed. I am wishing I was on vacation in Florida right now ~ we are getting our second snow storm in four days. It's like winter all over again. :-(

  34. Your butterfly is a beauty and you've captured it in a spectacular display of photos. Our week and a half leading up to March 21st was heavenly, but winter has crept back since then, keeping the little crocus and snowdrop blossoms closed. Never mind....we know the warmth will return soon!
    Happy spring dear Meems!


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