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Vermont Garden Journal: A New Flower For The New Year

Pentas, also known as Egyptian star flowers, are great for adding a splash of color in window boxes and planters.
Pentas, also known as Egyptian star flowers, are great for adding a splash of color in window boxes and planters.

I'm always looking out for new flowers. Not necessarily the next color of petunia, but flowers that aren't widely known. This year, pentas have struck my fancy.

Pentas, or Egyptian star flowers, are small shrubs from East Africa. However, since they are only hardy in USDA zone 10, they are mostly grown as annual bedding plants here. The flowers have five petals in clusters creating a star-like appearance. They come in white, pink, red, purple and lavender. Most pentas grow about 12-to-18 inches tall. They're great annuals for mass plantings to provide a splash of color or mixing with other sun-loving, long-blooming annual flowers. A few trailing varieties, such as the 'Falling Star,' make great additions to hanging baskets, window boxes and planters. New upright varieties like the 'Butterfly' and 'New Look' are bred to bloom all summer.

The biggest benefit to growing pentas is their ability to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and insects to the garden. Pentas are a must for anyone growing pollinator gardens. They love sun and heat, and can withstand humidity well. The dark green leaves contrast nicely with the bright clusters of flowers. If the soil is kept consistently moist and is well-drained, pentas will have few pest problems.

Now for this week's tip: in spite of the cold, snowy winter so far, it's time to start some seeds indoors. Leeks and onions benefit from being started near the end of January and early February for transplanting in April or May. While individual containers for each plant might be necessary for tomatoes, you can sow up to 10 leek or onion seeds in a two-inch diameter pot.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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