Sunstar is the name of a new series of pentas debuting this spring and it is an understatement to say they are taking the world by storm. There are four colors in the series coming from Proven Winners – pink, red lavender and rose – and all have won awards from north to south.
When I say awards, I am talking about 78 of them already, and it not just Best of the Best, Perfect Score or Top Performer All Season, but awards for hanging baskets and the one that caught my eye was Top Performer Pollinators Award in the Ohio State University Trials.
True to the award at Ohio State University it won’t be just you who notices these star-shaped flowers. Last year I had the opportunity to trial too, and sure enough at The Garden Guy’s house they brought in the pollinators.
On more than one occasion I’ve heard someone say the Sunstar Pink flower clusters are so large it reminds you of a hydrangea. It is not just the flower cluster that will catch your eye but the size of the individual florets. In the industry we don’t seem to measure florets but it seems to me, the pink has the largest I have ever seen.
One other aspect I noticed that is a real winner is that there is no need to deadhead. Last summer in the new house it seemed I was always frantic about something, and I kept saying to myself I needed to deadhead. Every time I ventured out to do the task, the plant had increased its branches and blooms to the point I finally put away the shears.
Blooms will be produced in abundance all summer long if beds are prepared correctly. Choose a site in full sun for best flower production. If you are plagued by tight clay, prepare the bed by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter. A little slow release fertilizer incorporated at planting time and a side dress in mid-summer will keep you in blooms until fall.
Generally speaking, pentas like a pH close to 7, so if your soil is acidic and you grow azaleas, camellias or blueberries with ease, you might want to add a little lime to your pentas planting area. While preparing the soil, add 5 pounds of a pelletized lime per 100 square feet in sandy soil, or 10 pounds in a clay-based soil. Many gardeners annually apply lime to grass or vegetable gardens, and in this case, a little will help the pentas keep those gorgeous flowers coming all summer.
Sunstar pentas fit any style of garden, from grandma’s cottage to your tropical paradise retreat. But by all means don’t forget the role they can play in the backyard pollinator habitat. I am using Sunstar Red with the new Luscious Golden Gate lantana in one area, and letting Whirlwind scaevola intermingle in another. The red is so beautiful and saturated in color it screams to be partnered with blue.
On the opposite end of the landscape I am creating an area with the Sunstar Pink, Rose, and lavender pentas mixed with Truffula Pink gomphrena, and Rockin Blue Suede Shoes salvia. It seems to be really catching the attention of the hummers as the butterfly population is building.
Recently I told a crowd of more than 100 gardeners in Bluffton, S.C., that I wanted my backyard to be like a Serengeti of pollinators, I believe the Sunstar pentas have helped put me on track and I know they will help you too!
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)