Friday, November 13, 2009

Seed Saving; Pentas or Egyptian Star Clusters

I discovered ripe seeds on white Pentas this afternoon. I had never been able to save Pentas seeds before; these saved themselves, fine as dust. Dead-heading, I cut the bone-dry seed head holding it in my hand and the tiniest seeds I've ever seen stuck to my finger. What I always thought were seeds were actually pods. I always gathered them before they dried completely and the seeds never appeared because the pods never opened.

In the past, I read every post I could find about Pentas seeds and the description of the seeds were always rather vague. I didn't expect to find seeds even tinier than petunias and nicotiana, but they are. Your breath would blow them away.

I usually deadhead pentas and save some cuttings for the winter. They don't always work out, the cuttings, because the plants hate cool soil and it's cheaper to buy a new plant in spring than to use heat mats. Here are last year's Pentas cuttings, in October.

The plants are iffy perennials outside here. Sometimes they return, sometimes not. I've lost the bright red Ruby, but had plenty of the bold dark pink and some of the other pinks this year. The seeds were on the white Pentas which is new to the garden this year. Away from the others, it missed deadheading a time or two.

Butterflies are attracted to the clusters of star-like blossoms throughout the summer.

I may never grow Pentas from seed, but I have the satisfaction of actually having seen and gathered the tiny seeds.

11 comments:

  1. Hello Nell Jean,

    I hope your Pentas do germinate from your seed. Wouldn't that be great?

    Please be sure and let us know what happens :)

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  2. Nell you really know how to hurt a girl. I tried and tried to seed some pentas last winter and could not get a one to sprout. I am going to try them again this year though. I am just that stubborn ;-)
    Have a great weekend.

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  3. Lona, were you seeding purchased seeds, or saved Pentas seeds?

    I hope yours sprout this time. My cuttings look pretty 'iffy' but I'm hopeful.

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  4. Lucky you with the seeds. Your cuttings look great. You are obviously a talented propagator!

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  5. I would bet on your seeds growing. You grew all those other seeds.....

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  6. I think pentas are very pretty and I love your white ones. Coleus was my only survivor from cuttings I propagated earlier. I'll keep trying....:)

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  7. Hi Nell~~ I've been neglecting to mention how much I love your changing banner photos. They're always fabulous!

    I love Pentas but they definitely don't care for the winters here. I think it has more to do with day length [daylight hours] than anything.

    I've heard that the smaller the seed, the more erratic the germination rate but who listens to stuff like that? I'm predicting a beautiful show next year. I hope you'll keep us posted. What a feat this will be.

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  8. I've only grown Pentas one summer here and while I liked them, I didn't even recognize the ones I saw growing in Florida, those were so BIG! I might try again sometime though. I know the butterflies love them, as evidenced in your gorgeous photo of one!

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  9. Its so much easier to grow them by cuttings than seeds. Never knew they had seeds.

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  10. I don't deadhead mine... the seeds are in those heads. I wait until the pods are brown and dry, then carefully pull them off, while holding a small container or paper plate underneath to catch any seeds that fly out while I'm removing the pods.

    If you wait until the pods are brown dry, the germination rate is likely to be very good.

    You would think the brown pods would look ugly on the bush, but actually the pentas grows up around the old flower heads, so the brown pods kind of "disappear" into the foliage. I search through the foliage to find the old brown pods.

    After I've collected the pods, I shake them over a paper plate to get the seeds out as much as possible. I got hundreds or thousands of seeds but they're so TEENY they are nearly microscopic. It's actually impossible to say how many seeds I got from a few Pentas clusters.

    I live in Florida so it's much easier to grow them here. I think they need a very warm environment in order to germinate and sprout. They like to be very warm. Trying to do it in the winter up north, even indoors, might be challenging.

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  11. Thanks, Prilly Charmin, for your help with pentas seed gathering. Since I wrote this post in 2009, a plant germinated in the greenhouse floor and I was able to salvage it.

    I'll start leaving some seed heads to grown on to maturity and see what develops next spring.

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I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.



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