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Penstemon (PEN-steh-mon)

Common Name:  Beardtongue

Light:  - Full sun to part shade

Soil:  Average to loamy, well-drained

Moisture:  Average to dry

Blooms:  Early summer

Zones:  varies by type, generally 4 - 8


Penstemon 'Elfin Pink'

Penstemon 'Husker's Red'

Penstemon Description and Cultural Information

Penstemon barbatus, common beardtongue. 18 - 36". This plant has lance-shaped, gray-green leaves and spikes of pink flowers. 'Hyacinth' has large rosy-pink flowers. 'Elfin Pink' has dark green foliage and bright pink flowers on 12" stems. 'Skylight' has pink and white bicolor flowers. Zones 2 - 8.

Penstemon digitalis, foxglove penstemon. 3 - 5'. This penstemon is taller with glossy green leaves and white flowers. 'Husker Red' has purple leaves and stems and pale pink flowers. The 'Husker Red' foliage will eventually fade to green in hot weather. Zones 4 - 8.

Penstemon hybrids. There are many species of penstemon with varying degrees of colors, foliage, and cold hardiness. They have been hybridized quite a bit producing some wonderful colors and fairly hardy plants. 'Firebird' has brilliant scarlet flowers. 'Sour Grapes' has grape-purple flowers. 'Hidcote Pink' has soft salmon-pink flowers. 'Red Rocks' has semi-evergreen, lance shaped foliage and purplish-red blooms all summer long. Most hybrids are hardy in zones 5 - 8.

How to Grow:  Plant penstemons in average to rich, well-drained sandy or loamy soil in full sun to part shade. Divide after several years to keep plants vigorous. P. digitalis will tolerate moist or wet soils but most hybrids prefer to be grown on the dry side, and partial shade is recommended when growing penstemons in their southernmost ranges. When planting be sure the crowns do not become exposed or they may dry out over the winter.

Landscape uses:  Penstemons are a great addition to the hummingbird garden. Combine them with other summer blooming plants such as hardy geranium, yarrows, catmints (Nepeta), bellflowers (Campanula), russian sage (Perovskia), lilies and daylilies. Plant low growing varieties in the rock garden.

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