Penstemons have narrowly bell-shaped that are commonly seen in bright reds and blues, but some are soft pink, salmon, peach, deep rose, lilac, dark purple, and white. Penstemons are native to the American West, ranging from Canada to Mexico.
Penstemons are widely distributed in the wild; some grow on mountains, some in the deserts, others in forest glades, in foothills, and on plains. There are more than 250 species of penstemon.
In the garden, penstemons are a bright addition to mixed borders.
Penstemons are fairly short lived, from three to four years.
Get to Know Penstemon
- Plant type: Perennials and annuals
- Growing zones and range: 3-9
- Hardiness: Tender to half-hardy
- Height and width: 6 to 30 inches (15-76cm), 6 to 18 inches (15-45cm) wide
- Flowers: narrowly bell-shaped that are commonly seen in bright reds and blues, but some are soft pink, salmon, peach, deep rose, lilac, dark purple, and white
- Bloom time: Late spring through summer
- Uses: Mixed borders, native plant gardens
- Botanical name: Penstemon spp.
- Common name: Beard tongue, Penstemon
Where to Plant Penstemon
- Grow penstemon in full sun; grow in part shade where summers are hot.
- Plant penstemon in average to poor, loose, fast-draining soil.
When to Plant Penstemon
- Set container grown plants in the garden in late spring or autumn.
Planting and Spacing Penstemon
- Space penstemon 6 to 18 inches (15-45cm) apart.
How to Water and Feed Penstemon
- Keep the soil evenly moist until penstemon is established; after it can take moderate water and will be drought tolerant. Do not overwater penstemon.
- Penstemon does not need to be fertilized.
- Trim spent blooms to encourage new blooms.
- Penstemon is prone to root rot and black spot.
Penstemon Varieties to Grow
- There are many penstemon species.
- Penstemon hybrids are perennial in zones 7-10. Hybrids include ‘Apple Blossom’ with pink flowers, ‘Blackbird’ which is dark maroon, ‘Firebird’ which has scarlet flowers, ‘Garnet’ with wine red blooms, ‘Hidcote Pink’ with coral pink flower, ‘Midnight’ with dark bluish-purple blooms, and ‘Sour Grapes’ which has a combination of violet and metallic blue flowers.