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Penstemon


Penstemon selections

Penstemon

This North American native plant has a home in nearly every garden with flowers that hummingbirds love. Long blooming with brilliantly colored, tubular flowers, penstemons -- ironically -- have been a staple in European gardens for decades.

There are many different penstemon types. The leaves are lance-shape or oval, sometimes purple-red as in 'Husker Red'. Some Western species need outstanding drainage to dry conditions and won't thrive during wet weather. However, many, such as 'Husker Red', thrive in a wide variety of conditions. Just be sure to provide excellent drainage. Mulch in areas where a type is marginally hardy.

Light:
Sun,Part Sun
Zones:
3-9
Plant Type:
Annual,Perennial
Plant Height:
8 inches-6 feet tall
Plant Width:
8-20 inches wide
Bloom Time:
Blooms in late spring to late summer, depending on variety
Landscape Uses:
Containers,Beds & Borders,Privacy,Slopes,Groundcover
Special Features:
Flowers,Attractive Foliage,Cut Flowers,Attracts Hummingbirds,Attracts Butterflies,Drought Tolerant
Top Varieties

Penstemon barbatus has narrow spikes of two-lipped tubular flowers about 2 inches long in spring. The colors can be red, pink, carmine, or purple. The 8-inch lance-shape leaves have a whitish bloom. The plant can reach 3-6 feet tall. Zones 4-9
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Penstemon eatonii is a showstopper with bold red-orange flowers. It's also more shade-tolerant than many other penstemons. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 3-9
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Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' blooms in early to midsummer with loose spires of 1-inch tubular pink-flushed white flowers. The lance-shape deep maroon leaves are 4-5 inches long and arranged in a basal rosette. It grows about 2-1/2 feet tall. Zones 3-8
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Penstemon pinifolius is a summer bloomer with loose spires of 1-inch scarlet, narrowly tubular flowers. It has needlelike foliage and is slightly woody at the base. This species is excellent in dry rock gardens or walls. 4-10
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Plant It With
Lady's mantle

Lady's mantle has foamy sprays of chartreuse flowers in late spring and is a fine companion for early penstemon in full sun.

Lamb's-ears

A low carpet of fuzzy, silvery lamb's-ears at the feet of brightly colored penstemon presents an interesting combination. Good drainage and full sun will please both.

Catmint

Smaller catmint is fine in combination with penstemon. The gray foliage and loose spikes of the lavender flowers complement each other.