Penstemon

1 Mar

Penstemon, evergreen, many colors, 2-3 ft., deer resistant, easy native plant, likes sun but can tolerate part shade.

There are some 250 species of penstemon. Most are native to the West, ranging from Canada into Mexico; some grow on highest mountains, some in the desert, others in forest glades, in foothills, on plains. A few are widely available, but most are sold only by specialists. Some of the perennials described here have woody-based stems, while others are herbaceous. Most species have narrowish, pointed leaves; those in basal foliage clumps are larger, those on flower stems smaller.Narrowly bell-shaped, lipped flowers (usually 3/4 to 1 1/2 in. long) are most commonly seen in bright reds and blues, but they also come in shades from soft pink through salmon and peach to deep rose, lilac, dark purple, white, and, rarely, yellow. Blossoms of some species attract hummingbirds.

Need fast drainage. Species in particular benefit from rock garden conditions. Usually short lived (3 or 4 years). Hybrids and selections tend to be easier to grow than wild species alongside regular garden plants; wild kinds may die quickly if given too-rich soil and too much water. In dry years or with restricted water, however, plants of wild species may thrive.

Penstemon hybrid 
Perennials in Zones 6–9, 14–24; treated as annuals elsewhere (grow as a winter annual in Zones 12, 13). All are compact, bushy, upright plants to 2–4 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide, with narrow green leaves. Large (to 2-in.) summer flowers in loose spikes at stem ends, in almost all colors but blue and yellow. Mass these plants in borders or group with other summer-flowering plants. Where grown as perennials, set out nursery transplants in fall for bloom in late spring and early summer. After the flowers fade, cut back to side growth for another round of bloom in late summer, early fall. This group of penstemons prefers regular water but is subject to root rot in wet, heavy soils.

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