Plants for Water-Wise Pollinator Gardens: Beardtongue (Penstemon species)

Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape September 22, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Plant Family

Until recently, penstemons belong to the Figwort or Snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae).  Penstemons are now classified in the Plantain (Plantaginacea) Family.


Other Common Names

Beardtongue, Penstemon (by species common name)

 

Description

  • A large number of penstemon species are native to North America 
  • Many are available in garden centers for use in the water-wise pollinator landscape
  • Be aware that some penstemon cultivars sold in gardens centers may not be water wise (check labels)
  • Generally short lived perennials
  • Readily reseed
  • They range from a few inches to 36 inches tall and wide
  • Showy flower spikes can be short or long
  • Flower color ranges from  white, pink, to a variety of blues and purples, and red
  • Many cultivars have been developed for the garden landscape, including those with dark purple leaves
  • Bloom time occurs in spring and summer depending on species and location
  • Penstemons do best on dry rocky soils that need no additional fertilizer and very little water
  • They are adapted to USDA Zones 3 through 7 but some species are also found at very high elevations to at least 10,000 feet in the mountains of the West
  • Penstemons require full sun to part shade depending on species


 

Attracts

Hummingbirds
Bees

 


Additional Resources:

The American Penstemon Society
USDA Plants Database - Penstemon

West

Utah - Firecracker pensetmon (Penstemon eatonii)
Utah - Pineleaf beardtongue (Penstemon pinifolius)

Southeast

Kentucky Garden Flowers

Southwest

Texas - Baccharis-leaf Penstemon, Red Penstemon, Rock Penstemon, Limestone beardtongue


 

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.