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

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)

Purple pink flowers
Penstemon flowers are native to North America and grow well in many regions. Photo credit: karenandbrademerson Flickr CC BY 2.0

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

A bee sitting on a purple flower
Penstemon is an excellent choice for a pollinator garden. Photo credit: theentiremikey Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 


Additional Resources:

USDA Plants Database – Penstemon

West

Utah – Firecracker pensetmon (Penstemon eatonii)

Southeast

Kentucky Garden Flowers

Southwest

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