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  • Waterwise Gardening | David Salman

Penstemon: Royalty of Our Western Wildflowers

Penstemon pinifolius and Achillea 'Coronation Gold'

The genus Penstemon, commonly referred to as Beardtongues, are some of the very best native perennial plants for our New Mexico gardens.

  • Late spring and summer bloomers that have evergreen foliage.

  • They are a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds and bumble bees.

  • Once established, are highly resistant to browsing rabbits and deer!

The keys to successful cultivation of this wildflower group are;

Plant in fast draining soil. Sandy, rocky or garden loam is fine. They dislike heavy clay soils as they stay too wet when there is a lot of snow or we have heavy summer rains.

Mulch with gravel, pine needles or crushed

pecan shells. Avoid using compost or bark mulch/chips as this causes a fungal disease in the crown of the plant.

Allow them to re-seed. Leave some of the old flower stems on the plants after blooming is finished. This encourages them to re-seed themselves. Seedlings are always more vigorous than the original transplants and will gently colonize the site if it's to their liking.

Use Yum Yum Mix to enrich the soil when planting. Penstemon don't want rich, moisture retentive soil so

avoid using rich compost or manure in the planting hole. They are pioneer plants that colonize disturbed soils (road cuts, post-construction areas etc.) and thrive in poor soils.

Water regularly for the first 6 to 8 weeks. Then decrease the frequency of watering to once a week as the plants establish themselves and begin to grow. Many species need only occasional watering their second growing season and beyond.

Some of My favorite Species of Penstemon Include:

Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Beardtongue) - with stunning violet-blue flowers, this long lived species is one of the easiest to grow. A great beardtongue for beginners.

Penstemon virens (Bluemist Beardtongue) - a fabulous small growing species from eastern Colorado, that blooms in late spring with a cloud of small clear blue flowers.

Penstemon pinifolius (Pineleaf Beardtongue) - another superb species with evergreen pine needle-like foliage. Out of flower they resemble small mugo pines. We grow several selections including 'Luminous' (clear orange flowers with yellow interior) and 'Compactum' (brilliant scarlet flowers).

Penstemon superbus (Superb Beardtongue) - a desert species enjoyed for their brilliant scarlet-coral flowers. Tall spikes attract hummingbirds coming north during their spring migration

Penstemon pseudospectabilis (Desert Beardtongue) - deep rose-pink flowers on tall flowering stems appear in late spring. An especially strong re-seeding species ideal for harsh planting sites.

Penstemon barbatus (Scarlet Bugler) - a species found in the foothills and mountains of NM. Tall stems of scarlet-red flowers appear in early to mid-summer. A hummingbird favorite for mid-season nectar.

Penstemon mexicali Redrocks® (Hybrid Beardtongue)- a Plant Select® winning variety with gorgeous red and white throated flowers. Blooms most of the summer with regular deadheading. Attracts bumble bees.

Penstemon mexicali Pike's Peak Purple® (Hybrid beardtongue) - a Plant Select® winning variety with sumptuous grape colored flowers. Blooms most of the summer with regular deadheading. Attracts bumble bees.

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