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  • Waterwise Gardening | David Salman

Penstemon are a Great Choice for Xeric Gardens; They Attract Pollinators and are Resistant to Browsi

Penstemon, commonly known as Beardtongues, are some of our very best native wildflowers for northern NM. They are well adapted to growing in our area and are highly attractive to a wide variety of pollinators. They also have evergreen foliage which gives them a nice winter look. Mulch with an 1” deep layer of crushed gravel to keep the soil cooler and moister and encourage the plants to re-seed themselves.


Many attract hummingbirds with their long tubular flowers. Three of my favorites include;

1) Penstemon pinifolius (Pineleaf Beardtongue) – there are many selections with flowers that rang in color from orange, yellow and scarlet. The attractive foliage resembles small pine needles, hence the common name.

2)Penstemon pseudospectabilis (Desert Beardtongue) – a superb bloomer, Desert Beardtongue provides pink to deep pink flowers for many months beginning in late spring. Long lived, this species is also a strong re-seeder and will naturalize in your garden when happy.

3)Penstemon superbus (Superb Beardtongue) – dazzling coral-orange flowers appear in mid- to late spring. This is another good re-seeding species that will naturalize in your garden.


Other Beardtongues attract bees, particularly species that have wide-mouthed flowers.

Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Beardtongue) - its large lavender-blue flowers are a favorite for bumblebees. Long lived and very easy-to-grow, this is an excellent beginner’s species.

Resistant to Browsing Animals

Additionally, Beardtongues are not eaten by rabbits and deer once the plants are well established. But, it’s important to use rabbit/deer repellents when planting young plants in early to mid-spring because there is no green native grasses on which the rabbits will feed. Rabbits can be especially damaging at this time, so protect young transplants for several months with repellents until they begin to grow in their new planting site.

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