By David Salman, High Country Gardens Founder
Penstemon ‘Blue Lips' was a High Country Gardens introduction for 2009. While many gardeners judge a plant by only its flowers, ‘Blue Lips' is an excellent example of a perennial that is both dazzling in flower and sublimely beautiful with just its foliage.
‘Blue Lips' is a hybrid plant I found in my home xeriscape some four years ago. It is a cross between Penstemon linarioides v. coloradensis and Penstemon crandalii. Its fabulous foliage comes from P. linariodes, and its profusion of lavender and blue flowers are from its parent, P. crandalii. It should prove to be a long-lived, small shrub-like cultivar.
This beautiful, small-growing species is native to the open Ponderosa forests and foothills of eastern Colorado and Wyoming. The dainty spikes of blue, lavender-throated flowers are held over evergreen rosettes of dark green foliage. The sky-blue flowers are a delight when paired with the soft tones often found in the late spring garden. We recommend planting in groups of three or more.
To keep the evergreen foliage of ‘Blue Lips' at its best, shear off the fading flowering spikes just as the plant is going out of flower.
- Gently bunch the flower spikes together with one hand and cut them off at the point where they meet the mat of foliage with your clipper in your other hand. This process is known as "deadheading."
- A prompt deadheading will help the foliage grow out to form a thick mound of finely textured, blue-gray foliage that looks great summer and winter!
- After the plant has been groomed, it will continue to grow out along the edges, the stems rooting as they move out across its space in the garden.
- Next year, the plant will have many more stems on which next spring's flowering stems will emerge.
Other High Country Garden Penstemons that have finely textured or matted evergreen foliage will benefit from the same deadheading technique, including all the Penstemon pinifolius types, Penstemon linarioides v. coloradensis and Penstemon virens.