Pineleaf Penstemon  mass plantingPineleaf Penstemon  mass planting

'Luminous' Pineleaf Penstemon: 2016 Plant Of The Year

By David Salman, Founder of High Country Gardens

The genus Penstemon, also known by its common name Beardtongue, is rich with incredibly beautiful native species. Having spent thirty-plus years growing and getting to know a lot of different Penstemon species, I now include several on my list of all-time favorite native plants. At the top of that list is Pineleaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius).

This perennial wildflower has it all.

  • It's long lived with healthy plants thriving for up to a decade or longer.
  • It's easy-to-grow requiring only plentiful sun, a "lean", well drained soil and, once established, a occasional deep soakings in dry weather.
  • It has handsome evergreen foliage and grows in a tidy mound like a miniature mugo pine.
  • It adapts well to garden cultivation in areas of the country where lavender can be grown.
  • Is highly attractive to hummingbirds who love to pollinate the nectar-rich flowers.

In nature, this species is variable across its range in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico and eastern Arizona, which from a nurseryman's perspective, provides ample opportunity for selecting special individual plants and populations from which to propagate.

'Luminous' Pineleaf Penstemon in David Salman's New Mexico garden, photographed by Saxon Holt. Companions include Hymenoxys, Eriogonum, Scutellaria, Agave, Cacti, and more xeric plants.'Luminous' Pineleaf Penstemon in David Salman's New Mexico garden, photographed by Saxon Holt. Companions include Hymenoxys, Eriogonum, Scutellaria, Agave, Cacti, and more xeric plants.
'Luminous' Pineleaf Penstemon in David Salman's New Mexico garden, photographed by Saxon Holt. Companions include Hymenoxys, Eriogonum, Scutellaria, Agave, Cacti, and more xeric plants.

What Makes This Plant Special

 'Luminous'  is a High Country Gardens introduction. It won a 2016 Green Thumb award and was named 2016 HCG Plant of the Year.

'Luminous' is a compact grower that blooms in late spring with showy spikes of clear orange tubular flowers. What makes this plant so special is the fantastic luminous glow of its flowers in the morning and late afternoon sunshine. Upon careful examination, I discovered that the flowers have yellow strips in the interior of the floral tube, which gives them this unique luminescent quality. 

This variety is well-suited in zones 5-9. 


'Compactum' - a cultivar that has been a xeric staple around Santa Fe for at least the past three to four decades. This compact little gem has short, dense pine needle leaves and brilliant scarlet flowers for many weeks beginning in late spring.

'Mersae Yellow' - interestingly, this yellow flowered selection was discovered growing in an English garden and has since emigrated back to the US. A larger growing plant than'Compactum,' 'Mersae Yellow' begins to bloom in early summer.

Companion Plants For 'Luminous' & Other Pineleaf Penstemons

Pineleaf Penstemon is very adaptable. Its brightly colored flower spikes go well with any blue-flowered, sun-loving perennial such as Nepeta (Catmint),  Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), and European Saliva (Sage)

It pairs beautifully with flowers that feature warm colors as well, such as Hymenoxys scaposa (Thrift-Leaf Perky Sue) and Eriogonum (Suplhur Buckwheat)


The Legacy of David Salman | High Country Gardens founder David Salman was a pioneer of waterwise gardening, a passionate plant explorer, and a charismatic storyteller. His commitment to cultivating a palette of beautiful waterwise plants transformed gardening in the American West. 

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