by High Country Gardens

Close Up: 2016 Plant of the Year Luminous Pineleaf Beardtongue

Announcing Our 2016 Plant of the Year - Penstemon pinifolius Luminous

The genus Penstemon is rich with incredibly beautiful native species. Having spent the last thirty plus years growing and getting know a lot of different Beardtongue species, I now include several Beardtongue species on my list of all-time favorite native plants. At the top of that list is Pineleaf Beardtongue (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 population from which to propagate.

Here is a summary of the three cultivars that we are offering.

Penstemon pinifolius Luminous - 2016 Plant of the Year
  • NEW! 'Luminous' - a new High Country Gardens introduction for this coming spring. It's won a 2016 Green Thumb award and is our 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 make this new plant so special is fantastic luminous glow of its flowers in the morning and late afternoon sunshine. Upon careful examination, I discovered that the flowers they have yellow strips in the interior of the floral tube which give 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' and other pineleaf beardtongues

Pineleaf beardtongue is very adaptable and its brightly colored flower spikes go well with any blue flowered, sun loving perennial such as Catmint (Nepeta), English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), European Sage (Salvia superba).