by High Country Gardens

Uvatung Broadleaf Beardtongue
Uvatung Broadleaf Beardtongue

The Beardtongue family, also known by their latin genus Penstemon, have a passionate following of gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic. Europeans, especially the English have been breeding and growing lots of very showy, but not cold hardy Penstemon hybrids for many years. And here in America, the genus has had a small but growing group of enthusiasts, myself included, who are fondly known as “Penstemaniacs.”

Penstemania is especially strong in the western US, where the native western Penstemon are the showiest and most spectacular members of this wildflower group.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Penstemon

Superb Coral Beardtongue
Superb Coral Beardtongue
Luminous Pineleaf Beardtongue
Luminous Pineleaf Beardtongue
Richfield Strain Firecracker Beardtongue
Richfield Strain Firecracker Beardtongue

The key to growing the Beardtongues is not giving them too much—too much water, too much fertilizer and too much attention are not appreciated by this group of native plants.

In nature, Penstemon are pioneer plants that are some of the first wildflowers to move into places with disturbed soils and areas burned by fire. They can take the difficult dry growing conditions necessary for them to be the plants that first colonize an area. And they are strong re-seeders so they can move into new territory. They then gradually give way to other wildflowers as the soil and growing conditions improve.

Dark Towers Beardtongue
Dark Towers Beardtongue
Coconino County Desert Beardtongue
Coconino County Desert Beardtongue

Here are a few helpful tips to remember when bringing Beadtongues into your gardens:

  • These plants love a new garden where the soil has been turned and lightly prepared for planting with organic fertilizers (simulating disturbed soil).
  • They establish quickly and the amount and frequency of watering needs to be reduced after about 8 to 10 weeks (creating dry conditions).
  • They need “elbow room”, maximum sun, heat and don’t like to be crowded by other plants.
  • And they love gravel mulch, like you’d find covering the bare earth in disturbed soils, to help them establish their roots more quickly and re-seed themselves.

After growing these beauties in my gardens for 30 years, I have observed that the Penstemon seedlings that establish themselves from seed produced by the original transplants are the best and most vigorous plants.

Favorite Penstemon Varieties

With over 300 recognized species and subspecies of Penstemon, there are a lot to choose from.

Some the best garden varieties include the orange, scarlet and yellow flowered Pineleaf Beardtongue (Penstemon pinifolius and selections), the award-winning Penstemon mexicali 'Pike's Peak Purple' (Pike's Peak Purple Hybrid Beardtongue), the light-pink Palmer's Pink Wild Snapdragon (Penstemon palmeri) and the deep-pink flowered Penstemon pseudospectabilis Coconino County (Coconino County Desert Beardtongue).

  1. Pink and White Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue

    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green fol...

    Learn More
    Red Rocks Penstemon Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $9.99 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green foliage. A 1999 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  2. Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beard Tongue, Penstemon strictus ‘WWG06’

    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar ...

    Learn More
    Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Penstemon Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beardtongue Penstemon strictus 'WWG06'
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar source for bumblebees. Plant this easy-to-grow beardtongue for a sturdy, long-lived late-spring bloomer in your xeriscape. This beauty thrives in most well-drained soil with full sun exposure. A 2021 Plant Select® Winner. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
    Learn More
  3. Richfield Strain Firecracker Beardtongue, Penstemon eatonii Richfield Strain

    24-36" tall x 15" wide. The Richfield form of Eaton's Beardtongue was selected for its overall vigor and flower production. It blooms in early to mid-spring blooming with tall spikes...

    Learn More
    Firecracker Penstemon Richfield Strain Richfield Strain Firecracker Beardtongue Penstemon eatonii Richfield Strain
    As low as $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    24-36" tall x 15" wide. The Richfield form of Eaton's Beardtongue was selected for its overall vigor and flower production. It blooms in early to mid-spring blooming with tall spikes of brilliant red flowers. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  4. Electric Blue Penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue, Foothills Beardtongue

    Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue is a selected form of the Foothills Beardtongue, a small growing evergreen shrub from California, that blooms in late spring with a memorable d...

    Learn More
    Electric Blue Penstemon Electric Blue Foothills Beardtongue Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue
    As low as $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue is a selected form of the Foothills Beardtongue, a small growing evergreen shrub from California, that blooms in late spring with a memorable display of intensely blue flowers. .
    Learn More
  5. Purple Penstemon mexicali Pike's Peak Purple, Penstemon mexicali Pike's Peak Purple, Pike's Peak Purple hybrid Beardtongue

    Pikes Peak Purple is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large concord grape-purple flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green foliage....

    Learn More
    Pike's Peak Purple Penstemon Pike's Peak Purple hybrid Beardtongue Penstemon mexicali Pike's Peak Purple
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Pikes Peak Purple is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large concord grape-purple flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green foliage. A 1999 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  6. Red Penstemon pinifolius Compactum, Penstemon pinifolius Compactum, Compact Pineleaf Penstemon

    Compactum is hands down one of the very best native wildflowers for water-wise gardens. This tiny shrub has a profusion of bright scarlet flowers in late spring and tidy, tight growi...

    Learn More
    Compact Pineleaf Penstemon Compact Pineleaf Beardtongue Penstemon pinifolius Compactum
    As low as $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Compactum is hands down one of the very best native wildflowers for water-wise gardens. This tiny shrub has a profusion of bright scarlet flowers in late spring and tidy, tight growing branches of evergreen pine needle-like leaves. Perfect for borders or accenting larger perennials. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  7. Penstemon pseudospectabilis Coconino County photo courtesy of Emmis Oure

    Exclusive. Coconino County desert beardtongue is an incredible bloomer with numerous spikes of intensely deep pink tubular flowers in late spring. A willing re-seeder, it spreads ge...

    Learn More
    Coconino County Desert Penstemon Coconino County Desert Beardtongue Penstemon pseudospectabilis Coconino County
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $8.99 Sale $7.19
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Exclusive. Coconino County desert beardtongue is an incredible bloomer with numerous spikes of intensely deep pink tubular flowers in late spring. A willing re-seeder, it spreads gently, helping to fill in difficult-to-plant areas. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  8. Yellow Pineleaf Beardtongue, Penstemon pinifolius Mersea Yellow

    Penstemon pinifolius Mersea Yellow (Yellow Pineleaf Beardtongue) is an English selection of our native pineleaf Penstemon grown for its bright yellow tubular flowers that cover the p...

    Learn More
    Yellow Pineleaf Penstemon Yellow Pineleaf Beardtongue Penstemon pinifolius Mersea Yellow
    As low as $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Penstemon pinifolius Mersea Yellow (Yellow Pineleaf Beardtongue) is an English selection of our native pineleaf Penstemon grown for its bright yellow tubular flowers that cover the plant in late spring/early summer. This small shrub has attractive evergreen, pine-needle like foliage and a tidy mounding for. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). 12" tall x 15" wide
    Learn More

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  1. Pink and White Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue

    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green fol...

    Learn More
    Red Rocks Penstemon Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $9.99 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green foliage. A 1999 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  2. Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beard Tongue, Penstemon strictus ‘WWG06’

    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar ...

    Learn More
    Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Penstemon Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beardtongue Penstemon strictus 'WWG06'
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar source for bumblebees. Plant this easy-to-grow beardtongue for a sturdy, long-lived late-spring bloomer in your xeriscape. This beauty thrives in most well-drained soil with full sun exposure. A 2021 Plant Select® Winner. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
    Learn More
  3. Richfield Strain Firecracker Beardtongue, Penstemon eatonii Richfield Strain

    24-36" tall x 15" wide. The Richfield form of Eaton's Beardtongue was selected for its overall vigor and flower production. It blooms in early to mid-spring blooming with tall spikes...

    Learn More
    Firecracker Penstemon Richfield Strain Richfield Strain Firecracker Beardtongue Penstemon eatonii Richfield Strain
    As low as $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    24-36" tall x 15" wide. The Richfield form of Eaton's Beardtongue was selected for its overall vigor and flower production. It blooms in early to mid-spring blooming with tall spikes of brilliant red flowers. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  4. Electric Blue Penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue, Foothills Beardtongue

    Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue is a selected form of the Foothills Beardtongue, a small growing evergreen shrub from California, that blooms in late spring with a memorable d...

    Learn More
    Electric Blue Penstemon Electric Blue Foothills Beardtongue Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue
    As low as $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Penstemon heterophyllus Electric Blue is a selected form of the Foothills Beardtongue, a small growing evergreen shrub from California, that blooms in late spring with a memorable display of intensely blue flowers. .
    Learn More