Firecracker Beardtongue, Eaton's Penstemon
DetailsFirecracker Beardtongue (Penstemon eatonii) is a widespread native species in the western U.S. known for its mid-spring display of vivid scarlet red flowers on tall bloom spikes. The plant has attractive evergreen foliage and is a good species for naturalizing in harsh growing conditions. To extend the lifespan the plant, deadhead the flower spikes when flowering is done. But be sure to leave some seeds to ripen on the plant. Plant Firecracker Beardtongue in full sun sites with lean, well-drained soil. Water deeply but infrequently after the first growing season. Excellent companion plants include Nepeta, Hymenoxys and English Lavender. Mature size: 24-36" tall x 15" wide. (seed propagated)
|Common Name||Firecracker Beardtongue, Eaton's Penstemon|
|Botanical Name||Penstemon eatonii|
|Zones||4, 5, 6, 7, 8|
|Light Requirements||Full Sun, Morning Sun & Afternoon Shade|
|Mature Height||18-24" tall|
|Mature Spread||12-15" wide|
|Bloom Time||Late spring to early summer|
|Ships As||Potted Plant|
|Planting Time||Spring / Summer, Fall|
|Soil Type||Sandy Soil|
|Soil Moisture||Drought Resistant / Waterwise|
|Amount of Rain||Less than 10" (with irrigation), 10 to 20", 20 to 30"|
|Advantages||Deer Resistant, Attract Hummingbirds, Rabbit Resistant, Native|
|Ideal Region||Western Only, Suitable Above 7000 ft, Hot Desert, Southwest, West|
|Neonicotinoid-Free||Yes - Learn More|
|Ships to Hawaii, Alaska & Canada||No|
Tips for growing Penstemon (Beardtongue)
Penstemon are generally evergreen and have beautiful flowers that are very attractive to hummingbirds. Most varieties are rabbit resistant.
- They need “elbow room,” maximum sun, heat and don’t like to be crowded by other plants.
- Plant only in well-drained soils; clay soils and Penstemon are incompatible.
- Avoid overly enriched soils; too much compost and fertilizer will shorten their lifespan.
- They establish quickly and the amount and frequency of watering needs to be reduced after about 8 to 10 weeks to create dry conditions.
- When using drip irrigation, be sure to put the emitter off to the side of the plant, not right on top of the root ball to avoid overwatering the plant.
- Plant high, leaving the top of the rootball just above the surrounding soil to avoid burying the crown of the plant.
- Mulch with gravel or pine needles in arid climates. No mulch is needed where conditions are moister. Always avoid bark, grass clippings, or compost as mulch materials.
- Allow some of the plants to set seed (don't deadhead all of the flower spikes)*.
- Fertilize sparingly. One time each year in the fall is enough. Apply a light application of an organic or natural fertilizer such as Yum Yum Mix as a top dressing around the plants. Don't use high nitrogen water soluble fertilizer like Miracle Gro
*To keep penstemon that have finely textured or matted evergreen foliage looking their best, you'll want to 'deadhead" them. 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 go down into the mat of foliage with your clipper in your other hand. Recommended for the following varieties: P. pinifolius types (‘Compactum', ‘Mersea Yellow', ‘Nearly Red', ‘Magdalena Sunshine' and ‘Tall Orange Mix'), as well as Penstemon linarioides v. coloradensis and Penstemon virens ('Blue Lips').
More in-depth guidance for growing Penstemon: Watch our video: How To Plant Penstemon or read articles: Growing Penstemon, Penstemon for the Waterwise Garden, David’s Favorite Plants: Pineleaf Beardtongue, The Beardtongue Family: Penstemania for Penstemon and The Genus Penstemon: The Royalty of American Wildflowers The Genus Penstemon: The Royalty of American Wildflowers (Part 2).
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Q & A
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USDA Hardiness Planting Zones
To determine if a plant is sufficiently cold hardy, the USDA created numbered zones indicating winter low temperatures; the lower the zone number the colder the winter.
- If the coldest winter temperature expected in your area is -15°F (zone 5) then any plants rated zones 3-5 will survive the winter temperatures in your area.
- If you live in very warm winter areas (zones 9-11) plants with zones 3-4 ratings are not recommended. The lack of freezing winter temperatures do not provide a time for winter dormancy (rest).
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