What is a Penstemon?

Firecracker PenstemonThere are 270 different Penstemon species, and countless hybrids and cultivars. Most are native to North America, and a few are native to Mexico. A large number of Penstemon species are native to the northwest.

Penstemons come in many colors, red, pink, white, yellow, orange, blue, and purple. They come in many forms: tiny rock garden gems, herbaceous matted forms with tall flower spikes, and low shrubs from a few inches wide to 4 or 5 feet wide.

Many Penstemon species are hardy and adapted to harsh, dry conditions. Firecracker Penstemon, Penstemon eatonii, a desert dweller, attracts hummingbirds to the garden.

 Shrubby Penstemon, P. fruticosis

Some grow on rock cliffs.

This is our local Shrubby Penstemon, P. fruticosus, on a rock wall along highway 2 in Pend Orielle County, Washington.

This species and its cultivars are long lived in the garden. The shrubby Penstemon is evergreen, with a reddish-maroon cast in the winter, and loads of large flowers in the spring.

Rock Penstemon, P. rupacola

Some grow in shallow rocky soils.

This is the Rock Penstemon, P. rupicola, in a rocky, dry garden bed. They are native to the Cascades Mountains of Oregon and Washington. They do appreciate an occasional watering. They don�t mind shade for part of the day, but are also fine with full sun. The pink flowers and bluish, evergreen foliage are quite beautiful. Penstemon rupicola would be lovely in a small rock garden or trough.

A few species of Penstemon grow in moister sites.

Cascades Penstemon, P. serrulatus

The Cascades Penstemon, P. serrulatus, grows in the Cascades Mountains of Oregon and Washington. It makes a dramatic addition to the perennial flower border, and is one of the most widely adapted Penstemon species. It can grow in quite a bit of shade, and tolerates moister conditions.

Foxglove Penstemon, P. digitalis Another Penstemon species that tolerates moister conditions is the Foxglove Penstemon, P. digitalis. This species blooms in early summer, and thrives & naturalizes in my Spokane garden far better than any other Midwestern Penstemon species I have trialed.

All perennials and most small shrubs are grown at our nursery, many from wild collected seeds.

Read more at some of our favorite links:

The American Penstemon Society
Dr. Andrea Wolfe's Penstemon Website
North American Rock Garden Society
Washington Native Plant Society