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 are related to snapdragons and foxgloves, and have a similar tubular flower.

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.

Gairdner's Penstemon, P. gairdneri

Some grow in shallow rocky soils.

This is Gairdner's Penstemon, P. gairdneri, on rocky soils in the Channelled Scablands near Davenport, Washington.

It would be lovely in a small rock garden or trough.

Foxglove Penstemon, P. cobea

A few species of Penstemon grow in moister sites.

The Foxglove Penstemon, P. cobea, grows in the American prairie. It makes a dramatic addition to the perennial flower border.

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