There are some 250 species of penstemon. Most are native to the West, ranging from Canada into Mexico; some grow on highest mountains, some in the desert, others in forest glades, in foothills, on plains. A few are widely available, but most are sold only by specialists. Some of the perennials described here have woody-based stems, while others are herbaceous. Most species have narrowish, pointed leaves; those in basal foliage clump are larger, those on flower stems smaller.Narrowly bell-shaped, lipped flowers (usually 3/4 to 1 1/2 in. long) are most commonly seen in bright reds and blues, but they also come in shades from soft pink through salmon and peach to deep rose, lilac, dark purple, white, and, rarely, yellow. Blossoms of some species attract hummingbirds.
Need fast drainage. Species in particular benefit from rock garden conditions. Usually short lived (3 or 4 years). Hybrids and selections tend to be easier to grow than wild species alongside regular garden plants; wild kinds may die quickly if given too-rich soil and too much water. In dry years or with restricted water, however, plants of wild species may thrive.Penstemon eatonii
Native to mountains of desert Southwest. This scarlet-flowered species is similar to P. centranthifolius. Grows 1–3 ft. tall and wide and has lance-shaped, leathery green leaves, sometimes with a whitish bloom (but without a waxy coating). Flowers appear on tall spikes in spring to early summer. Tolerates heat.
Native to western U.S. Clump to 8–12 in. high, 2 ft. wide, with many rosettes of narrow, fuzzy gray-gr...
Native from Californiato British Columbia, eastto Rocky Mountains. To 2 1/2 ft. high and 1 ft. wide. F...
Native to mountains of desert Southwest. This scarlet-flowered species is similar to P. centranthi...