Plant FinderPlant Finder Graphic
Zone
Zones 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 7-24
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Penstemon cardinalis

Beard Tongue

Perennials, Flowers

PENSTEMON

There are some 250 species of penstemon. Most are native to the West, ranging from Canada into Mexico; some grow on the highest mountains, some in the desert, and 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 are smaller. Narrowly bell-shaped, lipped flowers (usually 3/4–1 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 cardinalis

Native to southern New Mexico and Texas. Leafy habit to 2 1/2 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. Large, leathery, dark green foliage. Dark red flowers bloom all summer; very popular with hummingbirds. Long-lived, adaptable plant that thrives even in areas with humid summers.

You Might Also Like...

Platanus occidentalis

Native to the eastern U.S. Has a long leafless period. Irregular habit, contorted branches. Occasional...

Amsonia

From the southeastern U.S. Most of these elegant but tough plants, which resemble small shrubs, grow 2...

Nolina parryi

Native to deserts of Southern California. Resembles N. bigelovii, but its leaf bases are expa...

Find Your Sunset Climate Zone

Find Your Sunset Climate Zone

View Maps Learn More

Advertisement