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 richardsonii
Native to the Pacific Northwest. Woody grower to 1–1 1/2 ft. high and wide, with toothed, blue-green foliage. Rose, pink, lavender, or white flowers bloom in late summer for an extended period. Grows well in many climates. Tolerates some shade and may self-sow.
Very small; roundish to pear shaped. Yellow-brown skin. Granular, very sweet, aromatic flesh. A favori...
This rounded shrub grows to 3–15 ft. tall and wide. Its bright green, paired or whorled leaves c...
Very large fruit with russeted skin and good, crisp flavor; some may weigh over a pound. Very producti...