If you want to bring a fiery note to your shrub bed, beardlip penstemon is the perfect choice. This is how to care for the plant and a month-long flowering spectacle in your garden.
Profile of beardlip penstemon:
Scientific name: Penstemon barbatus
Plant family: plantain family (Plantaginaceae)
Other names: golden-beard penstemon
Sowing time: spring or autumn
Planting time: spring to autumn
Flowering period: June to September
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, flower bouquets, single position, group planting, planters, borders, flower garden, rock garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-37 °C / -35 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of beardlip penstemon
Plant order, origin and occurrence of beardlip penstemon
The beardlip penstemon (Penstemon barbatus) occurs in North America from Colorado to Nevada and Mexico. Its natural habitat is canyons, pine, oak or aspen forests. The genus of beardtongues belongs to the plantain family (Plantaginaceae).
Characteristics of beardlip penstemon
The beardlip penstemon has an attractive pyramidal growth. It sprouts several upright stems from a leaf rosette, which rise to a height of around 90 centimeters (36 in). In the variety ‘Coccineus’ the inflorescences are even more branched.
The oval to elongated leaves become more and more lanceolate towards the top. With the wild species the green foliage often takes on a blue-green shimmer. In mild winters beardlip penstemon keeps its green foliage.
The flowers of the beardlip penstemon are red. In nature there are rarely also pink varieties. The bell-like blossoms line up decoratively on the flower stem. The lower lip is slightly bent back and mostly hairy. The upper lip protrudes. Bees and bumblebees prefer to crawl into the throat, where they find plenty of food. The plant blooms extremely long from June until autumn. If one cuts out withered flowers consistently, the flowering period often lasts until frost. The high flower panicles are even suitable as cut flowers.
Seed capsules form along the flower stalk.
Beardlip penstemon – cultivation and care
Beardlip penstemon loves warm locations in full sun. It tolerates heat and temporary dryness very well.
Any good, permeable garden soil is suitable. Drainage is especially important during wet winters. On heavy clay soils, however, it gets problems. Sand helps to loosen the soil.
Planting beardlip penstemon
Potted plants can be planted throughout the season. Leave about 35 centimeters (14 in) distance to the next plant.
Basically, the beardlip penstemon is a rather easy-care summer flower that can cope very well with little water and occasional fertilization. Planted out specimens actually only need watering in dry phases as well as in hot weather, whereas plants cultivated in a pot need moderate watering. Before each watering, first make a finger test so that you can estimate the actual water requirement.
You should provide the beardlip penstemon with some compost or horn shavings from time to time. However, do not start fertilizing until six to eight weeks after planting, provided that you have already added compost or horn shavings. Adding a little fertilizer in spring gives the plant a good start in the new season.
At the end of the season in October a pruning down to the base leaves keeps the plant vital.
Consistent pruning of faded flowers extends the flowering period.
Penstemon barbatus is not a plant to share.
All beardlip penstemon varieties can easily be propagated by sowing in spring or autumn. Cuttings should be taken in midsummer from non-flowering shoots.
Diseases and pests
Snails do not go to beardlip penstemon and it is also otherwise spared from pests. Plant diseases are rare and mostly caused by incorrect location. For example, basic stem rot occurs in areas with waterlogging.
A light winter protection made of brushwood protects against strong winter wetness and icy winds.
Use in the garden
The slender panicles of the beardlip penstemon bring a fiery note to borders. It opens up between phlox (Phlox paniculata), woodland sage (Salvia nemorosa) and yarrow (Achillea Millefolium hybrids) and is suitable for open field perennials such as catnip (Nepeta) and basil thyme (Calamintha) with similar site conditions. It plays a leading role in combination with prairie grasses like Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima). Individual clumps also look pretty on the edge of a rock garden. The perennial is easy to keep in pots and arrange in a mobile arrangement.
The scarlet red flowering variety ‘Coccineus’ can grow up to 1.50 meters (5 ft) high. It is more branched than the wild species. From Penstemon barbatus there is a smaller color mixture ‘Praecox Nanus’. It grows only 40 centimeters (16 in) high and is ideal for rock gardens. The varieties of the large-flowered ‘Pinacolada’ series grow even more compactly in white, dark pink, rose-red and violet.