Thursday, December 28, 2017


A large range of evergreen  perennial sub shrubs, vary rarely deciduous for the scree or garden. They usually do very well in Australia with our hot summers and well drained soils, flowering over very long periods. They are a very underrated plant and I think they will come into their own like Salvia's once people realise how good they are, we have all grown the large hybrid Penstemons because they have been readily available in the trade.
Seed raising seems to be the best way to acquire specie Penstemons as there are very few available to buy, I find with Penstemon seed it germinates well, but dampens off very quickly for me in my climate, as we have a lot of damp weather. 
Alan does not seem to have this problem, living further inland, he has a very large range of Penstemons, when I was looking at his Instagram account I was so pleased to see how many specie varieties he grows, I asked for some of his photo's the majority of these Penstemon photos are his. Alan belongs to the Penstemon society The American Penstemon Society and they have a good seed exchange. He also buys seed from Alplains nursery Alplains seed nursery. these are live addresses click on to go to their sites.

Penstemon x hybrida Evelyn

Penstemon Blackbird

Penstemon Sour Grapes three of the hybrid Penstemons that are widely available, easy to grow in a well drained sunny site.

Penstemon ambiguus Phlox-like face, from sandy soils New Mexico, a very pretty species 60cm tall.

Penstemon azureus above and below from dry slopes 1,220 to 2,610 meters from California and Oregon. Subshrubby habit and is very well worth growing 60cm height .

Penstemon barbatus sometimes available from specialist nurseries. 60cm to100cm tall making a basal clump. Native to western United States, New Mexico and southern Colorado. Several new coloured cultivars have been developed.

Penstemon barrettiae above and below, 40cm shrub with serrate and glaucous leaves. Endemic in dry rocky areas of the Columbia River Gorge of Washington and Oregon.

Penstemon buckleyi above and below herbaceous non woody Penstemon, pale blue to lavender flowers with thick and firm glabrous leaves and stem. From West Kansas in sandy soils. 

Penstemon cardwellii above and below 10 to 30cm tall from wooded summits in the mountains of Oregon north in the cascades and the Coast Rangers south to Tillamook County. Not for full sun, roots like a cool root run.

Penstemon clevelandii found in mountain and desert habitat such as scrub and woodland, Native to southern California and Baja California.

Penstemon clutei above 80cm waxy serrated leaves, drought tolerant plant and when happy will self sow. A rare endemic species of Arizona found growing in limited area of volcanic cinder cones, including Sunset crater. 

Penstemon cobaea next 3 photos, one particularly good photo showing the beautiful markings. A 30cm high Prairie beardtongue native to central United States on hillsides, gravel rocky outcrops and gypsum soils.  

Penstemon cyanocaulis above and below found in the Colorado Plateau and Canyonlands National Park region of southwestern United States at 2,200 meters, Plants grow to 25-60cm in height. 

Penstemon dolius above and below from Nevada and the deserts of Utah, dry gravely or sandy positions, in some shade of sagebrush and Juniper woodlands. Height 2-12cm tall.

Penstemon eatonii firecracker Penstemon from Southern California to the Rocky Mountains found growing in many habitats and is very vigorous 60-80cm high. Will grow in harsh conditions. 

Penstemon fruticosus 15-40cm tall very variable in it's native habitat of British Columbia to Oregon, Montana and Wyoming. Rocky open or wooded places ideal for the Rock Garden.

Penstemon grahamii 7-18cm high leaves are a glaborous green, upward facing pale to deep lavender-pink flowers. Found growing at about 1,400-2,000 meters in Utah and Colorado. Highly local on oil shale deposits that sometimes oozes around the plants. A very showy plant that is supposedly easy in the garden.

Penstemon grandiflorus above and below, 30-80cm in height is the grandest Penstemon of them all.
With large flowers and blue green waxy foliage, a good hardy Penstemon that will grow in a dry gravelly soil. Found growing in the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains. 

Penstemon heterophyllus comes in many hues of blue, this is a particularly good blue approximately 15-20cm high. Dry hill sides below 1,650 meters in chaparral foothill woodlands and yellow pine forests, in the Coast Rangers and Sierran foothills of California. A lovely plant for the rock garden, needs sun to flower but dislikes drying out.  

Penstemon hidalgensis found growing in the Altiplano Centre of Mexico, covering many states. It grows in pine and oak forests at approximately 1,700 meters and is a very long lived specie.

Penstemon hirsutus var. Pygmaeus forma albus, Gillian's on display at the Bunfight. 10-15cm high a tufted perennial growing in dry woods and fields  Quebec and Maine to Michigan. A nice easy little plant for the Rock Garden.

Penstemon hirsutus var. Pygmaeus apologies for the photo,  just finishing flowering but it does show the seed capsules, typical of penstemon seed.

Penstemon kunthii 15 to 40cm high from North Mexico, very hardy in Australia.

Penstemon lyalii from Idaho and Montana herbaceous perennial, upright stems from a thick root stock 60cm high and wide. Needs a well drained sunny position

Penstemon pinifolius low shrub mine only gets to 10cm bright green foliage and flowers are a bright orange-red in colour, flowers off and on during the year, needs plenty of sun to flower well, looks like Alan has his in raised bed, so would drain well. My plant came from Gentiana Nursery Olinda.

Penstemon pseudospectabilis native to the southwestern United States where it grows in desert and plateau habitat in sandy washes, scrub and woodland. 1meter high not suitable for the rock garden but ideal for the border.

Penstemon smallii 30cm high will self sow when happy, needs a sunny well drained position and is not long lived, from eastern US.

Penstemon strictus the Rocky Mountains Penstemon 45-60cm high, herbaceous perennial drought tolerant and hardy. It is found in pi├▒on-juniper woods, with scrub oak, or in open areas in ponderosa pine and spruce-aspen forest. 

Penstemon tubaeflorus is a clump forming perennial from Missouri, in dryish soils on prairies, limestone glades and open woodlands. Fairly tall, more for the back of the border than the rock garden, getting to a meter in height. 

Penstemon mensarum dark blue Penstemon from Western Colorado the two Penstemons above and below are from Prairiebreak.blogspot. by Panayoti Kelaidis Senior curator of Denver Botanic Gardens. Often speaks about Penstemons not being grown widely enough. Hybrid breading is now being carried out in the US, maybe one day we will see some of these beautiful specimens being grown in Australia.

Penstemon strictus Brandera

Thank you Alan for your Photos much appreciated.

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