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Penstemon digitalis ‘Blackbeard’ (Beardtongue)

Beardtongue 'Blackbeard', Beard Tongue 'Blackbeard', Foxglove Beardtongue 'Blackbeard', Penstemon 'Blackbeard'

Penstemon 'Blackbeard', Foxglove Penstemon, Blackbeard Penstemon

Named after the infamous pirate, Penstemon ‘Blackbeard’ stands out in any garden setting with its dark purple-black foliage and stunning light lavender to pink flowers. Its eye-catching color contrast and statuesque presence make it a treasure among perennials.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Blackbeard’: An In-depth Look

Native: Though not a native species itself, ‘Blackbeard’ is bred from species native to North America, inheriting the hardiness and resilience of the Penstemon genus, while its unique coloration is a result of selective breeding practices.

Plant Type and Habit: This semi-evergreen perennial forms a dense clump of sturdy stems. It exhibits an upright growth habit, producing multiple flower spikes that create a display reminiscent of fireworks.

Size: Growing to an impressive height of 28-34 inches (70-85 cm) and spreading approximately 18-24 inches (45-60 cm), ‘Blackbeard’ offers substantial visual impact without taking up excessive space, ideal for mixed borders or focal points.

Flowers: The true allure lies in its tubular, light lavender to pink flowers held on sturdy, dark purple stems. They elegantly contrast with the dark foliage. These blooms not only add visual interest but are nectar-rich, making them incredibly attractive to pollinators.

Bloom Time: Flowering occurs from early to mid-summer, providing a burst of color when many other garden plants are just beginning to show off. Deadheading spent flowers can encourage an extended bloom period.

Foliage: The standout feature of ‘Blackbeard’ is its striking dark purple-black leaves, a rarity in the perennial world. This dramatic foliage maintains its color throughout the growing season, adding consistent interest even when the plant is not in bloom.

Uses: It’s used primarily for ornamental purposes due to its striking foliage and attractive flowers. It’s perfect for borders, mass plantings, or as an accent plant in city gardens, coastal gardens, rock gardens, cottage gardens, rain gardens or prairie plantings. Good as cut flowers, too!

Pollinators: Penstemon is attractive to various pollinators, especially bees, and hummingbirds, drawn to their nectar-rich flowers.

Toxicity: Penstemons are not known for being toxic to humans or pets. Still, it’s always good practice to prevent ingestion and supervise pets and young children in any garden setting.

Deer and Rabbit: Fortunately, ‘Blackbeard’ is resistant to grazing by deer and rabbits, attributed to the plant’s slightly bitter taste, which tends to deter these common garden foragers.

Drought: Once established, ‘Blackbeard’ is notably drought-tolerant. While it prefers moist, well-drained soil, it can withstand short periods of dryness, an attribute that lends itself well to xeriscaping.

Penstemon Growing Tips

Light: Full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun per day). Tolerates light shade.

Soil: Fertile, well-drained loams, clay loam, sand soil. Avoid overly moist, poorly drained soils.

Water: Water well until plants are established. Once established, this Penstemon tolerates occasional drought and flooding. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Over-watering or wet soils can lead to root rot.

Fertilizer: Penstemon plants generally do not require heavy fertilization and can thrive in relatively lean soil conditions. However, providing them with a light application of an organic fertilizer in the fall can help boost their growth and flowering potential.

Pruning: Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming. Cut back plants in late autumn or early spring to promote vigorous growth.

Mulching: Mulching Penstemon can help regulate ground temperature and suppress weed growth. Choose a mulch that does not hold water. Use organic materials like shredded bark, compost, or pine straw. Avoiding direct contact with the stems to prevent rot and pest issues.

Propagation: Propagate by softwood cuttings in early summer, semi-hardwood cuttings in midsummer, or by division in spring

Pests and Diseases: No serious pest or disease issues, but watch for slugs, snails, and nematodes. Fungal diseases can occur in overly wet conditions; ensure good air circulation and avoid overhead watering to prevent issues like powdery mildew, leaf spot, and root rot. Rust can cause small, rust-colored pustules on leaves and stems, leading to defoliation and stunted growth.

Penstemon: How to Grow and Care with Success


Properly growing Penstemon ensures robust, vibrant blooms and foliage, enhances garden biodiversity by attracting pollinators, prevents disease, and maintains plant health. Thriving plants provide longer-lasting beauty and environmental benefits, contributing positively to local ecosystems and the aesthetic value of your landscape.

Requirements

Hardiness 3 - 8
Heat Zones 1 - 9
Climate Zones 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Plantaginaceae
Genus Penstemon
Common names Penstemon, Foxglove Beardtongue, Beardtongue
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 24" (60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand, Clay
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Clay Soil, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Salt
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Rain Gardens
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Prairie and Meadow, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden, Coastal Garden
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Penstemon pallidus (Pale Beardtongue)
Penstemon pseudospectabilis (Desert Beardtongue)
Penstemon parryi (Parry’s Beardtongue)
Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Electric Blue’ (Foothill Beardtongue)
Penstemon ‘Evelyn’ (Beardtongue)
Penstemon ovatus (Eggleaf Beardtongue)

Recommended Companion Plants

Salvia (Sage)
Achillea (Yarrow)
Echinacea (Coneflower)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

35 Flowering Shrubs That Thrive in Full Sun
Penstemon and Pollinators: A Harmonious Dance in the Garden
Thriving in Thirst: Colorful Penstemons for Water-Wise Landscapes
Penstemon: How to Grow and Care with Success
Penstemon (Beardtongue)
For the Love of Bees: Best Flowers to Attract them to Your Garden
How to Cultivate a Thriving Bee-Friendly Garden
Best Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 3 - 8
Heat Zones 1 - 9
Climate Zones 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Plantaginaceae
Genus Penstemon
Common names Penstemon, Foxglove Beardtongue, Beardtongue
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 24" (60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand, Clay
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Clay Soil, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Salt
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Rain Gardens
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Prairie and Meadow, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden, Coastal Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Penstemon (Beardtongue)
Not sure which Penstemon (Beardtongue) to pick?
Compare Now

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