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Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Foxglove Beardtongue)

Beardtongue 'Husker Red', Beard Tongue 'Husker Red', Penstemon 'Husker Red'

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Penstemon Digitalis 'Husker Red', Beardtongue 'Husker Red', Beard Tongue 'Husker Red', Penstemon 'Husker Red', White Penstemon, White Beardtongue, White Beard Tongue

Penstemon digitalis’Husker Red’ was named the 1996 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. Its unique, dark foliage, combined with elegant white flowers, sets it apart, making it a favorite among gardeners and landscapers. Additionally, it’s an excellent choice for eco-friendly landscapes due to its attractiveness to beneficial wildlife and adaptability to various conditions.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’: An In-depth Look

‘Husker Red’ is a stunning, upright perennial boasting deep red to maroon leaves and stems. Its striking foliage is coupled with panicles of tubular, white flowers with a tinge of pale pink, offering a dramatic visual contrast.

Native: The parent species, Penstemon digitalis, is native to North America. ‘Husker Red’ is a cultivar developed for its ornamental attributes, but it maintains many characteristics of its native lineage.

Plant Type and Habit: This clump-forming, semi-evergreen perennial maintains an upright habit. The strong stems support its height, particularly when it’s in full bloom.

Size: This Penstemon grows vigorously to 30-36 inches tall (75-90 cm) and 15-18 inches wide (37-45 cm) and adds lovely vertical lines to the landscape.

Flowers: The erect, deep wine-red stems boast about 50 large, bell-shaped, white flowers with a touch of light pink. They are arranged in panicles atop the foliage, offering a bright contrast to the dark leaves.

Bloom Time: Expect a showy display of blooms from late spring to early summer, with the flowers lasting several weeks.

Foliage: The standout feature of ‘Husker Red’ is its foliage, with lance-shaped leaves that are a rich, deep red to maroon color. This dramatic foliage adds significant interest to the garden, even when the plant is not in bloom.

Award: 1996 Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year.

Uses: ‘Husker Red’ is ideal for perennial borders, mixed beds, and naturalistic or native plant gardens. Its striking foliage color and upright habit make it an excellent focal point or background plant.

Pollinators: ‘Husker Red’ is attractive to various pollinators, especially bees, and hummingbirds, drawn to the nectar-rich flowers. Additionally, its seeds provide food for songbirds in late summer and fall.

Toxicity: Penstemon digitalis has no significant toxicity issues for humans or animals, making it a safe addition to yards and gardens.

Deer and Rabbit: It is generally resistant to deer and rabbits, though in areas of high foraging, no plant can be completely immune to being browsed.

Drought: Once established, it has moderate drought tolerance, though it prefers consistently moist soils. In particularly dry areas or periods, supplemental watering will enhance performance.

Invasiveness: ‘Husker Red’ can self-seed in the garden, especially in favorable conditions, but it is not known to be aggressively invasive.

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 seed, but the offspring will be variable, often with flowers of a murky shade. Propagate by softwood cuttings in early summer or semi-ripe stem tip cuttings in late summer to early autumn. Divide clumps 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, Beardtongue, Foxglove Beardtongue
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early)
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 18" (50cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand, Clay
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Plant of Merit, Showy, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Clay Soil, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Salt
Attracts Hummingbirds, Bees, Butterflies
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Rain Gardens
Garden Styles Traditional Garden, Prairie and Meadow, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Coastal Garden
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Penstemon (Beardtongue)
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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

Cerastium tomentosum (Snow in Summer)
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ (Peony)
Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’
Geranium Rozanne (Cranesbill)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

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Penstemon: How to Grow and Care with Success
Penstemon (Beardtongue)
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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, Beardtongue, Foxglove Beardtongue
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early)
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 18" (50cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand, Clay
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Plant of Merit, Showy, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Clay Soil, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Salt
Attracts Hummingbirds, Bees, Butterflies
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Rain Gardens
Garden Styles Traditional Garden, Prairie and Meadow, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, 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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