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Penstemon hirsutus (Hairy Beardtongue)

Hairy Penstemon, Hairy Beardtongue, Penstemon hirsutus var. minimus, Penstemon hirsutus var. pygmaeus

Penstemon hirsutus, Hairy Penstemon, Hairy Beardtongue

Penstemon hirsutus, commonly known as Hairy Beardtongue, stands out with its graceful spikes of tubular lavender to pink flowers, positioned above a mound of glossy foliage. Its distinctive, slightly hairy leaves contribute to its common name.

Penstemon hirsutus is a valuable perennial for gardeners who seek a low-maintenance, beautiful, and environmentally beneficial plant. Its adaptability to various conditions and its wildlife-supporting characteristics make it an exemplary choice for sustainable gardening practices.

Penstemon hirsutus: An In-depth Look

Native: This species is native to North America, predominantly found in the Northeastern and North Central United States and the Eastern part of Canada. It’s commonly spotted in its natural habitat encompassing open woods, clearings, and rocky slopes.

Plant Type and Habit: Penstemon hirsutus is a herbaceous perennial showcasing an upright growth pattern. The plant forms clumps with multiple erect stems, giving it a bushy appearance that’s well-suited for naturalistic garden designs.

Size: On average, Penstemon hirsutus reaches about 2 to 3 feet i(60-90 cm) n height and spreads approximately 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm) wide, presenting a compact growth ideal for borders, small gardens, and containers.

Flowers: The flowers are the spotlight of this plant, featuring a two-lipped shape typical of the genus, with colors ranging from soft lavender to a delicate pink. They are borne in dense flower spikes and have a particularly appealing shape that attracts pollinators.

Bloom Time: Blooming occurs in late spring to mid-summer, providing a burst of color when many other perennials are just starting to show growth.

Foliage: The foliage of Penstemon hirsutus is uniquely textured with fine hairs, giving the leaves a slightly fuzzy appearance. The leaves are lance-shaped and remain an attractive deep green throughout the growing season.

Uses: This species is used in a multitude of ways: naturalized in meadows, as part of perennial borders, in rock gardens due to its tolerance of poor, rocky soils, and as a source of cut flowers.

Hardiness: Penstemon hirsutus is cold hardy in USDA zones 3-9, demonstrating a remarkable adaptability to various climate conditions.

Pollinators: Penstemon is attractive to various pollinators, especially bees, and hummingbirds, drawn to their nectar-rich flowers. It is a larval host plant for checkerspot butterflies, including the Baltimore Checkerspot, Arachne Checkerspot, and the Chalcedon Checkerspot.

Toxicity: Penstemons are not known to be toxic to humans or pets. However, it’s always prudent to prevent ingestion of any non-edible plants.

Deer and Rabbit: Penstemon hirsutus has the advantage of being deer and rabbit resistant, largely due to the texture of the foliage, providing peace of mind for gardeners in wildlife-heavy areas.

Drought: Established plants have good drought tolerance, making Penstemon hirsutus a reliable choice for gardens in drier climates or water-conserving landscapes.

Invasiveness: This native species is non-invasive. It will naturalize in favorable conditions but is not known to aggressively overtake areas.

Penstemon Growing Tips

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

Soil: Well-drained soil is crucial. Penstemons prefer rocky or sandy lean soils rather than rich garden loam. Avoid overly moist, poorly drained soils.

Water: Water well until plants are established. Once established, Penstemons tolerate some drought. 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 or semi-ripe cuttings in midsummer.

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 - 9
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 Beardtongue, Penstemon
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 18" - 24"
(50cm - 60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit, Dry Soil
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage
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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

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 - 9
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 Beardtongue, Penstemon
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 18" - 24"
(50cm - 60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit, Dry Soil
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage
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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