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Home > Products > Perennials > Border Penstemons

  Border Penstemons
 
Penstemon x gloxiniodes
Penstemon at San Marcos Growers
 
The plants often commonly called Border Penstemons or Bedding Penstemons have in the past gone by a number of botanical names including Penstemon x gloxinioides or Penstemon hartwegii. More recent treatment has them as hybrids with a complex parentage that may involve up to 5 different species; Penstemon cobaea, P. hartwegii, P. campanulata, P. gentianoides and P. isophyllus. As a whole they are evergreen perennials or sub-shrubs (perennial plants with woody bases) that grow from 2 to 4 feet in height with stems clothed from the base up into the inflorescence with lance shaped green leaves. The trumpet-shaped flowers are in held on a branched inflorescence, technically a cyme, that appear that appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens. These flowers, in a range of colors from the deepest purple through many shades of reds and pinks to even white, attract hummingbirds and butterflies into the garden.

The Border Penstemon do best in full sun along the coast with some light shade inland and tolerate and even thrive in poor soils and alkalinity but require relatively good drainage. They endure very dry conditions in cooler coastal gardens but plants look better with occasional irrigation and require it in hotter inland gardens. Considered hardy to below 15 F and even below 0° F if soils are not wet..

Pinch plants after the first bloom to encourage a quick rebloom and cut back hard in winter to encourage a new flush of dense growth in spring. While extremely showy through their lifespan the Border Penstemon are notably short lived and for plantings to look best they should be replanted every 3-5 years. There is a lot of great information on Penstemon available in a couple of recent Timber Press publications including:Gardener's Guide to Growing Penstemons by David Way and Peter James and Penstemons by Robert Nold

We grow the following cultivars:

Penstemon 'Apple Blossom'
This very attractive cultivar is known for its bright pink flowers. It was originally introduced to us as Penstemon 'Huntington Pink'. It is an evergreen perennial or sub-shrub to 3 feet tall with dark reddish stems clothed with 3 ½ " lance shaped medium green leaves that lack any dentations on the margins. The large trumpet-shaped bright pink white throated flowers are held in a dense branched terminal inflorescence (cyme) that appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens. The flowers, at 1 inch long by 7/8 inch wide on lower lip are mid-sized for the hybrids. The pink flower has a red calyx and a white throat, with only faint striping that uniquely extends out of the tube to accent the base of the flaring petals. giving the general impression of a two toned pink and white flower.

Penstemon 'Burgundy Brew'
This durable cultivar is known for its longevity in the garden and having unusually colored flowers that are larger than other Penstemon hybrids. It is an evergreen perennial or sub-shrub to 4 feet tall with dark stems heavily clothed with narrow lanceolata dark green leaves. The large trumpet-shaped dark burgundy colored flowers having lighter colored throats are held in dense branched terminal inflorescence (cyme) that that appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens. The flowers, at 1 ½ inches long by 1 ¾ inches wide on lower lip are the largest of the hybrids, with a dark burgundy color darkest at the petal tips and the pale lavender to white throat striated with magenta. The green calyces have red margins.

Penstemon 'Firebird'
This durable plant, also known as Penstemon 'Schönholzeri', is one of the first of the Border Penstemon that we grew, first listing it in 1983 and it its one of the more vigorous and floriferous of the hybrids. It is an evergreen perennial or sub-shrub to 3 feet tall with reddish brown stems heavily clothed with 4 inch long lance shaped dark green leaves. The large trumpet-shaped rich red flowers are 1 ¼ inch long and as broad with a red throat that has some pale pink to white at the base and dark calyces. The flowers are held on dark stemmed dense branched terminal inflorescence (cyme) that that appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens. There is a very similar plant with a white throat and broader paler green foliage that has also been sold as 'Firebird'.

Penstemon 'Garnet'
This plant, often considered a Penstemon campanulatus hybrid, is one of the longest living Penstemon hybrids in our garden. It has finer texture than the other Border Penstemon hybrids and a bit more sprawly open habit. It is an evergreen perennial or sub-shrub with a spreading form to 2 feet tall with slender stems clothed with narrow lance shaped dark green leaves. The trumpet-shaped garnet red flowers with red striped with throats are in held on dense spikes that arch outward from the center of the plant from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens.

Penstemon xgloxinioides, Hort Plant not currently in production
These evergreen perennials or sub-shrubs are grown from seed. They are often called Penstemon xgloxinioides and are considered to be a complex cross involving Penstemon cobaea, P. hartwegii, P.campanulata, P. gentianoides and P. isophyllus. Growing to 2-3 feet tall with stems heavily clothed with lance shaped green leaves and bearing large trumpet-shaped flowers in an assortment of colors with white throats. The flowers are held on dense spikes that appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens. The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies into the garden. Plant in full sun along the coast and provide some light shade inland. Tolerates and even thrive in poor soils and alkaline conditions but requires relatively good drainage. Can survive very dry conditions in cooler coastal gardens but looks better with occasional irrigation and requires it in hotter locations. Pinch plants after the first bloom to promote a quick re-bloom and cut back hard in winter to encourage a new flush of dense growth in spring. While extremely showy, Border Penstemon are notably short lived and for plantings to look best, they should be replanted every 3-5 years. Hardy to below 15° F and even much lower if soil is not moist.

Penstemon 'Hidcote Pink'
A very attractive cultivar known for its heavy production of salmon pink flowers that are a bit narrower than other Penstemon hybrid flowers. It is an evergreen perennial or sub-shrub to 2 feet tall with stems clothed with 3 inch long medium green leaves that lack any dentations on the margins and are broader than other Penstemon hybrids. The 1 inch long by 3/4 of an inch wide on lower lip flowers are pink with hint of salmon and have a pale pink to white throat that is heavily striated with rose red. An abundant number of flowers, to 8 in a branch are held in a dense branched terminal inflorescence (cyme) that appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens.

Penstemon 'Holly's White'
This plant is the only white bedding Penstemon we grow and while it has its attractive moments it also is the weakest of the cultivars. It is an evergreen perennial or sub-shrub to 2-3 feet tall with stems clothed with 2 inch long pale green leaves that are broader than the other cultivars. The 1 inch long trumpet-shaped white flowers tinged pink on upper lip emerge from pink buds. The flowers, held one or two in a cluster (less than other cultivars) are held in a short branched terminal inflorescence (cyme). Flowers appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens. This cultivar is more disease prone than others and should be planted only if you have to have a white flower and understand that this plants lifespan in the garden is limited. We no longer grow this cultivar!

Penstemon 'Midnight'
We have grown this durable plant and attractive bedding Penstemon for nearly 20 years and it still remains one of our most favorite. From the large dark colored flowers and healthy deep green foliage this long lived cultivars is sure to please. It is an evergreen perennial or sub-shrub to 3 feet tall with purple tinged stems heavily clothed with 4 inch long lance shaped dark green leaves with slight dentations towards the tips. The large trumpet-shaped bluish purple flowers are 1 1/8 inch long by 1 inch wide with a lavender throat lavender striped in purple - lacks the white common in other cultivars. and purple tinged dark green calyces. The flowers, up to 7 in a cluster are held on a dark stemmed dense branched terminal inflorescence (cyme). The flowers appear in a succession of flowering peaks from late spring until fall and often appearing year-round in coastal gardens. Hands down our best seller!