Penstemons bloom colors all summer long
Vail, CO, COlorado
Penstemons are easy to grow. They’re beautiful. Critters and bugs don’t like them, and they don’t need much water. What more could you ask for? Well, a longer flowering season, but we can’t have everything. However, you can cover a good section of the flowering season by using different species of Penstemons that bloom at different times.
The blues, purples and reds are the predominant colors of some easily available, and easily grown penstemon species. Blues (includes purples), combined with red, makes a great display. In the blues, the most common in this area is Rocky Mountain penstemon, or penstemon strictus, which blooms bluish-violet petals. This is the penstemon you see in more and more gardens, as well as along the freeway and in the wild. It is one of the longer blooming penstemons, usually seen in June and July, occasionally later in more protected locations.
P. strictus grows roughly to about two feet plus. It reseeds freely. If you collect seed to plant, store it dry, then sow it in the fall. There is conflicting information on stratification, a cold period that many plant seeds need to allow them to later germinate. But fall seeding negates the need to refrigerate the seed. If you purchase or use unstratified seed, and don’t fall seed, chill it in moist peat moss or other sterile medium for around three weeks. Then sow.
Rocky Mountain penstemon is one of the more adaptable penstemons. It does well on native moisture, and also tolerates watering better than some other species. It loves full sun, and can take some shade.
One of the most beautiful blues among the penstemons is found in Wasatch penstemon, penstemon cyananthus. It is native to the Wasatch front in Utah, but grows fine here. It is early-blooming, and underused.
There are three staple red penstemon species: penstemons eatonii, barbatus and pinifolius.
P. eatonii is called firecracker penstemon for a reason. It is bright red and happens to bloom on and around the Fourth of July. It’s a dazzler. Blooms end around mid-July, so one should also plant P. barbatus, which flowers later and well into August, to prolong the bright red flowers in your garden.
Little pineleaf penstemon, P. pinifolius, is a small red penstemon that is especially suited for dry and hot climates. Too much water and it doesn’t like to flower. It’s a great border plant and long-blooming, too.
Organize these penstemons in a planting, and you will have an excellent display. And there are so many other penstemons to explore, approximately 270 species, and numbers of colorful hybrids. Go on the internet and check them out. Many are hummingbird flowers, and all are so easy to grow.
Support our great local nurseries and check with them on penstemons. Next week, read about our unknown Eagle County penstemon.
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