Penstemon

ponyexpress_1March 12, 2014

I was wondering why there is not a Penstemon category on here. Seems like there are a lot of gardeners that also enjoy the hummingbirds. The hummingbirds seem to enjoy penstemons. Penstemons can be tricky in the garden and I would love to have a resource to go to that has the experience of other gardeners. Am I the only one that would like to see this?

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

OOOH, looks like , for a lurker, I wrote a long one.

I am not sure about always separating out plants into new categories. I can understand when there is a great following for a plant like roses, but penstemmons can be talked about in several categories. Native plants, SW gardening, Texas Gardening, Arizona and it is after all a "perennial". I would like them to have a category of Xeric Perennials since the perennials that I grow will most likely be different than ones that y'all north of the Mason dixie line and East of the Mississippi can't ,and I can't grow many of your perennials . I am fascinated that some Texas grasses and plants are now becoming popular elsewhere.

Penstemmons are used a lot in gardening in states west of the Mississippi. The amount of types that we can grow there because of the heat and lack of humidity is a beautiful thing. I have about 8 kinds of wild penstemon , mostly Xeric types, and just got in a wad of seeds from a friend. It is a great plains and southwestern plant. The only bad thing is that deer just adore them and I have a voracious population of them. I have no idea how P. cobaea ever gets to seed out around here. The blooms stalks always end up snapped off.

I am not a good person to tell you about how to grow them in NY. I would imagine that drainage would be critical and finding wild penstemons from the East or from the Pacific Northwest. The ones that I grow are mostly allergic to moist rich soil, and humidity. I imagine the hybrid penstemmons will be more friendly to your garden . I just put in a wrights penstemmon that has become popular in England ( I hear) but is native to to the mountains of the Trans Pecos Area of West Texas. Penstemon grandiflorus has escaped into the wild in Connecticut and Massachusets but is endemic to stes from Ohio to Montana to new Mexico and texas, so it might be a good one for you in NY.I included a list of Penstemmons from The LBJ Wildflower Center's database below, if you feel like going through and seeing which ones would be good for your area.

What I like about the penstemmons is that they are once established, a no care plant. I live in an area of drought and I am 100% dependent on rainwater harvesting so I can not water when times get rough, like NOW. Some plants will burn up and not grow for a year and then pop up when the weather turns. Some plants will grow no mater what in my conditions. That is what I love. If the garden browns out, I have to accept that as part of the cycle of this area. My bank of Penstemon tennuis got wiped out by the drought of 2011 and has now replaced itself from the seeds that they left. Lucky me.

I grow, P. triflorus, P. cobaea, P. havardia, P suberbus, P. wrightii, P. baccharifolious, Penstemon barbatus, Penstemon subulatus. Penstemmon tenuis. I am probably forgetting one or two.

Here is a link that might be useful: 13 page List of some wild penstemmons

This post was edited by wantonamara on Thu, Mar 13, 14 at 11:47

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:52PM
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ponyexpress_1

Well I guess you are right Wantonamara, There is a very big difference between Penstemons that are native to my area versus yours. There are some native to our area, but dislike winter wetness even though they are hardy to our zone. I guess that is why I would like a catagory. With so many hybrids, ranges, micro-climates, and artificial habitats, I'd love to get other people's experiences. Like Salvias, I'm sure there must be Penstemon enthusiasts.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 12:42AM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

IME, many of the genus-specific or small area forums don't get a lot of traffic unless they are extremely popular genera like Hosta or roses. Forums like NE Coast, Maine, Heaths and Heathers, and even Rhododendrons and Azaleas are quite slow. While I may visit them occasionally, there's so little traffic that it makes more sense to me that if I want more feedback on a plant like Penstemon I post on New England to get feedback from gardeners in my immediate area or here in perennials where I will get more gardeners who grow various Penstemons from all over.

If I were you, I'd ask a specific question in a new thread about Penstemons. Add information about your soil texture and pH and what your winters and summers are like to get feedback that's most applicable to your growing conditions.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 11:05AM
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SunnyBorders(5A)

I mix perennial garden on the other side of Lake Ontario from Lancaster, N.Y..

I mentioned my relative lack of success with penstemons in our location (Aurora, Ontario)/ with my kind of intensive perennial gardening.

As noted, I've bought 17 different penstemon cultivars, plus five different penstemon species over the last twenty years.

The only ones that lasted more than two or three years were Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red', P. barbatus 'Coccineus', P. hirsutus 'Pygmaeus', P. pinifolius' and P. strictus.

I've had each these five or more years.

I consequently feel that, in general, penstemons are not a good buy for my growing conditions/my style of mixed perennial gardening.

Penstemon hirsutus 'Pygmaeus' (June 30, 2013).

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 3:50PM
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hmacgarden

I have trouble getting penstemons to over-winter. I grow p.digitalis "Huskers Red" but thanks for listing other hardy penstemons, SuunyBorders, I'll look for them
Heather

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 4:38PM
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gardenweed_z6a

Heather, if you're interested in P. 'Mystica,' I'd be more than happy to harvest seeds for you later this year. I'm a seed-a-holic so chances are I'll harvest them whether anyone wants some or not--I did last year. I got the seeds for my own plants in a trade and grew them via winter sowing. The plants generously produce lots of flowers every year and it's been my experience winter sown perennials are a lot tougher than nursery-grown plants. My own winter sown plants were planted out in 2010 but they return reliably every year and the bees absolutely love them.

Bee on winter sown great blue lobelia

Winter sown Penstemon digitalis 'Mystica' (sorry, couldn't find the pic I have with a bee on it)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 7:10PM
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ponyexpress_1

Thanks SunnyBorders and gardenweed. Those sure are beautiful. I have just winter sown hisirtus. I have grown husker red and pinifolius also. I really want to try some of those bright colors. I'm not too worried about the plants since I just buy seeds and winter sow them. If they die, it's not a huge loss. I think maybe I'll post those questions in the Western New York category. It's good to get experience from people in the area like you.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 2:05AM
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ponyexpress_1

Here is my Gloxinoides. I think it's called Firebird. It gets about 30 inches tall.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 6:03AM
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