Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist
Penstemon may be finicky but, but you can enjoy these plants with these tips today on Southern Gardening.
Penstemon come in a wide variety in size from under a foot up to 6 feet tall. The flowers are displayed on spikes ranging from pink to white to red and purple.
But Penstemon has the reputation of being temperamental and short-lived. They can be a challenge, but I know Mississippi gardeners are ready. The flowering rewards are worth it. For healthy and long lived penstemon here are a few specific cultural conditions.
Wet soil will cause problems for penstemon in the landscape. Amend the soil with coarse sand and fine pea gravel. This will greatly improve drainage. Make sure to plant the crown raised about an inch or two for improved drainage.
Don’t use any type of bark mulch as this will tend to hold moisture around the plant’s crown. Decorative gravel works very well to dress a landscape bed with penstemon.
Deadheading will help keep the plant looking good. It is a good idea to leave a couple of seed pods at the end of the season to encourage reseeding next year.
If you want to encourage any reblooming cut the stems back a few inches. This will stimulate lateral growth and most of the time results in a floral encore.
Fertilize using a good slow release fertilizer, such as a 14-14-14 in the spring as the plant begins to produce new stems. An application of water soluble fertilizer after cutting back will help with any subsequent blooming.
Penstemon will bloom for extended periods and attract hummingbirds to your landscape. Use these tips and enjoy some Penstemon in your garden.
I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.