Looking for a sun-loving perennial with color that would last, a Penstemon was recommended by a long-time employee at West Seattle Nursery.
“I’ve had mine for eight or nine years and it still looks great,” she said. The recommendation was spot on, as the Firebird Penstemon with pink tubular flowers became my favorite new perennial this year. Its common name is beardtongue. It likes hot sunny weather, which we had plenty of in 2015.
Planted in April, the Penstemon took off. It grew nearly three-feet tall with thick stems and dense spiky leaves. Pink trumpet-shaped blooms showed up in July and stayed until September. Blooms weren’t real abundant, but I’ll take what I can get with a first-year perennial.
The plant has turned out to be pretty tough, surviving freezing temperatures, three days of snow, and a recent move to the back of the sun bed. The Penstemon was a bit too tall and wide for the front. The roots are healthy, but surprisingly shallow for a tall plant. The new spot is a bit dryer, but from what I read, the plant prefers well-drained soil. I also read to cut it down “after the season,” and pinching off spent flowers promotes blooming.
The Penstemon is a West Coast native, but according to multiple sources, it’s popular in Europe, where many new varieties have been created. The flowers are a hummingbird favorite.