Beardtongue Blooms

This late spring, early summer perennial brightens the yard

Beardtongue ‘Husker Red’ (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’) is a U.S. native perennial flower (meaning it comes back each year), and is ideal for yards of all sizes. In 1996, Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ was even named Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.

This native flower provides gardeners with a beautiful, reddish-purple hue on its leaves. But there are other types of beardtongue available, so consult with an expert at a local garden center to provide you even more options. The stems of the blooms are rigid, stand up tall on their own accord (there is no need to stake), and ‘Husker Red’ even performs well in clay soil.

The name of this beauty was derived from a Greek origin. As the Missouri Botanical Garden notes on their website: “Genus name comes from the Greek words penta, meaning five, and stemon, meaning stamen, in reference to each flower having five stamens (four are fertile and one is sterile).”

Small tubular flowers offer a pinkish color; the blooms are showcased on stalks which rise up from the ground up to about two feet tall. Sometimes the flowers will appear whitish or a very, very pale pink color, which is spotlighted well against the darker leaves of the ‘Husker Red’.

This perennial is an excellent choice for mass plantings on a hill and is stunning when it blooms in the late spring. The base of the plant’s leaves, or rosettes, are generally visible all four seasons long; sometimes in a harsh, cold winter the rosettes may die back, but this rarely happens in this area. Since this plant prefers well drained soil, hills are generally the best location, along with full sun exposure.

If the beardtongue is planted in too wet an area, root rot can occur – which means the roots will become waterlogged and die off. So it is so important to plant this perennial in the “right” place: in a dry or well-drained location. The benefits to this perennial include low maintenance, little to no disease issues, attracts wildlife, and provides stunning blooms.

Any of these characteristics will surely enhance your yard. Care is easy; simply prune back the stalks after blooms have faded, and enjoy the rosettes the rest of the year as a ground cover and enjoy the fact the plant will assist with soil erosion as well.


Plant Information
Bloom time: April through June
Where to plant: Plant in full sun
Type of soil: Dry to medium soil conditions, but well-drained.
Plant zone: Grows well in zones 3 to 8 (Fauquier County is zone 7)
Wildlife: Ideal for birds, butterflies, and occasionally hummingbirds
Pests and disease: Deer tolerant; few disease or insect issues

Debbie Eisele
About Debbie Eisele 63 Articles
Debbie Eisele is a freelance writer and the Community Outreach Coordinator for Hero’s Bridge, a nonprofit serving older veterans. She lives in Warrenton with her husband and twin daughters.

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