Virtues: We love desert beardtongue (Penstemon pseudospectabilis) for its vivid purple-pink flowers and its drought tolerance. This penstemon’s flowers serve as a food source for bees, hummingbirds and hawkmoths as well as other insects. Desert beardtongue is being honored as a garden-worthy plant in 2015 by Plant Select, a Colorado-based program that identifies plants that are especially useful for dry gardens.
Common name: Desert beardtongue, Mohave beardtongue, canyon beardtongue, desert penstemon, Mohave penstemon, canyon penstemon
Botanical name: Penstemon pseudospectabilis
Flowers: Over a long period in spring and early summer, desert beardtongue sends up three-foot-tall flowering stems lined with shocking magenta tubular flowers tbat are one to two inches long.
Foliage: The evergreen leaves are long and narrow in shape and may be tinged with red.
Habit: Evergreen perennial growing one to three feet tall, with the flowering stalks typically held taller than the foliage. Foliage forms a mounded shape to 18 inches wide.
Season: Spring and early summer for flowers.
Origin: Desert beardtongue is a penstemon species native to deserts and canyons of the southwestern United States, at elevations of 2,000 to 7,000 feet.
How to grow desert penstemon: Plant this beardtongue in full sun, in well-drained soil that tends toward the dry side. Penstemon pseudospectabilis is very drought tolerant. It can be trimmed down close to the ground in late winter or early spring. USDA Zones 5–9.
Image courtesy Plant Select.
Find ornamental grasses to mix with desert beardtongue in Bloom’s Best Perennials and Grasses.
Build a garden based on tough perennials and learn the easiest ways to care for them in Roy Diblik’s The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden.
Mix Penstemon pseudospectabilis with orange-flowered California poppies for an eye-catching spring color combination.