Virtues: 'Elfin Pink' is a small penstemon, or beardstongue, that offers a profusion of pink flowers from late spring through early summer. This penstemon puts up with humid air and moist soil better than most of its kind, making it an option for gardens in the eastern United States as well as the drier west. Its short stature (12-inch height) suits it to containers or the front of the garden bed.
Common name: Elfin Pink beardstongue
Botanical name: Penstemon barbatus Elfin Pink
Exposure: Full sun
Flowers: Bright salmon-pink tubular flowers line long, thin stalks from late spring into early summer. These down-hanging flowers are small, but they occur in profusion to create a dense block of color. They attract hummingbirds and other friendly fliers.
Foliage: Narrow, medium green leaves. These are held most densely toward the base of the plant's upright stems.
Habit: Elfin Pink penstemon is a compact selection that grows to about 12 inches tall and wide. It grows with several upright stems that create a thick mound of foliage at the base.
Origin: This is a selection of Penstemon barbatus, a species native to southwestern North America.
How to grow it: Site Elfin Pink beardstongue in full sun and average to sandy soil with excellent drainage. Once established it tolerates drought well. Follow spacing guidelines because penstemons need good air flow, and take care to not bury the crown of the plant. With this genus, it's essential to avoid damp soil, crowding and especially a site that remains wet in winter. These plants can easily fall prey to root rot in damp conditions; however, Elfin Pink is reported to cope with moist soil and humid air better than other species and selections, making it a good option for gardeners in the East as well as the West. Fertilizer is not necessary—in fact it can be detrimental, causing floppy growth. When the bloom ends, trim off the spent stalks to tidy up the plant. USDA Zones 3–8.
Image credit: Walters Gardens