Beardtongue, tips and guidance for the best possible care

Beardtongues are beautiful perennials that bloom in summer with very ornamental flowers that decorate gardens and terraces.

Basic Beardtongue facts

Name – Penstemon
Family – Scrophulariaceae
Type – perennial

Height – 1 to 4 feet (30 to 120 cm) depending on the variety
Exposure – full sun, part sun
Soil – rather rich and well drained

Flowering – May to October

Planting beardtongue

If you purchased your plants in nursery pots, it is best to plant them in the ground in spring, spacing them 12 inches (30 cm) apart and adding “flower plant” soil mix to the garden soil.

  • Plant at least ten plants in any given bed to produce a remarkable visual impact.
  • Water regularly after planting.

Planting beardtongue in pots

Beardtongues are actually well suited to growing in pots for balconies and terraces.

  • Plant in flower plant soil mix.
  • Water regularly at the beginning and then only when the substrate surface is dry.

Transplanting beardtongue

Has your beardtongue patch grown too thick?

  • Give some away or transplant your beardtongue to a new spot in spring, after the last frost spells.

Sowing beardtongue

Sowing beardtongue is difficult and efforts aren’t always crowned with success.

  • Sow in a sheltered place, in a nursery at the end of winter in special seedling soil mix.
  • Place seedlings to light at a warm temperature, around 65 to 68°F (18 to 20°C).
  • Sprinkle water over lightly to keep the substrate a bit moist.
  • Transplant into nursery pots after sprouting when sprouts have formed a few leaves.
  • Transplant in the ground in the following spring.

However, you can also simply let a few flowers go to seed, and some of them will sprout naturally in the spring.

Preparing beardtongue cuttings

Beardtongue cuttings are prepared in summer and usually lead to rather good results.

  • Snip cuttings off from stems that aren’t bearing flowers.
  • If available, dip the cuttings in powdered rooting agents.
  • Plant the cutting in special cutting soil mix.
  • Keep substrate a little moist, reduce watering in winter.
  • Protect cuttings from freezing in winter but keep them in a well-lit place.
  • Transplant in the ground in the following spring.

Pruning and caring for beardtongue

Beardtongue budding flowers and full leaves.Caring for beardtongues is easy once they are well settled in. Apart from the occasional watering, you won’t need to care for them at all.

  • Remove wilted beardtongue flowers without cutting off the entire stem to stimulate new flower growth.
  • In the evening, water the base of the beardtongue plant in case of prolonged dry spells or heat waves.
  • Mulching the base of the plant helps keep the soil cool and reduces the need to water.

In winter, no need to remove beardtongue leaves: they protect the plant from the cold. What is best is to cover the plant with a thick layer of dead leaves to protect it from freezing.

Beardtongue is hardy to temperatures as low as 23°F (-5°C) and even 5°F (-15°C), depending on the variety.

Learn more about beardtongue

Native to America, beardtongue is a beautiful perennial that bears long floral scapes with cute bell-shaped flowers. Often compared to foxglove, they are sometimes mistaken one for the other.

Also called penstemon, there are over 250 varieties of beardtongue with as many colors, shapes and sizes.

Dominant colors are red, violet and yellow, and Penstemon barbatus and Penstemon heterophyllus are most common. Many hybrids have been developed to this day.

They are easy to grow, require little care, and the result is guaranteed to make an impact with their spectacular flowers.

Smart tip about beardtongue

You can also cut a couple beardtongue flower stems and place them in a vase, they keep for a long time!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pink beardtongue by Nikki Wyatt ★ under Pixabay license
Blue beardtongue by Jan Haerer ★ under Pixabay license