Beardtongue is a beautiful perennial that blooms in summer with very ornamental flowers. Perfect for decorating 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
- Read also: Beardtongue, flowers all summer long
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.
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 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
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.
- Read also: Propagate your beardtongue through crown division
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!
I just bought 3 beardtongue plants from Home Depot, planted them in my yard. They are getting water but the leaves are wilting and drying out. We live in the Pacific Northwest but on the east side of the Cascades where it is more desert-like.
Don’t know what I did wrong but I do have a brown thumb and nothing ever grows for me, so my reputation is again intact! I removed the plants from the buckets, broke the root ball by separating the roots from the compacted soil. Planted them in the ground, watered with Miracle Grow. They get watered 3 to 4 times a week with the yard watering, but each has its individual spout and I checked to be sure that station is working.
That was 2 weeks ago, and now they are wilting and looking sad. Any suggestions?
Hmm, always a bit tough with plants purchased in generic stores: they’re not always perfectly suited to the place they’re sold in. Usually large franchises buy bulk and some products end up at the other end of the country.
I’d say your plants are showing signs of transplant shock, meaning they left the perfectly fine-tuned growing environment of their nursery to face off reality in your garden. It doesn’t have anything to do with you being a brown or a green thumb, don’t worry!
What you can do is add a layer of mulch around your plants: this will lock moisture in, whereas without mulch, soil might dry out quickly due to dry air and wind, even right after watering. Try watering in the evening instead of during the day.
You did good to break the clump up, it prevents roots from constricting each other out, but a downside of this in the short run is that damages roots, so the plant has to recover from that on top of the environmental change.
If you further suspect that the plant is drying out, one thing you can do for a few weeks or throughout the summer is to cover the plant with a thin shade veil (there are various grades available in stores, but a thin curtain works fine). This will help the plant cope against too much light and heat.
I would like to transplant my Prairie Dusk and Dark Tower Beardtongue. When is the best time to do this?
Hello Judy! Wow, those are real beauties! Spring is the best season to transplant beardtongues, once the weather has stopped freezing. Transplanting in fall or autumn is ok, too, just try to find the right time slot before it freezes but after giving leaves time to send nutrients down to the roots for winter storage. Take a look at our page on how to avoid transplant shock in perennials for extra guidance. Beardtongues are quite strong so you shouldn’t have any issues.
Do I just strip the dead flowers from the stem, not pruning the stem itself?
Beardtongues bloom from bottom to top: remove spent flowers from the lower part of the stem to send more sap to new buds forming higher up. When the whole stem has lost its flowers, cut it off near the bottom, and new flower stems will grow for you, Sylvia!
Cut it off at the bottom of the stem (ground level) or at the bottom of the flower section?
As near as ground level as you can without damaging leaves and such. From the plant’s point of view it’s best to simply let scape be, as when it dries out in fall nutrients are pulled back into the root system. But for this ornamental, and since it’s just a single flower stem, it’s ok to cut it back for the clump to still look nice.