Penstemon pinifolius

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Robert Pavlis

Penstemon pinifolius: photo by Robert Pavlis

Penstemon pinifolius is not your average penstemon. It’s leaves look more like a pine tree and the flowers are an orangey-red, which are produced in succession for most of the summer.  It is a great, mid-sized, rock garden plant that is a hummingbird magnet.

Penstemon pinifolius: photo by Robert Pavlis
Penstemon pinifolius: photo by Robert Pavlis

It is a North American native that is easy to grow in full sun and good drainage. P. pinifolius is also known as the pineleaf penstemon, pineneedle beardtongue and Arizona beardtongue. Beardtongue is the common name for all penstemons.

Penstemon pinifolius: photo by Robert Pavlis
Penstemon pinifolius: photo by Robert Pavlis

Some sources list a P. pinifolius ‘compactum’, which is reported to be scarlet red, but the height of this plant is the same as the species. One has to wonder is such a cultivar actually exists? A yellow form called ‘Mersea Yellow’ is also available.

Penstemon pinifolius: photo by Robert Pavlis
Penstemon pinifolius: photo by Robert Pavlis

The plant is evergreen but in my zone 5 garden it is only partially evergreen. Treat it like other subshrubs and cut it back once you see where the new growth is coming from.

Food Science for Gardeners, by Robert Pavlis

Penstemon pinifolius

(PEN-stem-on  pin-ee-FOH-lee-us)

Life Cycle: perennial subshrub

Height: 25 cm (10in)

Bloom Time: summer

Natural Range: Western North America

Habitat: upper elevations, on isolated rocky crags in pine and juniper forests

Synonyms: none

Cultivation of Penstemon pinifolius

Light: full sun

Soil: well drained, scree

Water: drought tolerant once established

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Propagation: seed, cuttings 

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

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