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Smooth penstemon

Penstemon digitalis

Penstemon digitalis

Regular price $6.48 USD
Regular price Sale price $6.48 USD
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Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade

Soil moisture: Dry to medium

Height: 3-5'

Spread: 1.5-2'

Flowering period: June

The puffy white flowers of smooth penstemon usher in the growing season with a burst of fun and energy. Fine violet lines along the flower’s interior, known as nectar guides, are like neon signs pointing the way for bees to access the flower’s nectar. The dimensions of the flower favor smaller bees, but there is just enough room for certain bumblebees to squeeze inside, and the bumblebees will not be deterred! Indeed, observing the efforts of bees – sometimes agile, sometimes clumsy – to access floral rewards is one of the great diversions of gardening with smooth penstemon and other native plants.

Smooth penstemon flowers at a time (mid – late spring) when few other plants are blooming, making it especially useful for pollinators and also for the look of one’s garden. With its showy display and moderate height (3-4’) smooth penstemon is appropriate for both formal and naturalized settings. A robust but non-aggressive plant, it will spread via short rhizomes to form a hardy cluster but will not travel far and wide. To prevent additional spread from self-seeding, the spent flowers should be removed prior to seed development.

Native to NE Ohio meadows and woodland openings, smooth penstemon is adaptable to a variety of growing conditions. It will do well in either full sun or partial shade, and soils ranging from moderately wet to moderately dry. It has good drought tolerance and should be planted in a location where water does not frequently pool. It is generally deer and rabbit resistant, but may be occasionally browsed, especially early in the season when it is still small. In the fall, smooth penstemon’s foliage turns a handsome burgundy color. To complement smooth penstemon’s bloom, plant with sundrops and Ohio spiderwort.

References: 1,2,3,4,5,6.

Photos 1 and 3 by Ashley Keesling. Photo 2 by Julie Slater.

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