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One of the joys of gardening in Colorado is discovering beautiful North American native plants that thrive in our challenging growing conditions.  A group of perennial flowers that are great for a low-water garden in our region are the Penstemons, also known as the Beardtongues.


Coming from the Snapdragon family of flowering plants, penstemons provide a multitude of tubular flowers on their inflorescence that rise up above their various leaves. There are over 200 species of Penstemons. Their habits range from low growing ground cover types to taller ones that work in mixed border plantings or as showy specimen plants.

Although penstemons are usually short lived, around 3-4 years, many are easy to propagate from seed. Usually the life of the plants can be extended if you don’t overwater and if you dead-head the flowers after blooming.

Two species that I’ve grown from seed and that are quite striking in the garden are Penstemon barbatus, aka Scarlet Bugler Beardtongue, and Penstemon strictus, aka Rocky Mountain Penstemon.  Penstemon barbatus has smaller gorgeous bright orange-red flowers, and Penstemon strictus has larger blue-purple colored flowers.

Definitely consider adding one of the beautiful and hardy penstemons to your water smart garden.

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