Penstemon barbatus

Penstemon barbatus

An outstanding member of the genus Penstemon  also commonly known as Beard tongues.  Penstemon barbatus commonly called Scarlet Bugler, is a beautiful plant flowering in summer with scarlet red flowers on tall stems to 90-100cm tall.  Stems can sometimes be shorter or taller as well.  There is also pink varieties available, yellow too.  The lower lip of the corolla is bent back sharply giving it a shark’s head silhouette, see below.


Barbatus means bearded and this is evident on the palate which is densely yellow bearded.  See below.


Basal leaves are glossy, 5-13cm long and mostly lanceolate or they can be ovate or spatulate.  Edges can be wavy or smooth.  The cauline leaves(on the stem) are linear to lanceolate and stemless.  The plant has a woody base with glossy leaves arranged in large basal mats.  I have one that’s about 50cm wide.


See above basal leaves and below a close up.


Below are the cauline leaves


Not normally a long-lived plant usually 5-10 years, longevity can be increased by deadheading.  Commonly pollinated by humming birds in its native habit although bee’s will pollinate as well.  I have found this Penstemon easily grown from stem cuttings.


Notice above how the stems rise majestically above the foliage, and below is a closeup of the flowering stem.


Native to Colorado to Arizona, Western Texas, New Mexico, Northern Mexico and South Utah, growing on dry hillsides and flats in sagebrush, pinyon and juniper, ponderosa and gambel pine communities.  Seen at altitudes of between 1300-2700m.  Will grow in a variety of soils but needs excellent drainage in area’s of high rainfall.  Drought and frost tolerant, best in full sun but will tolerate part shade as well.


An excellent Penstemon to grow in any garden situation for a flush of bright red flowers to brighten your day.




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