Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Beardtongue, Beard Tongue
Penstemon barbatus

Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Penstemon (PEN-stem-on) (Info)
Species: barbatus (bar-BAY-tus) (Info)

Synonym:Chelone barbata
Synonym:Penstemon barbatus subsp. barbatus

20 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings
From woody stem cuttings
From softwood cuttings
By simple layering

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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By Joy
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By Joy
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There are a total of 15 photos.
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5 positives
2 neutrals
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive gramajan On May 19, 2014, gramajan from Gresham, OR wrote:

My Elfin Pink is 4 years old, and blooms faithfully every spring, but...I want it to spread, and it doesn't. It also needs staked, or the tall gorgeous spikes are all over the ground. Does anybody have any trade secrets to help with either or both of these issues?

Positive Rupeee On Jul 18, 2010, Rupeee from Riverside, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Doing great in our 100 degree heat. Gets morning shade and 100 degree afternoon sun. Deadheaded and get twice as many blooms. Really pleased with this showy plant.

Neutral davidsl88 On Jun 14, 2010, davidsl88 from Worcester, MA wrote:

Kept mine in a pot outside for 2 seasons, over-wintered in the 3-season mudroom. Foliage grew, never bloomed. Got tired of moving the pot around so I stuck it in-ground, full-sun, last summer. Again, foliage grew, never bloomed. Covered it with 4" inches of mulch last fall (didn't feel like digging it up for the winter) and when it started peeking out this spring, I divided it and moved to another garden (mostly sun). It's blooming like crazy now - looking very healthy. New England winters are very tough on plants. I always mulched but still lost many, many 'hardy' perrenials. I think the extra mulch did the trick this time. I'm 'neutral' now, because it took 4 seasons to get this plant to bloom, but I'm looking forward to being 'positive' next season - when (if?) it comes back!

Negative AnnaTrap On Apr 25, 2008, AnnaTrap from Montague, NJ wrote:

I bought tons of penstemons from Lowes the past two summers. They're supposedly hardy perennials. They bloom like crazy in the summer but haven't made it through the NJ winters. Shame since this is one of my favorites.

Negative Malus2006 On Apr 7, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

I have tried one or two different cultivars of this species - they all sulk the first year, then die during the winter - not worth my time.

Positive Marvie On Jun 1, 2007, Marvie from Virginia Beach, VA wrote:

This plant was given to me as a pass along recently. I plopped some of it in the ground and some in a pot, they are all growing like crazy and blooming up a storm. Gorgeous and easy, considering I have next to no gardening experience.

Negative LarissaH On Jul 13, 2006, LarissaH from Denton, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

I had it planted in a part shade location (morning sun, afternoon dappled tree shade, a bit of late day sun), watered it every 5 days in the middle of a Texas summer, gave into the heat. All other plants are fine around it. Never bloomed or showed signs of growth.

Positive sterhill On May 30, 2005, sterhill from Atlanta, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Atlanta: I - like hugahosta - was ready to rip all mine out this year if they didn't bloom and - WOW! - they are all blooming now. I have great masses of them! I had bought one plant (summer 2002) and it grew, but no flowers. I cut it back in the winter and used the pieces to grow a whole lot more. They flourished and grew big and bold and last year I had ONE! flower. So I cut them back as they browned after the first bad frost. (We get a lot of 18-20 degree weather in the winter here and they were very frowsy looking). Last year I just let them sprawl throughout the winter, trying to see if cutting might be the problem.

Now I am still not sure if it was the cutting back or just the fact they are now 3 years old but they over 4' tall now, no staking.

I'll post a pix later today - they are beautiful! Masses of flowers!

Positive paste592 On May 29, 2005, paste592 from Westminster, MD (Zone 6b) wrote:

Positive and then some! What a simply gloriously rewarding plant! Quite easy care, just no worries with this sweetheart of a perennial. Well-shaped, erect and well-mannered, it looks good in and out of bloom. It's tolerant of all but the worst soil, doesn't pout if neglected, isn't pushy with its neighbors -- if I had a place for them, I'd make a "Penstemons-Only" bed!

Negative SalmonMe On Oct 23, 2004, SalmonMe from Springboro, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

I planted a penstemon in Virginia in the spring under the right soil/light conditions and it did not bloom all season. The foliage grew, but no flowers. Same thing next year -- then I ripped it out. Not sure what the problem was, but would atleast say the plant is not super "easy".

Neutral Baa On Aug 31, 2002, Baa wrote:

Tall, semi-evergreen perennial from Central and North America.

Has linear to lance shaped, mid to blue green leaves. Bears tubular, reddish flowers with a yellow beard on the lower lip.

Flowers June - September

Loves a well-drained, fertile soil in sun or light shade. Won't do well on soils that lie too wet over winter


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anchorage, Alaska
Tucson, Arizona
Yuma, Arizona
Glen Avon, California
Merced, California
Sacramento, California
Waterford, California
Newnan, Georgia
Downers Grove, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Greenville, Indiana
Westminster, Maryland
North Billerica, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
Farmington, New Mexico
Gresham, Oregon
Bulverde, Texas
Garland, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Spicewood, Texas
Virginia Beach, Virginia (2 reports)
Kalama, Washington
Puyallup, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
Washougal, Washington
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
Necedah, Wisconsin
Tomah, Wisconsin

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