Penstemon 'Husker Red'

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Donna Mack mentioned Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red' on another forum. She said when Husker's Red crosses with the native, Penstemon digitalis, it picks up traits from Husker's Red. I found this an interesting comment.
My Penstemon are a little past prime flower period, but I took some photos anyway.

1. This is the "original' Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red'
2. This is one that came up from seed. Asclepias tuberosa is in the background. I need to move the Penstemon from this area.
3. Another Penstemon 'Husker's Red' that came up from seed.
4. Penstemon digitallis, native Bees were enjoying it when I took the pic.
5. Penstemon digitallis, native Just another shot. Chrysler Imperial Rose is in the background and a Asclepias tuberosa also. The Asclepias needs to be moved. (What was I thinking?)
Edited to add: sorry for the duplicate picture. I tried to remove it but I couldn't.

Anyway, I thought the comment about the cross pollination was interesting and duly noted.

This message was edited Jun 3, 2015 2:57 PM

Thumbnail by birder17 Thumbnail by birder17 Thumbnail by birder17 Thumbnail by birder17 Thumbnail by birder17
Natick, MA


I enjoyed seeing your photos. I have a husker red penstemon that was new to me last fall, so looking forward to watching it grow (and possibly bloom??) this year!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Birder, how cool.

This observation came from my mentor, the first Master Gardener in my county - going back 30 years. She's great. As we were clearing the Prairie Garden this year, we had a mix of the native and Husker Red. She had pointed this out to us last year, and frankly, having actually purchased this plant, I just love getting it for nothing. It is an amazing plant, because it will grow and flower with no water or care, and I used to tuck it between aggressive plants and it held its own.

I have it in several places in my new home, but check out, at my former home, the way it holds its own against some really pushy plants. I used to pit the pushies against each other and let them battle to a draw: here anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert', salvia verticillata 'White Rain', and bayberries, for goodness sake. It held its own.

Look at the second picture, for heaven's sake. Pushy bayberries on the ground. Pushy anemones. Taking up all the water and the space. The Husker Red just put on its boxing gloves and kept going. And looking great! I can dig it up, throw it in my car trunk for two or three days, and then plant and water it and it comes out swinging.

Every year I help cull more of these beauties. Bring 'em on!

Thumbnail by DonnaMack Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Just FYI. On the fourth picture, there's a Kousa dogwood that's been blooming for a month. The Penstemon digitalis and the Kousa has looked nice together.

Also, behind the Kousa, there's an Inkberry Shrub. I really like this shrub. It is naturally ball shaped. We don't prune it at all. It stays evergreen. It looks really nice in the winter when there's not much going on. I like the fact that it holds a nice shape and you don't have to prune it. It puts out a tiny white flower and then a black drupe. It's mature height is a little more than 5 feet. Lots of shrubs get too big.

Both of the Penstemons do their thing needing very little attention. There's a purple native that's suppose to be a nice size purple bloom. I have one this year, but it is small and won't bloom until next year. It's Penstemon cobeae.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I cheated , to you native and seed growers anonymous / that and I do not have the experience or skill of several of you here

A purchased Dark Towers Penstemon , Good vigorous plant ,,
Really nice Birder , oops , that is to say yours are , )) yours toojust above also donnamack

This message was edited Jun 3, 2015 10:37 PM

Thumbnail by juhur7 Thumbnail by juhur7
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

No, no juhur, I didn't grow it from seed, so please don't chastise yourself. I purchased my original plants at my former home, purchased a trio, and then got the motherlode of free ones. Your Dark Towers is gorgeous.

Ooooh, Birder, thank you for the inkberry. I had 14 bayberries at my former home and loved them, but they are too big for my current site. Your gorgeous inkberry is perfect!

I have some evergreen shrubs along the side of the house that were put in and not cared for. I have been fertilizing it and using Ironite and watering it and pruning the dead wood, and they are much happier. I have found that the more you dislike a plant the more love you should lavish on it. Then you will come to love it because it's so grateful.

My main evergreen effect (and it is cheerful) is the big PJM rhodie that has been there over 30 years. A remarkable plant. It even has the goof taste to be in my color family

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 7a)

This is penstemon 'Dark Towers.' Very dark leaves and pretty pink flowers but poorly coordinated with the hot bloom colors nearby. I got this from Santa Rosa a couple years ago and it just got huge.

Edit: Oops, the second pic is messed up but I can't edit it out.

Also forgot to add that I have another supposed 'Dark Towers' in the yard that has completely green leaves. It may have gotten crossed with another variety of penstemon.

This message was edited Jun 4, 2015 4:08 PM

Thumbnail by ssgardener Thumbnail by ssgardener
Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

ssgardener. Meant for background with hot colors , Yellow , white , red in front of it ,would shine

Beaver Falls, PA(Zone 6a)

I had received a small piece of Husker Red in a trade some years ago. This year, the plant is really coming into its own as it blooms. I commented to my husband how much I am enjoying seeing it bloom right now and wish it had a longer blooming season. The foliage is quite pretty though, especially next to all green foliage plants.

I also like that fact that it is standing straight up. I've had less hardy penstemon lay down and look messy, rather than keep a upright habit.


Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

For whatever reason they are particularly tall this year, in my garden and other gardens I have seen. The ones growing in the Prairie Garden I mentioned above get no added water or fertilizer, and they are incredible. I dug up three that were over a foot tall, put the in the trunk of my car, took a couple of days to plant them and they are doing wonderfully.

You probably know this, but if you deadhead them they will rebloom. Less spectacularly, but they will rebloom more than once.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I enjoy the Penstemon as they bloom a long time here and as the idea is to enjoy them , I got one right ! lol

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Yes, I really like Penstemon. They are easy to care for and yes, they bloom for a very long time.
I just cut some of my Penstemon digitalis back as they were putting out seed pods. They re-seed fairly readily, however, very easy to eliminate.
The Penstemon H. Red in my first pic was planted too close to Winterhur Viburnum and Brandywine Viburnum, and it was loosing the battle. It had a big "growth" (don't know the scientific name-maybe someone can enlighten me) on the side of its stem. I moved the Penstemon and put the "growth" that was on the side of the stem on loose soil and used a landscape staple. It produced another beautiful plant.
I really enjoy the H. R. throughout the year. It keeps its gorgeous deep red to burgundy color throughout the year. I find that a little amazing to not only keep its leaves but to keep the incredible red color throughout the year. Last winter was colder than usual. I lost two of my grafted roses--but Penstemon d. Husker's Red kept right on going.
I have some pics of just the leaves etc. somewhere I will post them.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Beautiful plants, birder17.
I don't know if this is absolutely correct or not, but it seems very likely that seeds from the selection 'Husker Red' would produce some variation, whether cross-pollinated with "normal" Penstemon digitalis or not. This variation would be the common situation for varieties/cultivars (not absolutely all - some seed true), and the reason why they're normally vegetatively propagated to preserve the chosen characteristics of the selection. When I look at Google Image photos of 'Husker Red', I see variation in flower colour from pink to white, and also foliage colour variations.
Here's a seed vendor that describes the expected colour variation when grown from seed:

... not that any of this matters. It's a fine plant and it obviously loves your place!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I remember a few years back when individuals purchased seed labeled 'Husker Red' and it didn't look like the original cultivar - it was much more green.That's why I bought them. Someone came to my house and offered me a bunch grown from seed, insisting it was the cultivar, but it was obvious that the color was weak.

The bees seem to have sampled the real deal at some point, since the ones in my garden are EXACTLY like the ones I purchased from reputable garden centers.

Beaver Falls, PA(Zone 6a)

I'm definitely going to dead head my Husker Red when the blooming is finished. I will post if and when I get rebloom this year.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

With a bit of water it should rebloom. Perhaps without. I water mine, but I have a client who never does and it reblooms after being deadheaded.

Beaver Falls, PA(Zone 6a)

We've had adequate rainfall here lately and the plant is well mulched. I don't remember ever dead heading it before but will this year to see if I can get some rebloom.

Anyone else besides DonnaMack get rebloom after dead heading?

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

mine rebloom ,last year one plant had seed stalks ,, it rebloomed anyway , only a few blooms

Beaver Falls, PA(Zone 6a)

I just checked to see if my memory was right and it was. Husker Red Penstemon was Perennial of the Year in 1996. I remember seeing a lot written about it them. Gardeners complained that it wasn't showy enough to win, and that most people grew it for the foliage color rather than the fleeting flowers.

I think that it should get some kudos for hardiness. And if you can get a little rebloom later, well, that's great too.

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