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Penstemon smallii

Phonetic Spelling
PEN-stem-on SMAL-ee-eye
Description

Small's beardtongue is an herbaceous perennial in the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) that is native to mountainous areas of the southeast USA. They can be found growing in rock outcrops, glades, barrens, bluffs, and rocky slopes. The specific epithet and common name was given in honor of John Kunkel Small (1869-1938)

This plant will grow to 3 feet tall when in bloom and gradually spread 1-2 feet wide. It prefers partial sun but also tolerates full sun. Well-drained acidic to neutral soil is preferred and it will not do well in wet sites. The rosette of leaves is often evergreen through winter and the tap root makes it drought-tolerant. It is short-lived (2-3 seasons) but reseeds close around. 

Purple stems bear rounded purple-veined leaves up to 6 inches long. Pink to purple tubular flowers with purple-striped, white throats appear in early summer.  They bloom for up to four weeks, much longer than other eastern penstemons, and may rebloom.

Use this plant in average well-drained soil in full sun to part shade and make sure it will not have wet feet, especially in the winter as root rot will occur. Use in a rock garden or native pollinator garden as a border plant or in small groups.  Don't give it too much fertilizer, as they tend to become leggy and prefer dry or rocky soils with low to moderate fertility. Small's beardtongue is easy to start from seeds.

This plant was selected as the 1984 NC Wildflower of the Year, a program managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden with some financial support from the Garden Club of North Carolina.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No significant problems. Will not tolerate heavy wet clay soils

 

 

More information on Penstemon.

See this plant in the following landscapes:
Dry Stream Bed Garden in Cabarrus County HOA Butterfly Garden in Brunswick County Pollinator Garden in Full Sun Pollinator Garden in Partial Shade West Side Foundation Planting in Cabarrus County
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbird friendly#showy flowers#NC native#native garden#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#larval host plant#food source summer#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#Audubon#NC Wildflower of the Year#perennial#herb garden#wildlife friendly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbird friendly#showy flowers#NC native#native garden#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#larval host plant#food source summer#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#Audubon#NC Wildflower of the Year#perennial#herb garden#wildlife friendly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Penstemon
    Species:
    smallii
    Family:
    Plantaginaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Wildlife Value:
    It is a host plant for the Common Buckeye butterfly.  Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to its blooms.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 4 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herb
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Wildflower
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Conical capsule with tiny black seeds. Fruit displays in summer to fall.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Numerous, tube-shaped, dark-pink, white-throated flowers that are borne on upright, branched stalks up to 2 1/2 ft. high. Differing from other eastern penstemons, the flowering branches extend down into the axils of the leafy stems, giving the plant a bushy look. Flowers bloom from May to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The shiny, opposite leaves have attractive, dark veins and clasping, heart-shaped bases. The basal rosette of leaves turns reddish-bronze in the winter. Basal leaves are larger and can reach up to 8 inches long and 3 inches wide. Stem leaves are smaller 2-6 inches long and 0.8 to 1 inch wide.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Green stems with a reddish blush
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Poor Soil