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By: Garden Gate staff
Need a plant for that hot, dry spot? Also want hummingbirds? Choose a penstemon!


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Penstemon Penstemon hybrids

Need a plant for that hot, dry spot? Also want hummingbirds? Choose a penstemon! Although these plants have a reputation for being finicky, all they really need to thrive is well-drained soil. (Although some, like Red Rocks™ (USDA zones 5 to 9), at left, tolerate a little more moisture and humidity than others.)

To give them the sharp drainage they love, plant penstemons in rock gardens or raised beds, or work some gravel or coarse sand into their planting area. You’ll know the texture is right when you squeeze a handful of damp soil and it doesn’t stick together. They do like a little extra moisture in spring and as new plants just getting established. Water them deeply and infrequently to encourage the roots to grow deep. Fertilize sparingly or not at all, as too much fertilizer will make the stems weak and floppy. Follow these simple rules, and your penstemons will attract hummingbirds for months!

TYPE Perennial SIZE 4 to 72 in. tall and 10 to 36 in. wide BLOOM Red, pink, purple, yellow or orange flowers early to late summer LIGHT Full sun SOIL Moist, well-drained PESTS None serious HARDINESS Cold: USDA zones 3 to 10; Heat: AHS zones 10 to 1

Meet more than 150 other great plants for your garden in our new softcover book, Ultimate Flowers for Sun and Shade. Find out how at right!

Published: Feb. 10, 2009
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