gardening, nature, vintage

Plant profile: Penstemon tenuis

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Lady Bird Johnson

Texas is well known, and rightly so, for their springtime display of wildflowers. From the highways to the back roads, the state seems to be awash in blue this time of year. But look a bit closer and one is apt to pick out other, lesser known, wildflowers. Pale pink primrose. Bright orange Indian paintbrush. Hot pink winecups. With more than 5,000 different varieties of wildflowers throughout the state, it would be hard for anyone to list their favorites or for any gardener to grow even a fraction of them. Still one wildflower is often overlooked, which is a shame because it certainly deserves a spot in any top ten or top twenty Texas wildflower list.

Penstemon tenuis, shown above, sports dainty lavender blossoms that dance in the spring breeze. It is highly adaptable to the cultivated garden, which is not the case with all wildflowers. It is equally at home in a cottage style garden as it is in a meadow. Isn’t it gorgeous with the apricot colored bearded irises in the background? I would love to take credit for that color combination, but I can’t. You see, after Penstemon tenuis is done blooming, I let the seedheads form and dry, then take the seeds and scatter them about. I never know where they might pop up the following year and I love it that way! (Photograph below: Dried seedheads of Penstemon tenuis in late summer, with garlic chive blossom.)

Yes. Sometimes the flower will sprout up in an odd place, such as directly under my native buttonbush, shown below. Thankfully they are great companions and neither one bothers the other. Penstemon tenuis grows best in partial to full sun, so will bloom and flourish just fine in this area of my melodious garden.

Other times, Penstemon tenuis pops up in just the perfect spot, such as in front of an antique plow, shown below. This gardener loves that whimsical side of Mother Nature.

Penstemon tenuis grows to about 2 1/2 feet tall and is airy enough that it can be grown along pathways or the front of formal garden beds. Typical bloom time is from April to June in North Texas. It is a good nectar source for bees and butterflies. Its native range is the Gulf Coast prairies and marshes from Texas to Mississippi and up to Arkansas. Penstemon tenuis is said to be a great cut flower, though I have not personally use it in arrangements.

While not widely available in the nursery trade, it can be found at garden centers that specialize in native plants and seeds can be acquired from fellow gardeners.

1 thought on “Plant profile: Penstemon tenuis”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s