FACT SHEET: Palmer Penstemon

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Common Name: Palmer Penstemon
Other Common Names: Palmer Beardtongue, Wild Snapdragon
Scientific Name: Penstemon palmeri
Family: Snapdragon Family (Scrophulariaceae)
Distribution: common and widely distributed in the Southwest
Habitat: desert and foothill habitats
Habit: perennial herb
Height: 2-4'
Spread: 2-3'
Foliage Color: pale waxy green
Leaves: opposite, thick, clasping around the stem, coarsely toothed
Flower Color: pale to bright pink
Flower Form: large (1" long), snapdragonlike flowers borne along tall stems
Flowering Season: early to midsummer

Cultural Requirements: Requires full sun and well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Very drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), and very intolerant of overwatering.

Culture: Easily obtained from direct late fall seeding. Seeds are largely nondormant, but are tiny and most require light to germinate. Plants produced as container stock and planted out in spring grow quickly but do not flower until the second year. If not overwatered or overfertilized, plants may live for ten years or more.

Uses and Notes of Interest: This very handsome flower is stunning in borders or as a specimen plant. The fragrant flowers attract bumblebees and other large native bees. Like most of the penstemons, this plant is prone to vascular wilt diseases in cultivation, and it is not uncommon to lose plants in full flower in a period of a few weeks. The best protection is a coarse, well-drained, infertile soil that has never been planted to crops. The seeds are produced in capsules that are held erect along the stems and may be collected when the capsules turn brown and begin to split open at the tips.