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Common Name: Wasatch Penstemon
Scientific Name: Penstemon cyananthus
Family: Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae)
Distribution: Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah and surrounding area
Habitat: wide range of habitats, from sagebrush-grassland to alpine tundra
Habit: perennial herb
Foliage Color: bright green
Leaves: lance-shaped to oval, pointed at the end, not toothed, to 4" long, opposite, both basal and along the stem
Flower Color: deep sky blue
Flower Form: flowers snapdragonlike, borne in terminal spikes
Cultural Requirements: Prefers full sun and well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front) but somewhat tolerant of overwatering.
Culture: Wasatch penstemon seeds are dormant at maturity, require 10-16 weeks of moist chilling to become germinable, and germinate in chilling. The germinated seeds should be planted in elongate containers, as penstemon roots like to grow down at first, not out. Plants require two years to flower. This species may be successfully direct-seeded in late fall for spring emergence.
Uses and Notes of Interest: Wasatch penstemon is the familiar blue penstemon of the foothills of the Wasatch Front. It is a very memorable blue, with flowers densely massed along the flowering stalks for a decidedly showy effect. The relatively thin, bright green leaves are different from the leathery leaves of many other penstemons. Wasatch penstemon is the earliest-flowering of the tall blue penstemons in our garden, in full bloom by the end of May. It tolerates competition better than most penstemons, and can be a very successful component of foothill wildflower meadows. This species, as most penstemons, will volunteer freely from seed if you give it a chance. Clipping the flowering stalks while still very green can also prolong the life of the plant. To collect seed, wait until the stalks dry out, and tip the seeds from the open capsules into a paper bag. In some years, insects destroy most of the seed crop.