21 Beautiful Penstemon Varieties for Your Garden

Known for their hardy nature and stunning flowers, penstemon plants are beloved North American natives. Join gardener Briana Yablonski as she introduces 21 beautiful penstemon varieties you can plant at home.

A cluster of vibrant purple penstemon flowers, illuminated by the warm sunlight, creates a striking display against the lush green foliage. In the blurred background, the soft focus on verdant leaves provides a harmonious backdrop.

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When it comes time to plant a flower garden or landscape the bare spot in front of your home, I recommend including at least a few low-maintenance native plants. And while you can choose between thousands of species, I encourage you to push penstemon plants to the top of your list.

These hardy perennials can tolerate drought and neglect, but their colorful, delicate flowers make it look like you’ve spent months babying them. They also bloom over multiple months and come in various heights and colors.

Since there are hundreds of species and even more varieties, it can be difficult to determine which ones to plant. I’ll introduce you to 21 of my favorites so you can narrow down your options.

1. Appalachian Beardtongue

A close-up of an Appalachian Beardtongue plant showcasing its lavender tubular flowers. The intricate details of the petals stand out against the blurred backdrop of lush greenery. A flying insect delicately alights on one of the blossoms.
This plant thrives best in part shade environments like forest edges.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon canescens
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 16-30”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Also known as eastern gray penstemon, this plant originated in the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Midwest. It’s a delicate-looking species with thin stems rising to support multiple broad, tubular flowers. The flowers range from white to light pink to purple, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.

This species prefers partial shade over full sun, so it excels in forest edges and on the north or east sides of houses. You can also place it on the north edge of larger native wildflowers and shrubs like azaleas and salvia.

2. Brazos

A vivid close-up captures the intricate beauty of purple Brazos Penstemon flowers, their delicate petals bathed in sunlight, showcasing nature's artistry. The deep green leaves complement the blossoms, adding lushness to the composition.
Due to its moisture tolerance, Gulf Coast penstemon is ideal for planting in wet areas.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon tenuis
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 20-24”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Also known as the Gulf Coast or sharp sepal penstemon, this species calls the coasts and riverbanks of the Gulf Coast home. While most penstemon plants require well-draining soil to thrive, this type can tolerate moist and poorly-draining conditions. Therefore, it’s the best penstemon to plant in wet areas.

Brazos sends up thin stems coated with oppositely arranged, deep green lanceolate leaves. The tops of the stems produce clusters of purple bell-shaped flowers. These flowers bloom from spring through early summer and attract hummingbirds.

3. Broadleaf

Blue broadleaf penstemon blooms gracefully cascade downward, their delicate petals forming a gentle curve. The blurred backdrop reveals a verdant tapestry of lush green foliage, enhancing the striking contrast and beauty of the flowers.
The broadleaf penstemon thrives in shady Pacific Northwest areas, tolerating moist soils well.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon ovatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 20-24”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Native to shady areas in the Pacific Northwest, the broadleaf penstemon can tolerate moist soils better than many other species. This is an excellent choice if you wish to plant a penstemon in a moist forest edge or garden. Even though it’s native to the PNW, Southeast United States gardeners have also grown it successfully.

The flowers look similar to lungwort blooms but are slightly more elongated. The blooms emerge in the spring as dark periwinkle flowers and fade to purple and light pink as the season progresses. You can expect the flowers to stick around for four to six weeks.

4. Eastern Smooth Beardtongue

Small, delicate white Eastern Smooth Beardtongue flowers bloom on slender, deep purple stems, contrasting beautifully against their surroundings. The blurred backdrop reveals lush foliage and a mix of vibrant yellow and purple flowers, creating a harmonious natural tapestry.
Native to the eastern United States, this penstemon thrives in moist environments.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon laevigatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 24-36”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-8

Also known as smooth beardtongue or eastern beardtongue, this penstemon is native to much of the eastern United States. Since it’s native to moist forests and meadows, it can tolerate wetter soils than many other species. It’s happy in mixed plantings with other plants that like moderate moisture.

The plants produce deep green, lanceolate leaves throughout the spring and fall. Light pink or purple tubular flowers appear in the late spring and remain until midsummer. The flowers have a pronounced line of yellow hairs down the middle, fitting the common name beardtongue.

5. Firecracker

A slender branch of the firecracker penstemon plant in close-up, featuring delicate, tubular red flowers. The blooms hang gracefully along the stem, contrasting beautifully against the blurred, soft-toned background.
Plant firecracker penstemon seeds in late fall or early winter to allow them exposure to cold temperatures.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon eatonii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 24-36”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Boom! The firecracker penstemon explodes from the garden with bright red flowers that shoot out from tall stems. These skinny, tubular blooms provide a stunning addition to the muted green colors of desert plants like sagebrush, cacti, and agave.

Firecracker penstemon is native to the southwest United States, where it sends a burst of red out from mesas, open fields, and rocky cliffs. Since it grows in this harsh environment, it can tolerate hot summers and cold winters. Just make sure to avoid planting it in an area with moist soil.

Directly sowing the seeds in the late fall or early winter allows them the cold exposure they need to germinate. When the seedlings emerge the following spring, you can thin them to your desired spacing or transplant them to new areas.

6. Foothill

Clusters of blue foothill penstemon blossoms adorn a healthy, green stem, blooming with vitality. In the backdrop, a soft blur hints at another penstemon plant, echoing nature's beauty in a subtle, harmonious dance of colors and life.
A tall species, foothill penstemon features tubular blue, pink, and purple flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon heterophyllus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 36-60”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

One of the taller species, the foothill penstemon makes a great addition to mixed perennial plantings and serves as an excellent backdrop for shorter plants. The green leaves remain under three feet tall, but the plant’s slender flower stalks can rise to five feet. Tubular flowers cover the stalk and appear in shades of blue, pink, and purple.

Foothill is native to California, where it grows in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It will thrive in environments that resemble its native range, including well-draining meadows and forest edges.

7. Murray’s Scarlet

In a cluster, several petite scarlet penstemon flowers bloom, their vivid red hue standing out against the foliage. The foliage, with its rich, verdant hues, serves as a natural frame, accentuating the vivid beauty of the crimson flowers.
This stands out with its unique, rounded leaves compared to other penstemon species.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon murrayanus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 60-72”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

While many species have oppositely arranged thin, lanceolate leaves, Murray’s Scarlet shakes things up. This species has large, rounded leaves with stems running through their centers. The stems are also thicker than those of most other species.

Murray’s Scarlet originated in southern states, including Louisiana and Arkansas. When planted in these warm climates, it often remains evergreen. You can also grow it in areas with colder winters, but expect the plants to die back in the fall and regrow the following spring.

No matter where you live, plant this penstemon in an area with excellent drainage and low organic matter. It will produce gorgeous trumpet-shaped flowers that flare out on the ends if it’s in a suitable environment.

8. New Mexico

Clustered together, numerous purple New Mexico penstemon flowers bloom vibrantly, basking in the warm sunlight. Their slender stems sway gently in the breeze, adorned with lance-shaped leaves that shimmer with a glossy texture.
Native to New Mexico, this penstemon species thrives in harsh high desert environments.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon neomexicanus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 18-24”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

As its name suggests, this species is native to New Mexico. Although its native range is small, it’s well suited to survive the harsh environments found in high deserts. If you’re growing it at home, consider planting it in rock gardens or rocky soil.

The New Mexico penstemon sends out deep purple flowers throughout the summer. The tubular flowers are popular with hummingbirds, so watch for these tiny winged critters!

9. ‘Boysenberry Taffy’

Purple penstemon 'boysenberry taffy' flowers reveal delicate tubular blooms. The slender stems showcase the graceful elegance of these blossoms. In the backdrop, blurred ovate leaves provide a lush green canvas, enhancing the visual allure of the penstemon.
Growing ’Boysenberry Taffy’ in colder regions is possible with winter protection.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon ’Boysenberry Taffy’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 24-36”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

Gardeners love this hybrid due to its long-blooming and simply stunning flowers. The plants bloom in early summer, churning out eye-catching flowers into mid to late fall. Deep magenta flowers are tubular, and their wide openings allow even the fattest bumblebees to enter and collect pollen. Plus, they’re popular with hummingbirds, butterflies, and wasps.

‘Boysenberry Taffy’ is best suited to warmer regions since it has difficulty surviving winter temperatures below 0°F. However, you can grow it in colder regions as an annual or use frost cloth and/or mulch to protect it during the winter.

10.‘Husker Red’

A close-up reveals the delicate lavender and tubular flowers of Penstemon 'Husker Red,' their intricate petals basking in the warm sunlight, accentuated by the deep, regal purple stems that elegantly support them.
This variety is known for its maroon stems and green leaves.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 28-36”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

While you may think ‘Husker Red’ produces crimson flowers, the cultivar name refers to the plants’ deep maroon stems. These stems display lanceolate leaves that appear dark green with hints of burgundy. The combination of red stems and green leaves is reason enough to add this plant to your garden, but the white flowers push the plant to another level.

Like most types, ‘Husker Red’ features open, tubular flowers. However, this variety’s flowers are larger than others, making them a popular filler for cut flower arrangements.

‘Husker Red’ was first bred by Dale Lindgren at the University of Nebraska. He chose the cultivar’s name to give an ode to the university’s mascot, the Cornhusker. Soon after its introduction, the plant won the Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year award in 1996. Since then, it’s remained a popular addition to gardens nationwide.

11. ‘Bredon’

A close-up showcasing purple-hued Penstemon 'Bredon' flowers and buds. The delicate petals stand out against a blurred backdrop, revealing long, slender stems and occasional hints of pink and yellow blooms.
These don’t produce consistent seeds but can be propagated through division.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon ‘Bredon’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 24-36”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

This hybrid was first bred at Pershore College in England. It produces stunning large pink flowers with deep pink and white throats that guide pollinators to their nectar. Since ‘Bredon’ blooms from mid-summer to mid-fall, you can watch pollinators flock to the plants over multiple months. While deadheading spent blooms isn’t necessary, it will encourage the plants to produce new flowers.

Since this is a hybrid variety, seeds won’t breed true. However, you can propagate ‘Bredon’ plants by either division or vegetative cuttings. Divide mature plants in the late winter or early spring and root vegetative cuttings in the spring through fall.

12. ‘Dazzler Blend’

In this close-up, Penstemon 'Dazzler Blend' flowers steal the spotlight with their striking hue of purple. Their slender stems hold clusters of these tubular blossoms, creating a striking contrast against the blurred backdrop of more blooms.
A compact dwarf penstemon, this tubular-flowering plant adds charm to small gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon barbartus ‘Dazzler Blend’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This dwarf variety remains about a foot tall, making it a great addition to small gardens and the front of mixed plantings. The plants produce tubular flowers in the spring and summer so that you can enjoy the blooms for multiple months. Flowers range in color from pink to purple to blue.

‘Dazzler Blend’ plants can tolerate moderate drought but thrive in soils with average moisture. And since they require little maintenance, they’re a great option for even the laziest gardeners.

13. ‘Electric Blue’

Penstemon 'Electric Blue' showcases delicate, azure blossoms atop its elegant, elongated stalks. The soft blur in the background frames the setting with hints of greenery and foliage on the ground.
Plant ‘Electric Blue’ penstemon in well-draining, nutrient-poor soil to prevent tender growth.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Electric Blue’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 12-18”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

A specific cultivar of the foothills penstemon, ‘Electric Blue’ is a short plant with bright blue flowers. It blooms in the late spring for a few weeks and keeps its green foliage throughout the warmer months.

To keep this plant happy, plant it in well-draining, nutrient-poor soil. Not only will this help keep the plants from developing tender growth, but it will also increase the lifespan of individual plants. To propagate new plants, duplicate the plants by stem cuttings or division.

14. ‘Dakota Burgundy’

A close-up of pink penstemon 'Dakota Burgundy' blooms catching golden sunlight, showcasing delicate petals. In the background, a soft blur of lush green foliage provides a serene contrast, enhancing the focal flowers' vividness.
This species boasts deep purple foliage persisting from spring to frost.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon digitalis ‘Dakota Burgundy’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 20-24”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

‘Dakota Burgundy’ stands out in the garden with deep purple foliage that emerges in the spring and remains through the first frost. And the plant becomes even more beautiful when it sends up stalks covered with light pink and purple flowers.

Like most types, ‘Dakota Burgundy’ prefers rocky and well-draining soil over rich and moist soil. Try placing it in a drier section of your garden or add it to containers filled with well-draining soil. Its dark foliage provides a nice contrast to plants with green leaves, including other types of penstemon.

15. Pineleaf

Orange pineleaf penstemon blossoms, elongated and tubular, soak up the sunlight's warmth. Delicate stems gracefully support these blossoms, gently swaying with the rhythm of the breeze, adding a sense of fluidity to their elegant display.
Pineleaf penstemon produces vibrant tubular red flowers in late spring or early summer.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon pinifolius
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 10-15”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

The pineleaf penstemon is native to southern Arizona and New Mexico, growing in dry and often harsh landscapes. As its name suggests, its small, narrow leaves resemble pine needles. Despite this resemblance, this deciduous plant loses its leaves in the winter.

Sometime in the late spring or early summer, the plant sends up stunning tubular, red flowers. These flowers continue blooming for at least a month and attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.

Since it’s so drought-tolerant and hardy, it grows great in sandy soil and rock gardens. Try planting it with other perennials like salvia and blackfoot daisy.

16. Red Rocks®

A close-up captures a bee delicately gathering nectar from Red Rocks® penstemon flowers. The purple blooms reveal a pristine white interior within their tubular design. The background is a blur of these captivating flowers intermingled with lush greenery.
A vibrant hybrid, Red Rocks® blooms from late spring to mid-summer.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon x mexicali ‘P008S’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12-24”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

If you want a bright and vibrant penstemon, check out Red Rocks®. This hybrid variety produces bright pink tubular flowers with wide mouths and large lips. The plants continue pumping out new flowers from late spring to mid-summer, adding beauty to your garden and attracting hummingbirds.

Like most penstemon types, these plants don’t tolerate wet or poorly-draining soil. However, they can handle moderate drought and thrive in poor, rocky soil.

17. Rocky Mountain  

Sprouting from slender green stalks, rich purple Rocky Mountain penstemon flowers showcase their beauty. The backdrop reveals a prominent rock and blurred trees, emphasizing the floral display's striking contrast and serene, natural setting.
This Rocky Mountain penstemon thrives in harsh conditions and bears tall, blue-purple flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon strictus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 30-36”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

You guessed it—this penstemon is native to high-elevation areas in the Rocky Mountains. It can tolerate heat, drought, and cold, making it an extremely hardy plant.

Plants send up tall flower stalks covered with deep blue or purple flowers. The flowers bloom for at least a month during the spring and summer, and they also make excellent additions to garden bouquets.

Depending on your goals, these plants readily self-seed, which can be either a pro or con. To keep your garden from becoming filled with Rocky Mountain penstemon, cut back the flower stalks shortly after they fade. You can also collect and sow the seeds in other areas or share them with friends.

18. Scarlet Bugler

Scarlet bugler blossoms with deep purple stems in close-up, basking in sunlight. The red hue pops against the contrasting dark stems, capturing attention. These elongated, tubular flowers create a stunning display of crimson amidst nature's canvas.
Akin to other penstemons, scarlet bugler thrives in well-draining, nutrient-poor soil.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon centranthifolius
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 24-48”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

While these plants don’t produce audible melodies, their bright red flowers attract attention with their beautiful, slender form. The scarlet bugler’s trumpet-shaped flowers are some of the longest and thinnest in the genus and are a lovely complement to round flowers like coreopsis and rudbeckia. They’re also hummingbird magnets.

This plant is native to California and blooms from late winter to mid-summer. The climate impacts the exact bloom period, but you can expect the plants to flower for multiple months if you live in a suitable hardiness zone.

Like most penstemon, the scarlet bugler liked well-draining soil and prefers nutrient-poor soil to rich soil. It can tolerate summer drought, but water it a few times a month to obtain healthier blooms.

19. Showy

Purple showy penstemon blossoms with intricate details against a soft, blurred brown background. The sunlight kisses the flowers, illuminating their rich hues and highlighting the delicate green leaves and striking purple stems.
This plant’s foliage hosts butterflies and moths like the variable checkerspot and common buckeye.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon spectabilis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 24-48”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

The showy penstemon is native to southern California and parts of Mexico, making it less cold-tolerant than other species. However, it can handle heat better and can also survive moderate drought.

As far as looks go, the common name rings true. The plants send up tall flower stalks covered with vibrant tubular flowers. The lips of the flowers are deep purple, and the throats fade from bright pink to white. When you look at the flowers, they almost appear ombre.

The flowers attract hummingbirds, and the foliage serves as host plants for butterflies and moths, including the variable checkerspot, common buckeye, and snowberry checkerspot.

20. Small’s

A close-up reveals Small's penstemon flower buds and stems in a vivid purple hue contrasted against a softly blurred green background. The fuzzy texture of the stems and buds creates a visually appealing contrast within the botanical composition.
Often mistaken for a dwarf species, the Small’s penstemon grows up to 3 feet tall.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon smallii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 24-36”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

It’s easy to think this is a dwarf penstemon, but the common name references the botanist John Kunkel Small. Small’s penstemon actually grows up to three feet tall, making it a welcome addition to mixed wildflower gardens and meadows.

The plants feature brilliant, deep purple stems covered with finely-toothed, deep green leaves that grow up to six inches long. Flower stalks appear in the early summer and are topped with pink and purple flowers. These flowers typically bloom for about a month.

Small’s penstemon is native to the southeast United States but can also thrive in other areas of the country. Just provide it with well-draining soil and at least six hours of daily sun.

21. Tushar Bluemat

In a radiant display, vibrant purple Tushar Bluemat Penstemon flowers stand tall upon verdant leaves, illuminated by the gentle embrace of sunlight. Nestled amidst these blossoms, a rocky terrain creates a picturesque contrast.
This variety thrives in rock gardens due to its adaptation to high elevations and rocky terrain.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon xylus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-6”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

I think the Tushar bluemat penstemon is simply adorable. While most penstemon plants send up tall, slender stems covered with leaves and flowers, this variety grows more like a groundcover. The compact stems are covered with tightly spaced, blue-green leaves, and the flower stalks remain at the same level as the leaves.

The pink to purple flowers have the same tubular shape as other penstemon plants but are smaller than the blooms found on other species. The flowers appear in the late spring and continue to bloom into the middle of summer.

Since the plant is used to growing in high elevations and rocky areas like the Tushar mountains in Utah, it grows well in exposed rock gardens. You can plant single plants or group plants to form a ground cover.

Final Thoughts

With so many beautiful penstemon varieties available, one of the hardest parts is deciding which ones to grow! I recommend choosing a variety native to your area so you can enjoy beautiful flowers with little to no maintenance.

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