A genus of attractive perennials, largely for
the herbaceous border, natives of North America.
Penstemon barbatus (syn. Chelone barbata) has
numerous rosy-red tubular flowers, one inch long,
each with a beard on the lower liPenstemon
Its form var. torreyi is more robust in habit
and does not possess the characteristic beard;
there is also a white form.
Penstemon campanulatus has a free-branching habit,
with one-sided racemes of rose-pink flowers.
Penstemon hirsutus has drooping flowers of dull
purple or violet.
Penstemon ovatus will reach two to three feet
with flowers, about three-quarters of an inch
long, of bright blue fading to purple.
Penstemon antirrhinoides, one to three feet, lemon-yellow
Penstemon confertus, one foot, purple and blue
Penstemon glaber, one to two feet, purple, are
all worth growing.
Penstemon hartwegii, usually grown as a biennial,
has large tubular flowers of a bright scarlet.
Sunny position and a well-drained rich loam, containing
plenty of humus, are the essentials.
Propagate from cuttings or seed.
The flowering season is in summer and autumn.
Hardy and Half Hardy Perennial.
Two to three feet.
Flowers of many colours, June to November.
Of the strictly herbaceous and perennial Pentstemons
the best are Jaffrayanus, eighteen inches high,
flowers blue; and ovatus, three feet, purple blue.
Chelone barbata is often called a Pentstemon,
and it is very closely allied to the family (see
The perennial Pentstemons form spikes of tubular
bells, on the modal of a Foxglove
spire; they require good rich loam, and sufficient
moisture; and they may be raised wither from seed
The hybrid Pentstemons are a much more numerous
and showy tribe; for grace of growth and contrast
of colour they are hard to beat among the tube-shaped
Their only defect is that they are not strictly
A severe winter, particularly where the soil is
wet, will sometimes wipe out a whole collection;
and when this does not happen, the plants deteriorate
and die out in the course of a few years, those
with the finest flowers being unfortunately the
first to disappear.
To keep up a good stock of plants there must be
annual replenishing, either by buying new plants,
making cuttings from the old, or sowing seed.
The hybrid Pentstemon forms a branching upright
bush, as much as a yard high, the shoots ending
in spikes of tube-shaped flowers with an extending
lip, something like a Foxglove.
The colours comprise pure white, cream or pale
sulphur, many shades of pink and rose, crimson,
violet, “salmon”, plum-colour and
In some flowers the whole tube is of one colour,
but as a rule the lip and crest are coloured,
and the throat is white, either pure, or veined
with another tint.
The fibre of the plant is rather brittle, and
in exposed places support may be required.
The finest strain of Pentstemons has been raised
in France quite recently; its flowers are of very
rich colouring, and half as large again as those
of the older varieties.
In beginning a collection, plants should be ordered
of a good house in April.
As a rule, the best specimens of Pentstemons seem
to come from Scotland.
The beginner may pick out named sorts at his fancy
from the grower’s catalogue, or may order
so may dozens or hundreds to be selected by the
When received, the plants must be put out in good,
well-dug soil; poor ground should have a good
dose of rotten manure and leaf-mould dug in. the
plants may be dotted about in mixed borders; but
they look best together in beds, put out about
a foot or fifteen inches apart every way.
By the end of the season they ought to be a yard
high, and proportionate in diameter; they will
keep their leaves through the winter, unless the
frost is exceptionally severe, and should not
be cut down until March of the following year.
By that time, some of the old wood will have died
back, and the whole growth must be cleared away
with a sharp knife, just above the new shoots
which will be visible at the base.
Strong growers will continue thus for four or
five years; but ultimately the root-stock becomes
enfeebled and partially decayed, and the plant
must be cleared away before it becomes unsightly.
Cuttings should be made from well-ripened side
shoots which spring from the base of the pant;
the end of August and September is the time.
The pieces chosen should be about four inches
long, and must be cut square across just below
a joint with a sharp knife; dibble them without
loss of time in soil which has plenty of silver
or “sharp” sand mixed with it.
The best bed for the cuttings is under a light
or frame, where they can be kept fairly moist
and shaded from sun and drying winds, and can
be protected during the winter from hard frost.
By March they should be nicely rooted, and ready
to put out, but they are decidedly uncertain in
their behaviour; unfortunately the choicest sorts
seem always the most difficult to strike, and
in a moist and cool summer which fails properly
to ripen the wood of the plants, only a small
percentage will succeed.
By raising yearly from seed abundance of fine
flowers may be obtained a little late in the season;
plants raised thus are the picture of vigour and
By sowing on mild heat in pans or boxes of sandy
soil at the end of February, pricking out when
needful, and growing on with the routine of half-hardy
perennials, a most enviable show may be obtained
by the end of August.
Seed may also be sown in a cool frame or greenhouse
in May; the seedlings, which will not be strong
enough to flower effectually the first summer,
should be put separately into small pots, or planted
under the lights of a frame, where they may stand
the winter, and be ready for planting out in April.