Penstemon

There is a northwest native Penstemon for every garden.

The majority of the fifty or so species of Penstemon that are native to the Pacific Northwest are alpine or otherwise high-altitude dwellers; they can be found in open areas and rocky outcroppings in the high Cascades, along the Columbia River Gorge, in the vicinity of the Wallowa mountains in the northeast and the Siskiyous in the southwest…

So what does that mean for us here in the soggy Willamette Valley? Rock gardens, troughs and other containers - all these beauties need is plenty of sun and sharp drainage, and they will produce their stunning tubular flowers in colors from white through pinks and blues to lavender and purple over a long period of time and bring butterflies and hummingbirds into your garden.

Penstemon And there are a couple species of Penstemon that reside on the western slope of the Cascades and do just fine in the ground here on the valley floor, given sun and drainage (more on that in a minute). See? There is no reason to not have a Penstemon of your own!

The name Penstemon comes from a slightly skewed translation from the Greek “Penta” five – in reference to the fifth, infertile and often bearded stamen that often protrudes out from the tubular, lipped flower that gives it its common name “Beardtongue”).

Whether mat forming or a more upright, woody shrub, the horizontal, tubular flowers are abundant and jewel-like; the leaves vary from small and round, almost succulent in nature to a toothed and leathery dark green. They are the same but different; once you get your first Penstemon, you may find yourself becoming a collector! They are arguably one of our most beautiful natives.

A sampling of Native Penstemon

Cascade Penstemon (16834107040)

Penstemon serrulatus: Cascade penstemon

This is the Penstemon found west of the Cascades, more tolerant of moist conditions, and which grows successfully in the Willamette Valley. It is a small, woody shrub usually not rising above 2’, with clusters of small bright purple/lavender/blue flowers. Is considered drought-tolerant, but does better with regular water.

Penstemon subserratus

Penstemon ovatus: Broad-leaved penstemon

Blue to purple flowers rise 12-40” above a basal rosette of leaves in late spring/early summer. Found in Multnomah county north to British Columbia, it grows in damp sites along forest edges. This one does well at the coast! Photo credit American Penstemon Society.

Penstemon davidsonii: David’s penstemon, Creeping penstemon

Penstemon davidsonii: David’s penstemon, Creeping penstemon

Named for George Davidson, an early plant collector, this diminutive native gets no taller than 6” and is found in rocky outcroppings in the Coast range, Cascade and Steens mountains. Tiny, round leathery evergreen leaves topped with blue to purple flowers in summer.

Penstemon subserratus

Penstemon subserratus: Fine-toothed penstemon

12-32” tall, herbaceous, with blue flowers from late spring to early summer. Can be found in clearings on Mt. Hood. Photo credit American Penstemon Society.

Penstemon rupicola (1)

Penstemon rupicola Rock Penstemon

Shrubby, evergreen, prostrate in habit, with leathery blue-green leaves and flowers generally bright pink. From the Columbia Gorge into the mountains on both sides of the Cascades. Also on Larch Mountain.

Find Natives for your garden

We offer a great selection of Northwest Natives from spring through fall. The plants featured are highlighted favorites, but they do not represent ALL of the plants we carry. For a more complete list, see our Northwest Native Plant List.

Natives

Abies: Native Fir

Natives

Acer Circinatum: Vine Maple

Natives

Actaea: Bugbane

Natives

Aquilegia: Columbine

Natives

Arbutus: Pacific Madrone

Natives

Asarum: Wild Ginger

Natives

Asclepias: Milkweed

Natives

Attracting Butterflies

Natives

Camassia: Camas

Natives

Ceanothus: Wild Lilac

Natives

Cornus sericea

Red Twig Dogwood
Natives

Corylus cornuta

Beaked Hazelnut
Natives

Dodecatheon: Shooting Star

Natives

Edible Fruits

Natives

Erigeron: Fleabane

Natives

Eriophyllum: Oregon Sunshine

Natives

Native Ferns

Natives

Fragaria: Wild Strawberry

Natives

Gaultheria shallon: Salal

Natives

Holodiscus: Oceanspray

Natives

Attracting Hummingbirds

Natives

Native Iris

Natives

Lewisia: Bitterroot

Natives

Mahonia: Oregon Grape

Natives

Malus fusca

Western Crabapple
Natives

Osmaronia: Indian Plum

Natives

Penstemon: Beard Tongue

Natives

Philadelphus: Mock Orange

Natives

Physocarpus

Western Ninebark
Natives

Pinus: Native Pine

Natives

Quercus: Garry Oak

Natives

Rhamnus: Cascara

Natives

Ribes: Wild Currant

Natives

Rosa: Wild Rose

Natives

Rubus: Salmonberry

Natives

Sambucus: Elderberry

Natives

Sedum: Stonecrop

Natives

Sidalcea: Checker Mallow

Natives

Sisyrinchium

Blue-eyed Grass
Natives

Solidago: Goldenrod

Natives

Symphoricarpos: Snowberry

Natives

Synthyris: Native Figwort

Natives

Trillium: Wake Robin

Natives

Vaccinium: Huckleberry

Natives

Vancouveria: Inside-out Flower

Natives

Viburnum trilobum

Cranberrybush
Natives

Viola: Violet

Natives

Winter Interest