Penstemon heterophyllus, Blue Springs, Beardtongue

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Blue Springs’

Penstemon heterophyllus is a hardy, long-lived perennial species with abundant, vibrant blooms. It is often found in the northern Sierra Nevada and coastal mountain foothills, which is how it earned the common name of Foothill Penstemon.

Several cultivars like ‘Margarita BOP’, and ‘Blue Springs’ have been developed for strong heat resistance and superior drought tolerance which makes it an excellent choice for low-water and full-sun gardens.

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’ was discovered by chance by Bert Wilson of Las Pilitas Nursery.  “BOP” is an abbreviation for “Bottom of Porch” which denotes where this determined plant was discovered, returning vigorously year after year without any watering, fertilizing, or attention.

Appearance

Penstemon heterophyllus spreads over time to 2-3’ with lance-shaped, blue-green, glossy leaves that encircle the stem.

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’; Photo credit: Las Pilitas Nursery

The upright spikes of blooms open in early spring with wide-mouthed, tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The blooms are prolific in shades of blue to purple and last into summer, often with a secondary bloom in early fall.

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’ initially blooms in bright blue and fades with time to an almost-iridescent purple.

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Blue Springs’ is a brighter, electric blue and maintains this color throughout its bloom.

Soil and Water Requirements

Penstemon heterophyllus is prized for the ability to thrive in neglect, drought, and in different soil types including clay or gravelly soil.  It flowers best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade.

Pruning

Cut back spent flower stems by half to encourage a late summer re-bloom of flowers.

Plant Features and Uses

Penstemon, rock garden

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’; Photo credit: Las Pilitas Nursery

  • Ornamental
  • Long bloom time
  • Deer-resistant
  • Reseeds profusely
  • Pollinator-friendly
  • Drought-tolerant
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Long-lasting cut flower
  • Suitable for mass planting in containers, beds, and rock gardens