Folks love to purchase blooming penstemons in the spring. I mean, who can resist the floriferous panicles of all the available species? But hello, you gotta get those plants home intact (don’t break the flower stalk!) and into the ground right away. Then a week later maybe two, they’re done flowering. Whaaa? So here’s a crazy idea; what if you plant your beardtongues in the fall when they’re just basal leaves. Come spring the well rooted and happy plants will shoot up flower stalks, and maybe even flower a little longer because they weren’t stressed from being moved around and popped out of a container the week before. BONUS:…seed will fall and hardy volunteers will start showing up in your garden. Yay, you’re a genius!
Okay, here’s what I learned about the name penstemon: The genus (and the spelling) penstemon was proposed by a botanist in colonial Virginia back in 1748, but he didn’t explain the name. A few years later Linnaeus, (known as God to some), decided it referred to the five stamen of the flowers and the spelling should be pentstemon; pente from Greek for five and stamen for thread. There ended up being at least two spellings of the name and it wasn’t until 1966 (!!!) that it was suggested that maybe the genus name Penstemon was from the Latin paene for almost and the Greek stamon for thread. Sooo, four fertile stamen and one infertile stamen; the almost a stamen. Alleluia and end of discussion!
For a more detailed explanation you could check out Robert Nold’s book Penstemons. He’s a fun garden writer…well, if you’re a plant geek.
The photos are mine of Penstemon superbus and P. fendleri. Can you see the “beard” on the almost a stamen? Cool.