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Wildflower penstemon can take the heat

Summer wildflowers can be one of the best reasons to go for a hike no matter how hot it is. Many wildflowers perform their best when the weather is consistently sunny, hot, and dry. This is exactly why some wildflowers have been brought into cultivation and are perfect additions to our home landscapes.

Penstemon, or beardtongue, while commonly found in large open meadows, is a wonderful perennial flower for the summer garden. It definitely has the look of a wildflower, but is also right at home in the perennial border. It will typically flower throughout the summer, but removing the spent blossoms will ensure they bloom as long as possible. The long tube-shaped flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds. They come in a variety of colors such as blue, red, pink, lavender, and purple

Plant penstemon in a sunny site that is well-drained. They are very sensitive to wet soil, so pick your driest location for planting. This characteristic also makes them very drought-resistant once established. The average height is 1 ½ to 2 ½ feet in flower.

Two varieties to consider are Prairie Twilight with its lavender flowers with a white tip, or the brightly colored Red Riding Hood. With over 250 varieties of penstemon to choose from, it may be hard to pick just one. Not to worry, they look great when several different varieties are planted together, making a beautiful wildflower statement even in the most urban locations.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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