How to care for Penstemon in the winter

northwestbirdluver(Zn8)October 19, 2006

I have two x campanulatus Penstemons, 'Firebird' and 'Patio Wine'. I bought them in June, and they've been blooming all summer long, and are still blooming! (I've been deadheading them, of course.)

I was just wondering whether they die back in the winter, or whether they need to be cut back. They're perfectly fine now, but I would just like to know ahead of time. Also, do they need protection?

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Sunny warm spots with good drainage. Leave until spring to tidy up, except for deadheading. Most penstemons keep at least part of the top over winter.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 7:53PM
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Thank you.
So, they don't need any mulching for the winter?
What do you mean by cleaning up? Do they need to be cut back, or does it die back on its own?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 6:32PM
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daphnexduck(Z8 Tacoma, WA)

I've been growing penstemons in Tacoma for at least five years, and they don't seem to need anything special. My are still blooming quite happily this fall. I have tried cutting them back in the fall or in the spring, and they don't seem to care which, except they will get tall and floppy if not cut back at all (to about one foot). When I deadhead, I cut the stem off about halfway back to the ground, to keep them from getting too tall and floppy.

They stay almost evergreen, don't need any special winter care, and don't care if you can't water them too often in the summer. They are supposed to be short-lived, but I haven't lost any yet, so they must be REALLY happy in our climate.

Penstemons (at least the common, garden variety) do so well here in the Puget Sound, and bloom so much and so long, and take so little care, that I don't understand why they aren't more popular.

Daphne in Tacoma

Here is a link that might be useful: info and photos of Penstemon

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 3:37PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

The only one I lost was a blue one. The pink and red varieties seem very tough. They bloom well, but seem to spread a little too much.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 10:17PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

They don't need mulching, they will have some die back on their own and you should tidy it up in Spring. I would not do anything to them now especially if they are blooming.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 1:11PM
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Thank you all for your advice!
I agree that more people should grow them, especially since hummingbirds love them. I actually didn't see any at my penstemons all summer, although I saw them at my fucshias occasionally. Finally I saw one at the Firebird on my birthday in September. That was very nice. Attracting birds and butterflies is my favorite part of gardening.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 6:28PM
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I have been trying to cleanup for spring. I have been removing all discolored leaves from the penstemons. One of the penstemons has very few green leaves. I am really tempted to cut off all foliage, but I don't know if I'll lose the plant. I'd really appreciate any info anyone can provide.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 10:31AM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

Hi Louise,
Don't be afraid to cut the stems back. How short to go is an individual judgement call, but going as short as 4"-6" usually isn't too drastic. I'll bet you find this year's plants look better than last, attesting to the wisdom of cutting them back. (Speaking of which, I'd better get myself out there & trim mine!)


    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 2:25PM
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Thank you Patrick. Have a great day.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 11:23AM
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