flower ID

mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)June 6, 2012

This plant came up in my yard last year, but didn't bloom. I let it keep growing to see if it would flower, and it did this year. Even if it was a weed, I thought I'd keep it because I thought it was pretty :) Then I saw a bunch of it growing by the post office near me in an area where it looks like it was planned to be there, so I think it is a perennial.

Can you name this flower?! I know the pics aren't the best, but hopefully someone can tell me what it is.

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

It's a Penstemon, Misty, most likely Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Penstemon strictus, but it could be some other species too. Easy to collect the seed if you leave it ripen on the plant--mine just finished blooming and I'm waiting for the seed to ripen right now. If you save seed and want to start more, it's a great candidate for winter sowing.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 8:31PM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

Thank you, Skybird - I will indeed save some of the seed! It's great finding out what a lot of plants in my yard that came with the house are!!


    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:41PM
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conace55(z5 CO)

Speaking of penstemon....I have some and it flops horribly! Any ideas why this would be? It gets watered deeply by hand once a week or so. Morning sun, afternoon shade.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:48PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

More sun will probably help, Connie. Penstemon love full sun. My P. strictus doesn't get quite enough and I've gotten in the habit of caging it with twine to keep it looking good. My other penstemons get a little more sun and do somewhat better, but they're not in "full" sun and I always keep an eye on them and stake or cage them if they look like they might start flopping. If you can move yours to a spot with FULL sun it'll probably be fine all by itself, but if you can't do that you need to cage/stake them early on because if they start to flop and then you cage/stake them the flower spikes will keep the "curve" they got when they were flopping and they won't look very good. Penstemon also get kind of "leggy" at the base of the plant after a few years and that doesn't help with "stability." If that's happened to yours you can cut it/them back severely after they're done blooming (and you can fairly easily root the pieces you cut off if you want more).

You may be giving them too much water too--they're xeric and like it dry, but "watering deeply by hand" is pretty hard to do with clay soil, so you may not be watering as deeply as you think. Because of the structure of clay soil the water needs to be applied slowly over a long period of time for the water to penetrate deeply. But if you really are getting the water down to the bottom of the root system every week I think they'd be happier if you water less often.

Also, many of the Penstemons have a habit that's somewhat like Russian sage. They kind of "slouch down" and take up a pretty big area--they need quite a bit of room to go Au Naturale after they grow up! But flopping--the flower stems actually falling over, is different, so if the spikes are actually tending to fall over on you, then try for the more sun (and less water?) option or the staking/caging option to help. (Don't recommend fertilizing very often--or at all, either!)


    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 1:27AM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

Good to know these tips, Skybird! As I said, mine "came with the house", apparently. They are growing in a area that was overgrown with junk when we moved in. We took out a bunch of undesirables from this area, and covered with wood chip mulch, and I've been working it and planting things I want there. There is a clump of Fleabane (just found out what that plant was recently as well, when I saw it at a local nursery) there as well, and last year I saw what I now know as Penstemon growing in - except at that time, I thought it might be more of the Fleabane, so I left it alone to see what developed. So I guess the seeds and/or roots were still in the ground there from the previous owners and my reworking the soil woke it up ;^). Or possibly my neighbor has some growing on her side of the fence and it has somehow (seeds or root spread?) migrated to my side.

This area of my yard does get full sun, so it should be happy there and hopefully not do the flopping thing. Love that they are xeric!


    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 9:49AM
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conace55(z5 CO)

Thanks for the pointers Skybird. I will do as you suggest and move it (or at least some of it) to an area of full sun. I don't like the plant looking as it does where it is, so I have nothing to lose.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 11:23AM
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