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Great Design Plant: Firecracker Penstemon
Ignite a winter landscape with color and draw hummingbird visitors with this unfussy drought-tolerant perennial
Houzz contributor Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist, freelance writer and Certified Arborist who loves living and gardening in the desert Southwest. She loves creating gardens that are beautiful, yet low-maintenance. Vegetable gardening are her newest passion. Her motto is, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard...it's just different".
Houzz contributor Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist, freelance writer... More »
Pass by any landscape that has firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) and you can't help but be drawn in by its vibrant orange-red blooms. Native to arid regions of the American Southwest, this beautiful, low-maintenance perennial brings a welcome splash of color to brighten a winter landscape, continuing into spring.
Botanical name: Penstemon eatonii
Common name: Firecracker penstemon
Origin: Native to arid regions of the American Southwest
USDA zones: 5 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 1 to 2 feet wide and 2 feet tall when in flower
Benefits and tolerances: Drought tolerant but does best with supplemental watering; attracts hummingbirds
Seasonal interest: Orange-red flowers appear in winter and continue through late spring; in cooler climates it will bloom during the summer.
When to plant: Plant seeds or container plants in fall.
Distinguishing traits. Plant firecracker penstemon and you'll have stunning flowers, winter color and versatility with little maintenance.
Who wouldn't want to add a perennial that provides much-needed color to a winter landscape? Especially when there is not much else in bloom. Another bonus is that the vibrant orange-red flowers will last through spring. In cooler climates flowers appear during the warm months of summer.
Don't let this colorful perennial's delicate appearance fool you; it isn't fussy. It needs no fertilizer and requires pruning only once a year to remove spent flowering spikes.
How to use it. Plant it alongside angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) or damiantia (Chrysactinia mexicana), whose yellow color will contrast nicely with the bright orange-red flowers. The delicate white flowers of Blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) also make a great pairing.
Firecracker penstemon can be used in many different ways in the landscape. Plant it along a desert wash, around trees, by a swimming pool or along pathways. It also look greats planted singly by a large boulder. The seeds of this versatile perennial can also be used in the mix for a wildflower garden.
Planting notes. Penstemon can be easily grown from seed or purchased from the nursery in a container. Be sure to plant it in well-drained soil. Water established plants once a week in the summer and every other week during cooler months.
Ideabook published on Feb. 18, 2013.
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