Sunset zones: Not Listed.
USDA zones: 7-9.
Height: 3 feet (1 m).
Width: 3 feet (1 m).
Early summer and again in late summer to mid-autumn.
Tubular, bell-shaped, deep reddish-purple flower and darker buds on panicles.
Large, evergreen, lance-shaped, green leaves on dark red stems.
Fertile, well-drained soil.
I keep penstemons on the lean side; they tend to live longer if not over-fertilized. Side-dress with compost or manures in fall, and fertilize in spring when growth begins, with a complete organic fertilizer.
Divide in late spring.
Softwood cuttings in spring.
Semi-ripe cuttings in August.
Deadhead as flowers fade. Prune plants in late winter
Rainy Side Notes
Penstemon comes from the Greek words pente, five and stemon, a stamen, referring to the five stamens. Ron Sidwell of Evesham, Worcestershire in the UK bred this outstanding hybrid, Penstemon 'Blackbird', around 1960. P. 'Blackbird's parentage may include P. barbatus, P. campanulatus and P. x gloxinoides. This one has many flowers per panicle and can have up to 75 flowers on a well-grown plant.
Penstemon 'Blackbird', like most penstemons, needs well-drained soil. More penstemons die because of our winter wet. The evergreen foliage makes this plant a good year-round plant.
P. 'Blackbird' is a good hummingbird and bee plant. Chosen as a 2003 Great Plant Picks, it is a well deserved winner.
Photographed in author's garden.