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FutureStarrLilac Flowered Beardtongue
Unbranched stems grow 15-60 cm tall. Stalked basal and lower leaves are lance to oval-shaped with toothed edges, that die back early. Opposite unstalked stem leaves are linear to lance-shaped. Tubular, hairy flowers occur in whorls arranged into a loose, slender spike. Each one consists of an upper 2-lobed lip, a lower 3-lobed lip, four fertile stamens, and an orange, hairy, sterile stamen. Fruits are capsules containing numerous seeds.
Flowers are in groups of 2 or more on stalks that arise from the leaf axils in the upper plant, in a spike-like cluster. Each flower is tubular, pale violet to purple on the outside and about ¾ inch long. There are 5 lobes; the upper 2 lobes are shortest and turn up, the lower 3 extend out and turn down. The inside of the tube is white at the center, with darker purple veins on the inside of the lobes, a fuzzy (bearded) orange “flap” down the center, and 5 yellow-tipped stamens that turn dark brown with maturity.The plantain family (Plantaginaceae) gifts us with some wonderful ornamental flowering plants, including snapdragons, foxglove, and the valuable Penstemon genus, which contains more than 250 beardtongue species ready to grow in your garden. Penstemon plants are herbaceous perennials that feature lance-shaped foliage and spikes of tubular flowers. Flower colors include pink, red, white, purple, and (rarely) yellow. The nickname of bearded tongue refers to the pollen-free stamen that protrudes from the flower, resembling a bearded iris in this aspect. This perennial is easy to grow from seeds planted in spring to early summer. It's somewhat slow to start and needs 10 to 21 days to germinate.
Beardtongue plants typically bloom in early summer, filling that gap between the end of spring bulbs and the maturing of summer flowers like coneflowers, yarrow, and coreopsis. Most penstemons are 1 to 3 feet tall, but Palmer’s penstemon can grow up to 6 feet, giving you options for the middle and back of the border. Keep the penstemon flowerbed weeded regularly. A 3-inch layer of organic mulch can help to control weeds, and rock mulch is also a suitable choice. You can cut the spent flower stems back after blooming to help plants look tidy. Penstemons don’t compete well with other plants, so give them plenty of space in the garden.Leaves are opposite, variable, ovate to oblong, smooth edges, thick and fleshy, bluish-green waxy looking. Lower stem leaves are stalkless and upper leaves clasp the stem. Stem leaves number 4 to 8 pair. Leaves of the rosette have stalks. A new rosette of leaves forms at the base of the old flower stems in the fall and overwinters. (Source: www.friendsofeloisebutler.org)