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Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ 2023 Perennial Plant of the Year

  • Common Name: Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’
  • Height: 60 to 90 cm
  • Spread: 45 to 60 cm
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Colour: Bi-coloured light and dark pink blooms; burgundy leaves
  • Bloom Time: Early Summer
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Soil Moisture: Average, Dry
  • Plant Uses: Attracts Bees, Attracts Butterflies, Attracts Hummingbirds, Border, Deer Resistant, drought-tolerant, Good Texture/Form, Water-wise
  • Zone: 3A
  • Recommended: prefers average to dry soil conditions and can tolerate some drought and heat; plant in well-spaced groups for the best show
  • Description:

    The genus name of the plant is Greek in origin and reflects the structure of the flowers: each tubular, two-lipped bloom has five (penta) stamens (stemon). As for the common name “beardtongue”, one of the stamens in each flower is sterile and sports a few tiny hairs. The flowers appear on racemes in late spring into mid-summer, and are huge favourites with pollinating insects, particularly butterflies. Hummingbirds are also attracted to the blooms. If you are growing a cutting garden, these striking beauties will make an excellent addition to your fresh bouquets.

    Plant ‘Dark Towers’ penstemon in odd-numbered groupings to best showcase the plant’s good looks. The basal foliage has a tidy, mounding growth habit and when grown in sufficient sunlight, the tall flower stems will not flop over. The plants grow relatively quickly, so do not space them too closely or you’ll be digging them up in no time to eliminate crowding.

  • Other: Consider combining ‘Dark Towers’ penstemon with other perennials such as false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), blazing star (Liatris spp.), bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), or cultivars of heuchera that have red or nearly black foliage. Cutting back the flowers once they have finished blooming helps to maintain a clean, neat appearance. ‘Dark Towers’ penstemon can suffer from root rot in consistently wet soils and powdery mildew may occasionlly be an issue when environmental conditions favour it. Combat powdery mildew by maintaining sufficient air circulation through the plant and avoiding overcrowding. When you water the plant, ensure you apply moisture at the soil level instead of over the foliage. Slugs may munch on the leaves (as they do with other plants in your garden); the tried-and-true yeast or beer traps will diminish the population, or you can remove them from the plants by picking them off. Penstemon is a common addition to ‘’deer resistant” plant lists, but as gardeners, we know that deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough, so there are no guarantees.

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