Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Penstemon Digitalis – Beloved by Bees and Me!

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw

The spring ephemerals have departed. The False Blue Indigo, Baptisia australis, is just finishing its glorious cascade of blue and is starting to form the seedpods that will later turn black and rattle in the wind. The Monarda didyma is tall, even after being cut back, but is not yet blooming. Butterflyweed (Aesclepias tuberosa), which always emerges late, has made its appearance and is coming along nicely, but bloom time is a ways off.

Enter Penstemon digitalis, sometimes called Foxglove Beardtongue, one of the few native plants currently in full bloom in my yard. With its delicate bell-shaped flowers on graceful stalks, this reliable bloomer is a bee magnet.

This year I’m especially grateful to my Penstemon. After part of my front yard had to be dug up to replace a broken sewer line, my yard and I were feeling pretty devastated. I did some plant rescue beforehand, but still lost a lot of plants. I wasn’t sure how the transplants would take, as what had been pretty decent soil was now buried in hard compacted clay from the trench. I did not have time to amend the entire bed immediately, so plants got some got some decent soil in and around their planting holes, and that was it. The Penstemon had buds when I transplanted it from the back yard, and it settled right in to its new, not so lovely neighborhood and began blooming. It was heartening to see, and reminded me yet again of how resilient plants can be!

Other natives blooming (in my undisturbed back yard): Arrowwood viburnum, Viburnum dentatum (first time!) and Spigelia marilandica.

What native plants are blooming in your yard or nearby?

About the Author
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, Maryland. She blogs at http://hummingbirdway.blogspot.com/.



  1. Another reason to appreciate Penstemon -- it seems to be enjoyed by the 2nd year caterpillars of Baltimore Checkerspots. Thanks for giving it its proper due, Rachel!

  2. Rachel Shaw10:37 PM

    Thanks Julie, that is good to know! I will be on the lookout for the caterpillars. I planted white turtlehead last year hoping to attract the Baltimore checkerspot. Glad to know I have a backup plant!


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