Scarlet sensation: Bridges’ penstemon

Penstemon rostriflorus Plant Select

First time summer visitors to the Rockies are often struck by the abundance of scarlet tubular flowers everywhere you look in the high meadows. One often sees hummingbirds darting from scarlet gilia to penstemons in the summer months, always a highlight for the observant visitor. Many of these mountain plants adapt well to the Xeriscape or border in your home garden. Three scarlet penstemons span the summer season: the sharkshead penstemon (Penstemon barbatus) often starts blooming in late May, and tubular Eaton’s penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) carries the show into July. But the longest bloomer, and longest lived of the scarlet penstemons may only start to bloom later that month. Bridges’ penstemon flowers throughout much of the American southwest from Colorado to California. It forms an attractive, somewhat shrubby mound of narrow green foliage with stems 2-3″ in height with a succession of brilliant orange-red flowers from late July all the way to October most years.

Naturalized in buffalo grass, or among native shrubs, we have had Bridges’ penstemon living for nearly 20 years at Denver Botanic Gardens, making this by far the longest lived penstemon. It will grow in a wide range of soils and sites, although it needs at least a half days sun to bloom spectacularly. This is one penstemon you are sure to have visited by hummingbirds on their way south in the late summer. Plant some Sunset hyssop nearby, and they may linger in your garden for days at a time!

View the plant profile here.

Bridges’ Penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus)

Height: 28-32″
Width: 24-30″
Blooms: Midsummer to fall
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to xeric (once established)
Hardiness: USDA zones 4b-8
Culture: Clay, loam or sandy soil

Thanks to Harriett McMillan, Echter’s Greenhouse & Garden Center, for writing this piece.

6 responses to “Scarlet sensation: Bridges’ penstemon”

  1. Rebecca McCue says:

    We planted in our community garden this morning at 66th and Pace St. in Longmont.
    Is there any way we could possible get a copy of the following two articles and the for our records?
    We will need it as old people die and new people take their place. (It’s a senior community, most over 75 in our group, 2 over 80.)
    Bridges’ Penstemons
    Sonoran Sunset Hyssops

  2. Sandra Toland says:

    I love this plant. I had bought one for a yard I take care of, that had other native plants. The owner wasn’t home much to water his plants, but this plant survived and has thrived. I wanted if for my yard, and looked for it in the garden centers the last few years and couldn’t find it. Today I finally found it!

  3. […] Bridges’: up to 30″ H x 30″ W. Prolific narrow scarlet tubes.  A Plant Select perennial. Zone 4b.  More Info Here. […]

  4. Cinda Clark says:

    Where can I purchase Bridges’ penstemon? I had a plant last year, but it did not overwinter. It was the favorite of the hummingbirds, so I’d really like to re-plant. Just haven’t been able to find seeds or plants. I plant for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Thanks if you can help.

  5. Bob Pennington says:

    Penstemon rostriflous(bridgesii) is perhaps the single longest blooming of all Penstemons. Coinciding with the arrival of HUMMINGBIRDs to their summer range. Blooming until the last of our them have left for their winter quarters. An unfortunate drawback to seed collecting is that all the seeds ripen very late.

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