Bearded Tongues - Knowledgebase Question

Milton, WI
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Question by merryxmas
June 23, 2000
I have purchased 3 bearded tongue perennial plants now. We have a rather clay type soil but I mixed the dirt with houseplant well draining soil when I planted them. They all look horrible and with the flooding rains we have had they have had less then normal growing conditions. Should I just leave these as is and hope they come back next year? They now look very wilted (it's raining again here and has been for about 6 wks!)Do you think they will come back next spring? They are beautiful in the greenhouse but they have a hard time of it here in the yard. I planted them in the sun but they look horrible.
Thank you for your time. Also exactly how good is the fish emulsion fertilizer for houseplants? Is it just a hoax or does it really work and can it be used on vegetable plants outside.

Answer from NGA
June 23, 2000
Penstemon barbatus is the common Beard-tongue plant. They're perennial plants, hardy from zones 3-7, grow about 36" high and spread about 18".

These spring-flowering plants are semi-evergreen. Provide a warm, sunny growing area with well-draining soil. They will tolerate some shade, but avoid planting them in clay. Flowering is best during cool weather. Remove spent flower spikes as they fade so that additional flowers will be produced.

Propagation is by seed, division or cuttings.
Take softwood cuttings from non-flowering side shoots.
The seed germinates in two to three weeks at temperatures
between 65 and 75 degrees. Division should be done in the

If your plants look pitiful, no doubt it's because of the weather - and the clayey soil. I wonder if they'd do better planted in containers where you can control the drainage a little better? These are hardy plants so they may bounce back from their ordeal. Let's hope so!

Fish emulsion is a good source of nitrogen and is often used on veggies and foliage plants. There shouldn't be any problem using it on your houseplants (although there may be a bit of an odor associated with it at first).

Good luck with your garden!

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