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Oct 18, 2019 7:47 PM CST
Name: Lola
Tasmania
Region: Australia Birds Garden Photography Cottage Gardener Farmer Irises
Roses Keeps Sheep
Why do the majority of the penstemons I own turn brown, brittle, and die like this? I have taken cuttings and some live a year before dying while others live for years without any dieback. Should I be treating them like annuals and getting rid of them the moment they shown signs of dying off?
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Avatar for oneeyeluke
Oct 19, 2019 2:29 AM CST
Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet.
Texas (Zone 8a)
Quitter's never Win
Birds Cat Lover Dog Lover Hummingbirder Organic Gardener
The keys to successfully growing Penstemon include: Planting them into "lean" (infertile) fast draining non-clay soils. Sandy or gravelly soils are ideal for growing Penstemon, however heavy clay soils cause problems with drainage. If you are growing in clay, I suggest you amend the soil with peat to obtain more drainage.
NOT A EXPERT! Just a grow worm! I never met a plant I didn’t love.✌
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Oct 19, 2019 1:28 PM CST
Name: Rick R.
Minneapolis, MN, USA zone 4
Garden Photography I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages Hybridizer Region: Minnesota Seed Starter
The WITWIT Badge Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Plant Identifier
What oneeyeluke says is generally true. If your soil is clay based and/or fertile, try Penstemon hirsutus, Penstemon cobaea or some of the related hybrids, like Huskers Red. Those with eastern North American parentage are better adapted.
When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers. - Socrates
Avatar for Shellee
Oct 20, 2019 6:02 AM CST

According to the lady who wrote The Well-Tended Perennial, penstemons are are short lived plant. That helped alleviate some of the heartache I felt when I would lose one. I have a beautiful coral-colored one that has come back for a couple of years now. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and use some of the suggestions given as I have very clay soil.
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