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?
Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet. Texas (Zone 8a) Quitter's never Win
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.✌
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
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.