Penstemon hirsutus, How to grow Hairy Beardtongue Flower

Penstemon hirsutus is a native perennial flower that blooms for 6-8 weeks in late spring, is hardy from zones 3-9. Commonly known as Hairy Beardtongue, this flower will grow 12-18″ tall (30-45 cm) in full sun or partial shade, with well draining soil that is slightly moist to dry.

Hairy Beardtongue, Penstemon hirsutus – Facts and General Description

Growing this lovely Penstemon is quite easy, and I find it puzzling why it isn’t sold in most garden centers.  This Native Perennial is a great perennial to provide color while your garden is transitioning from early spring to early summer flowers.  

For instance, Hairy Beardtongue will allow nectar to be available in between Columbine and Callirhoe involucrata blooming periods.  By having Penstemon in your garden, it ensures a more continuous supply of nectar in your garden.  This allows you to enjoy more hummingbirds and bumble bees feeding on the nectar, which is better for your local backyard ecosystem.  Additionally, Hairy Beardtongue is even the host plant for the Baltimore Butterfly!  

The common name ‘hairy beardtongue’ comes from the hairs that can be seen along the stems.

Hairy Beardtongue Stem
The hairs along the stem are quite distinct.

This plant can make a great border plant due to its compact size colony-forming nature.  It also makes a good border in a wildflower or micro prairie.

Penstemon hirsutus Hairy Beardtongue
Don’t forget to Pin it!  Save this now for when you are ready to plan next years flowers!

Hairy Beardtongue may be small and compact, but it is a bee magnet!  It is the smallest and most compact of all Penstemon flowers.  I’ve found the purple/white tubular flowers are beautiful on their own, and bloom for about a month. But I particularly enjoy seeing bumblebees crawl up the tubes of the flower to get the nectar.  They will just go from flower to flower (see video below);

Growing Hairy Beardtongue from seed

Penstemon hirsutus, Hairy Beardtongue bloom

Germinating Hairy Beardtongue is quite simple.  It should be direct sown on the surface in fall, or winter sown in pots (just press seeds into the surface).  This seed needs a month or two of cold/moist stratification to break dormancy and germinate.

That is all you need to do though, just follow my Winter Sowing instructions or watch this video for what I do (so easy).  After germination, just treat it like any other seedling.  Provide it sunlight (but don’t cook it), keep it damp but not soggy. 

Alternatively, you could just sprinkle/press some seed into the area you want it to grow in February/March, and just watch for germination.  I don’t prefer doing this because sometimes I mistake the seedlings for weeds.  But once Penstemon plants are established, and I will do it as it is the easiest way to propagate the plants.

hairy beardtongue seedling
Hairy Beardtongue Seedling

How long will it take to bloom if I grow it from seed?

You can expect to have full blooms the second year for this plant.  It should come back for many years, and produce some volunteers nearby.  It is colony forming, so you should consider that where you place it.

Hairy Beardtongue Before Bloom

For instance, the second year on my plants (the first time they bloomed) they were all about 4″-6″ diameter (10-15 cm).  The following year, they had grown to 8″-12″ (20 cm – 30 cm). 

Purchase Seed

We have ordered a variety of native flower seeds from Everwilde Farms, which you can order right from Amazon through our link on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS PAGE. (We may earn a small commission when you purchase through our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our website.)

Saving Seed from Hairy Beardtongue flower

We’ve written a detailed guide at the link below for how to save Penstemon (including Hairy Beardtongue) seed, step by step. If you are interesting in saving your own seed to further propagate this lovely flower, then click on the link!

penstemon seed head and seeds
Penstemon Hirsutus (Hairy Beardtongue) seed pod and seeds

Penstemon hirsutus Growing Requirements

I’ve found Penstemon hirsutus to be very adaptable in terms of where they grow.  I have hard, rocky clay soil and they seem to thrive!  I have them in some drier areas, and some wetter areas and they seem to perform well.  Most of my plants are in full sun, but I have a few that had partial shade and they grew just fine.  As I said, this is a great plant for pollinators!  I absolutely love watching the bees crawling in and out of the tubular flowers!

Do you need to deadhead penstemon hirsutus?

You can deadhead them, as it might give you some more blooms.  I’ve never done this, as usually about the time this flower is done blooming I have other native perennials just starting to bloom.  But, there shouldn’t be much harm in trying it, since it blooms so early.

My overall opinion of this flower

This is a very tough plant!  I’ve not seen any disease on my Penstemon plants thus far, and they have been very healthy.  I also haven’t had any ‘pest’ problems such as deer/rabbits browsing the foliage.  In fact I haven’t seen any real damage to any of my plants!  That alone makes me want to grow more of them.  

This is one of the compact native perennials I’ve had that requires next to no maintenance.  Its compact size, blooms, and versatility make it an ideal choice for front yard flower beds, meadows, borders – just about anywhere.  It does spread a bit, as it is clump forming, but it is easy to control.  I have already scattered a bunch of seeds around the edge of my yard and other places in my garden, hoping to get some more ‘free’ plants!

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Penstemon hirsutus, Hairy Beardtongue purple bloom
Penstemon hirsutus, Hairy Beardtongue being pollinated by bumble bee

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Penstemon hirsutus Reference Table

Common NameHairy Beardtongue
Scientific namePenstemon hirsutus
USDA Zone3-9
Bloom TimeMay/June
Bloom Duration6 weeks
Bloom SizeSmall tubular flowers ~ ½-1” long by ¼-1/2”” diameter (12 mm x 6 mm)
CharacteristicsMultiple branching stems with many blooms rising from leafy foliage on the ground
Height1-1.5’, (30-45 cm)
Spacing/Spread1’ (30 cm)
Light RequirementsFull sun or partial shade
Soil TypesAlmost any – wet or dry
MoistureMoist or dry
Typical UseVersatile flower – can go many places and look nice
Fauna AssociationsBumble bees, hummingbirds
Larval HostBaltimore butterfly
Sowing DepthSurface
Stratification30-60 days cold moist stratification
Native RangeEastern United States
NotesThis is a fun flower to watch when bumble bees pollinate it.  They crawl inside the tubular flowers.


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Hairy Beardtongue

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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