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A Valentine-ish Drought-tolerant Plant: Penstemon Parryi

A Valentine-ish Drought-tolerant Plant: Penstemon ParryiWith Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I am going to dedicate this blog to one of my flora favorites: the drought-tolerant plant Penstemon Parryi, which adds a bit of magenta to your garden due to it’s pinkish spikes. The Southwestern native may look as if it belongs in a cottage garden, but in reality this perennial is a desert native that easily handles hot, intense sun with little water, like we experience here in Santa Barbara.
Plant this hardy beauty in your garden right now and it will bring color to your garden from now into spring Besides attracting compliments from your neighbors, the Penstemon Parryi will also attract the hummingbirds in the neighborhood. And here’s the really good news: this plant needs very little to survive, making it a perfect choice during our severe water shortage, which I covered in my previous blog, “Homeowners and the California Drought.”
A Valentine-ish Drought-tolerant Plant: Penstemon Parryi Name: Penstemon Parryi
Common names: Parry’s penstemon, Parry’s beardtongue
Origin: Native to the low deserts of central Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, along washes and rocky slopes
Where it will grow: Hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (USDA zone 8; find your zone)
Water requirement: Able to survive on natural rainfall through the winter; water twice a month in spring and fall and weekly in summer
Light requirement: Full sun is best but can tolerate filtered shade
Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall (when in flower) and 1 foot to 2 feet wide
Benefits and tolerances: Drought tolerant; attracts hummingbirds; suitable for wildflower gardens
Distinguishing traits. The base of Parry’s penstemon is made up of a rosette of narrow, blue-gray leaves that are 4 inches long and 1 inch wide. When not in flower, Parry’s penstemon, like other penstemon species, is rather unremarkable and blends into the surrounding landscape.
When treated as an annual, Parry’s penstemon seldom needs supplemental water and can be left to go to seed, producing new plants for the next season. Providing water twice a month in spring and fall with weekly watering in the summer is enough to keep it alive throughout the year. This plant is best suited for informal planting areas and looks great in a bed filled with annual wildflower favorites such as California blue bells (Phacelia campanularia) and California poppy (Eschscholzia californica). It also looks great when planted near cacti and succulents like desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), golden barrel (Echinocactus grusonii) and Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia santa-rita).
Plant the drought-tolerant Penstemon Parryi to add the needed curb appeal when you plan on selling your luxury property in Montecito or one of the other upscale Santa Barbara communities. In fact, give me a call at 805.886.9378 or email me at and we can discuss other drought-tolerant plants that will make your yard look spectacular!

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