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Penstemon heterophyllus
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Foothill Penstemon
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Penstemon heterophyllus

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About Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus) Penstemon heterophyllus is a species of penstemon known by the common names bunchleaf penstemon and foothill beardtongue. It is endemic to California, where it can be found in all of the major coastal mountain ranges and the northern Sierra Nevada foothills. It is a member of the flora in many local habitat types from grassland to chaparral to forests. It is a perennial herb producing upright, branching stems easily exceeding one meter in height and becoming woody at the bases. The leaves are variable in shape and may reach nearly 10 centimeters long. The flower cluster produces several wide-mouthed tubular flowers up to 4 centimeters in length. The flowers may be shades of blue or purple to nearly magenta. If conditions are right it can be long-lived. Several cultivars have been developed for use in Mediterranean-climate and other low-water-use gardens, including 'Electric Blue', 'Margarita BOP', and 'Blue Springs'.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
3.3 - 5 ft (1 - 1.5 m)

Max. Width
5 ft (1.5 m)


Growth Rate


Flower Color
Blue, Lavender, Purple

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Near the coast, open grassy places, typically on slopes where drainage is good, usually as part of chaparral vegetation. Inland and at higher elevations it also occurs in openings in foothill woodland or pine forest

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
30' - 6924'

Annual Precip. ?
7.6" - 99.6"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.57"

Coldest Month ?
28.9° F - 55.0° F

Hottest Month ?
54.3° F - 78.4° F

Humidity ?
0.29 vpd - 28.30 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of a variety of soils as long as drainage is good

Soil PH
6.0 - 7.5

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Sodic Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 10° F

Wildlife Attracted
Hummingbirds and insects, especially bees, are attracted to the flowers

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Deadhead to induce more flowering

Propagation ?
From cuttings.  For propagating by seed: No treatment; 1-2 mos. stratification may improve germination.

Common uses
Groundcovers, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Hummingbird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Foothill Beardtongue, Bunchleaf Penstemon

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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