‘Red Rocks’ Penstemon

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An inconspicuous, low-growing mound of evergreen leaves for most of the year, ‘Red Rocks’ takes center stage in mid-summer, with 18-inch spikes of bright pink, bell-shaped flowers. The first penstemon chosen for inclusion in the PlantSelect® program, ‘Red Rocks’ was added in 1999. It’s a cross between a showy Mexican species and a hardy Colorado native, combining the best features of both its parents. ‘Red Rocks’ is named after the park west of Denver.

penstemon-red-rocks-extdemogarden-2008sept25-lah-264Plants thrive in full sun, and prefer lean, well-drained soil, although they also do well in heavy clay and garden loam. Too much fertilizer will result in lanky, short-lived plants. ‘Red Rocks’ Penstemon prefers more water than many natives, and belongs in the medium water-use zone. Be careful not to overwater, however. Constantly damp soil will rot the roots, so let things dry out a bit between irrigations. If you want more plants, leave the maturing flowers to form seed pods. A mulch of pea gravel will encourage reseeding.

Plants are hardy up to about 7,000 feet in Colorado, zones 4b to 8.

The pink flowers blend well with plants having grayish foliage, such as lavender or snow-in-summer. Consider pairing the flower spikes with blooms of differing shapes—perhaps flat-topped Greek yarrow or verbena. Bees love to crawl into the open blossoms, following the striped “landing strips” on the petals, and hummingbirds are attracted by the raspberry pink color. Happily, deer would prefer to dine on something else, although no plant is completely deer proof.

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