Native to chaparral and woodlands of the coast and coastal mountains of southern California and northern Baja California, this summer deciduous shrub is a member of the plantain  family, Plantaginaceae, that also includes snapdragon, turtlehead, and foxglove. The plant grows 3- 6.3′ tall and has a cascading habit. The dark green shiny leaves are oval to heart-shaped, .8-3″ long, and have toothed margins. From late spring to mid summer, racemes of pendent, hairy, orange to red flowers appear. Each flower is 1-2″ long, and is tubular with 3 flat lower lobes and 2 joined upper lobes. Inside each flower are long filamentous stamens and a flat, hairy, yellow sterile modified stamen. Hummingbirds love the flowers but the flowers and seed are toxic to humans. Heartleaf penstemon is drought tolerant and a good choice for a hummingbird or bird gardens in a dry areas where its leaves can be maintained by watering in summer. The genus name Keckiella, honors American botanist David D. Keck (1903-1995). The genus name, Penstemon, comes from the Greek words pente meaning five and stamon meaning the warp of an upright loom, and refers to the five thread-like pollen bearing organs of the flower that stand upright.  The specific epithet, cordifolius, comes from the Latin words cor, meaning heart, and folium, meaning leaf referring to the shape of the leaves. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

Type: Summer deciduous shrub

Outstanding Feature: Flowers

Form: Rounded, cascading

Growth Rate: Rapid

Bloom: Racemes of pendent orange to red tubular flowers from late spring to summer

Size: 3-6.6′ H x 3-6′ W

 Light: Full sun in cooler areas (coast), part shade in hot areas (inland)

Soil: Rocky, dry to medium moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 7-10

Care: Prune if plant becomes straggly

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Softwood cuttings, semi-ripe cuttings, seed

Outstanding Selection: ‘Mountain Flare’

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

By Karen