Penstemon 'Husker Red' is 1996 Perennial Plant of the Year - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ is 1996 Perennial Plant of the Year

The Perennial Plant Association has selected Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ as its 1996 Perennial Plant of the Year. Members of the association, generally professional plant growers, select a perennial each year to educate the gardening public and promote planting of perennial flowers.

The Penstemon, also known as beardtongue, is not widely known to the American public despite the fact that several species of this plant are native throughout the United States and Canada. Penstemon digitalis is native to open woods, prairies and fields from South Dakota to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes south to Texas. ‘Husker Red’ has white flowers in July and August, and reddish foliage, making it attractive for both the garden and the vase.

The plant reaches about 30 inches tall and produces numerous flower stalks, each of which bears a cluster of about 50 bright white blooms. The contrasting bronze-red foliage provides an excellent backdrop to the blossoms. ‘Husker Red’ prefers slightly acidic soil and performs well in full sun to light shade. All Penstemons demand well-drained soil. If your garden tends to stay wet for extended periods, try adding organic matter and/or sand to the soil to improve drainage.

Beardtongue is easy to propagate through stem cuttings or by division of an established plant. The best time to divide is in early spring, before new growth begins. Take cuttings from young spring growth before the plant begins to flower. Seedlings of ‘Husker Red’ may not come back true to the parent, particularly in leaf color, flower number and plant size.

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