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Serrated leaves and showy purple flowers of cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Close-up of the lance-shaped, serrated leaves of cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus) hanging on a cliff. One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Cascade Penstemon

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Penstemon serrulatus 

Cascade penstemon is a stunning wildflower that grows from erect, semi-woody stems. Glossy, lance-shaped leaves emerge in spring, followed by copious deep blue to purple, trumpet-shaped flowers that hold on all summer long and are highly attractive to pollinators. 

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous perennial herbaceous plant
  • Size at maturity: 0’-2' tall, 1’-2' wide
  • Light requirements: full sun, part sun / part shade
  • Moisture requirements: moist to wet soil
  • Bloom time: June - Aug
  • Growth rate/ease: medium growth rate, easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: nectar source for adult butterflies, bees and other insect pollinators; attracts and supports beneficial and other pest eating insects; caterpillar host plant and larval food source; attracts and supports hummingbirds
  • Native habitat/range: common in moist meadows, rocky areas, and along streams or vernal pools from the near coast to subalpine areas from Central OR, extending north into British Columbia. Portland Plant List - yes.
  • Special features & uses: excellent pollinator plant; attracts/supports hummingbirds; landscape uses include raingardens, rock gardens, pollinator gardens and meadowscapes; Nlaka'pamux peoples of the North Cascades traditionally use a decoction to treat kidney ailments and sore backs and an infusion to wash sore eyes  

Gardening with Cascade Penstemon: Native penstemons can be tricky, demanding the gardener go to great lengths to mimic the sharp drainage of their native habitats. But cascade penstemon requires less fuss. Even though it’s considered drought tolerant, it can handle our seasonally wet winter soils, as well as partial shade. That said, it will do best in full sun locations with moist, well-drained soil and will require supplemental water during the summer drought if placed in a dry location. It’s a charming addition to habitat garden beds, along borders and in containers. Deadheading flowers will prolong the stunning bloom. Can be propagated by softwood cuttings in spring, semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer, or by seed in fall. 

Photo Credit 1: "File:Penstemon serrulatus - Flickr - peganum.jpg" by Josve05a is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo Credit 2: Seven Oaks Nursery

Photo Credit 3: "Cascade Penstemon" by brewbooks is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0