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Close-up of the showy blueish-purple flowers of Rydberg's Penstemon (Penstemon rydbergii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Close-up of the showy blueish-purple flowers of Rydberg's Penstemon (Penstemon rydbergii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
A bumble bee visits the showy blueish-purple flowers of Rydberg's Penstemon (Penstemon rydbergii). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
A patch of Rydberg's Penstemon (Penstemon rydbergii) in the wild. One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Rydberg’s Penstemon

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Penstemon rydbergii

Rydberg's Penstemon (aka Meadow Beardtongue) is one of those wildflowers that takes center stage. The vegetation emerges in the spring as a bright green basal rosette followed by an upright stem generally standing up to two feet. By summer, countless striking blueish-purple, bearded flowers adorn all sides of the stem in dynamic whorls, like floral fireworks. It is a nutrient-rich source of food to hummingbirds, song birds, bumblebees, and butterflies and an excellent choice for pollinator gardens, moist meadowscapes and sunny raingardens.  

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous perennial herbaceous plant 
  • Size at maturity: 1’-2’ tall, 3’ wide
  • Light requirements: full sun to partial shade
  • Moisture requirements: moist soil 
  • Bloom time: May - August 
  • Growth rate/ease: moderate growth rate, easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: flowers of all penstemon are highly attractive as a nectar source for hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other insect pollinators; seeds are nutrient-packed food for birds; overall plant is host to caterpillars/larvae of about a dozen species of native butterflies and moths including native Checkerspot butterflies like the Chalcedon Checkerspot, the Mountain Beauty Moth, and the Purple-Lined Sallow moth 
  • Native habitat/range: locally common in moist meadows and streambanks with wet rocky soil at mid to high elevations (i.e. 1200-3400m) in Northern California, most of Oregon (except select counties in the NW) and a few counties in central Washington. Portland Plant List - no. 
  • Special features & uses: deer resistant, hummingbird favorite, landscape uses include pollinator gardens, raingardens, and wet rock gardens 

Gardening with Rydberg’s Penstemon: Ryberg Penstemon is long-lived and one of the most showy wildflowers for Pacific Northwest habitat gardens. It prefers full sun, but can tolerate some shade, and can handle a variety of soils. It tends to grow in moist meadows and streambanks, so be sure to plant it in a perennially moist location. Consider planting several (generally clumps of three to five spaced a couple feet apart) in a meadowscape with native grasses and other companion perennials such as columbine, lilies, western buttercup, triteleia and violets.

Photo Credit 1: "Penstemon rydbergii Swayne" by peganum is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo Credit 2: "rydberg's penstemon Penstemon rydbergii" by Paul and Jill is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo Credit 3: "Penstemon rydbergii" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo Credit 4: "Penstemon rydbergii" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.