The elegant white clusters of Smooth Penstemon, known too as Smooth White Beardtongue or Mississippi Beardtongue, make for an attractive clump-forming native perennial to grace your natural landscape. This is the only Penstemon that grows well in clay soil, and is a great choice for poorly drained soils. Easily distinguished from fellow Penstemons by this quality and its creamy flowers alike, this may be the idea Penstemon for your specific soil type.
Penstemons are masters at networking— as in, they excel in pollinator attraction. Their common name Beardtongue references the hair-like filaments that line their stamens and the protruding lower petal of their tubular blossoms; these force bees deeper into the flower. As bees struggle to wriggle their ways out, it positions the anthers of the flower in such a way that they wrap around the insect to adhere pollen just where it should be aligned to meet the stigma of the bee’s next floral treat. They have defined guiding ‘runways’ to assure pollinators know just where they might find a trove of nectar. The long bloom time of Beardtongue, from late spring into mid-summer, provides a crucial nectar source in a scarce moment where summer blooms lag behind those of spring. A great number of bees rely on this group of plants, particularly newly hatched bumblebees, leafcutter bees, and sweat bees. A diverse array of moths, beetles, and butterflies also take advantage of Penstemon’s late spring/early summer resources. Smooth Penstemon in particular is favored by bumblebees, mason bees, and hummingbirds; it is a host plant for the Arachne Checkerspot, Chalcedon Checkerspot, and Confused Haploa moth. As flowers with small habits and trumpet-like blooms that pop with vivacity, Penstemons are an easy and welcome addition to the landscape.