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PENSTEMON grandiflorus

Image of Penstemon grandiflorus



Botanical Name

PENSTEMON grandiflorus

Plant Common Name

Large Beardtongue, Shell-leaf Penstemon, Wild Snapdragon

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

A short-lived perennial wildflower, the large beardtongue provides ample beauty in both its foliage and flowers. This deep taproot plant is native to the American Great Plains and prairies, from North Dakota to Wyoming, Texas and Illinois. It becomes a narrow, towering specimen in sunny, low-fertility and fast-draining soils. While short-lived, it produces lots of seeds that germinate to perpetuate the wildflower in a location.

The grayish blue-green leaves are thick and leathery and occur in opposite pairs on the upright plant stem. In the first year after sprouting, the large beardtongue is a basal rosette of foliage. In the second year's summer, the plant sends up one or two flower stems. The leaf bases clasp onto this stem. At the top of the stem, arising from numerous leaf bases, are one or two pinkish-lavender flowers. The blossom is tubular-funnel shaped, attracting long-tongue bees for pollination. Each blossom is rather short-lived in the three-week-long blooming season from late spring to early summer. The flower season is a bit later in cold winter regions.

Grow large beardtongue in full to partial sun. The soil needs to be rather low fertility and have excellent drainage. Shade, soggy soil and overly rich soil kills this perennial quickly. While fleeting for use in a mixed border, where you want the plant to remain in a definite location, large beardtongue is exceptional in naturalistic landscapes. Scatter seeds or establish young container plants in a rocky meadow, roadside verge or gritty-soil hillside to establish. Over time the plants will pop up hear and there across the garden.

Cultivar 'Prairie Snow' produces white flowers that come true from seed in subsequent generations. "War Axe Strain" is believed to have been developed through hybridization with another Great Plains species. Its flowers display deeper colors of blue-violet, rose, lavender or fuchsia. Those referred to as Prairie Jewelâ„¢ large beardtongues are slightly shorter growing but with exceptionally pretty foliage and giant-size flowers in a range of white, lavender, pink and violet-purple tones. They were first developed and selected by Mary Ann Heacock of Denver, Colorado.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 10

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    24"-40" / 61.0cm - 101.6cm

  • Width

    10"-14" / 25.4cm - 35.6cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    North-Central United States, Central United States, Western United States, Texas

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Tolerances


  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    Pink, Light Blue, Lavender

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green, Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Rock Garden / Wall, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing