Content Detail

  • Family (English) figwort
  • Family (botanic) Scrophulariaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches), Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Purple, White
  • Shape or form Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Wildlife Birds, Butterflies, Insect pollinators
  • More information

    Hairy penstemon is a midsummer to late summer perennial with showy sprays of unique purple and white tubular flowers atop tall leafy stems. It can be planted in a cottage garden, pollinator garden, native garden, meadow, or prairie. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

Size and method of spreading:

Hairy penstemon grows 1 to 2 ½ feet tall and up to 1 foot wide at maturity. It spreads by self-seeding. It also sends out short underground stem structures (rhizomes) that produce offsets.

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

The native range of hairy penstemon includes the northernmost Eastern and Central United States. C Value: 9.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Hairy penstemon attracts bees, butterflies, flies, skippers, and wasps.

Leaf description:

Hairy penstemon has leaves that occur around the base of the plant (basal leaves) and leaves that grow from the stems (cauline leaves). The leaves are light to medium green, sometimes with a reddish tint. The upper cauline leaves are lance-shaped with the narrow end toward the stem (oblanceolate) or with the narrow end toward the tip (lanceolate). The upper leaves are smaller than the lower leaves and may be stalkless (sessile) or clasp the stems. The lower cauline leaves and basal leaves are lanceolate, oblanceolate, spatula shaped (spatulate) or elliptic. The lower leaves may have short stalks (petioles) or are sessile. The edges of the leaves are smooth (entire) or finely to coarsely toothed (serrate or dentate). 

Flower description:

Hairy penstemon has flowers that are purple on the outside and white on the inside. The flowers have a tubular petal-like structure (corolla) that is swollen upwards from the lower third and opens into two lips (bilabiate) at the top that reflex backwards slightly. The lower lip has a palate (personate) that blocks the view of the inside of the corolla and has three lobes at the tip and protrudes beyond the upper lip, which is tipped with two lobes. The outside surface of the corolla is covered in short hairs (pubescent), and the inside surface may have longer, unmatted hair. Around the bases of the corollas are leaflike tubular structures (calyxes) that split into five ovate lobes with tips that are slightly reflexed.

Fruit description:

Dry, ovoid fruit (capsule) is produced by hairy penstemon. The capsules turn brown and split at the top when they are mature.

Plant Care:

Hairy penstemon prefers well-drained, average to dry soils in full sun to full shade. It can tolerate poor, sandy, or rocky soils.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Hairy penstemon is not susceptible to major issues with pests or diseases. It can tolerate short periods of drought.


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