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Penstemon smallii

Small's beardtongue add to wishlist

Plant types and subtypes: Perennials

Light Requirements: sun, part-sun, part-shade

Water Use: low, medium

Soil Moisture: dry, moist

Soil Description: acid, neutral, rich, average, loam, sand, gravel/rock

Height: 1'-2'

Bloom Time: April, May, June

Bloom Color: purple, pink, lavender

Leaf Color: green

Hardiness Zone: 6

Additional Tags: attracts bees, attracts butterflies, attracts hummingbirds, cut flowers, deer resistant, fall interest, rare, rock garden plant

flowers of Penstemon smallii (Small's beardtongue)
  • flowers of Penstemon smallii (Small's beardtongue)
  • flowers of Penstemon smallii (Small's beardtongue)

Pricing & Availability


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Penstemon smallii

Also known as:

Small's beardtongue


Small's pentsemon

Scientific Synonyms:


This short-lived perennial has a somewhat bushy appearance, growing up to 24 inches in bloom. The throats of the pinkish-purple tubular flowers are marked with white stripes. Small's beardtongue has green, purple-veined, shiny opposite leaves set on dark purple stems. The basal rosette turns an attractive red to bronze in fall.


Penstemon smallii is a rare species, found in isolated pockets in the mountainous areas of the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Small's beardtongue grows along wood margins and on cliff banks. It prefers acidic, dry to moist soil, and can be grown in either loam, sand or rocky soil. This species is very tolerant of heat and humidity, but will not do well in wet conditions. All said, this is a very easy plant to grow that can be used in just about any garden environment, except for full shade. Blooms are long lasting adding a splash of color for up to a month, from April to June. Zone 6


Easily propagated from seed, by root division in spring or fall, and from cuttings.

Additional Notes

Penstemon smallii is an underutilized garden gem. Due to its short-lived nature, it is best to let it self seed to ensure a long lasting presence in the garden. The genus derives its name from the Greek word penstemon which means five stamens. One of these is sterile and hairy whereby the common name beardtongue.

Native Range & Classification

Recorded County Distribution: USDA data

Native Range:


Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Asteridae
Order Scrophulariales
Family Scrophulariaceae Figwort family
Genus Pentsemon beardtongue
Species Penstemon smallii Small's beardtongue