Penstemon pallidus

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: pale beardtongue 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Plantaginaceae
Native Range: Central and eastern United States
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 1.50 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Dry Soil


Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Avoid wet, poorly-drained soils. Plants have tolerance for drought, summer heat and humidity. Remove spent flowering racemes to prolong bloom. Plants may be cut back to basal foliage after flowering to improve appearance of the planting. Plants in cold winter climates often benefit from a loose winter mulch.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Penstemon pallidus, commonly known as pale beardtongue, is an herbaceous perennial that grows to 2 1/2’ tall. It is native to a variety of habitats including dry or rocky open woods, glades, sandy soils on prairies, bluffs, rocky cliffs, abandoned fields and along railroads in the eastern and central U.S. from Maine to Michigan and Minnesota south to Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas.

This penstemon is a downy perennial. Stems, leaves, flowers, flower stalks and flower pedicels have pubescence of variable density. Basal leaves form a rosette from which rises a central stem clad with narrow, lanceolate, partially-clasping, medium green stem leaves (to 2” long and to 3/4” wide). The central stem is topped from mid spring to early summer (May-June) by a showy upright panicle (4-10” long) of two-lipped, tubular, white flowers (often with a pink tinge). The upper lip of each flower has two lobes and the lower lip has three lobes. Flowers are followed by ovoid seed capsules (to 1/4” long) which split open when ripe releasing numerous tiny seeds.

The genus name Penstemon likely comes from the Latin paene meaning "almost" or "nearly" and the Greek stemon meaning "stamen". The name may also comes from the Greek penta meaning "five" and stemon meaning "stamen". Both refer to the fifth, sterile stamen (staminode) that characterizes members of this genus.

Specific epithet comes from Latin meaning pale in reference to the pale white flowers and pale green foliage.

Penstemons are sometimes commonly called beardtongues because the unusual sterile stamen contained in each flower has a tuft of small hairs.


No serious insect or disease problems. Root rot can occur in wet, poorly-drained soils. Leaf spots and rusts may also occur.


Sunny areas of borders, rock gardens, cottage gardens and open woodland areas. Xeriscape. Group or mass.