Heart-leaved Penstemon: the Delightful Flames of your garden!

As a simple fact, a sustainable garden needs lots of help from the wildlife. When insect pollinators don’t come so frequently, your poorly pollinated plants produce fewer, often misshapen, fruits and lower yields of seeds, which badly affects the garden’s productivity. If you want a healthy and productive garden, consider native plants that attract pollinator wildlife like Heart-leaved Penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia)! From late spring to early summer, this flowering shrub brings a warm red color to your garden that is loved by birds and other wildlife.


Heart-leaved Penstemon in our garden

Native to Central and Southern California, Heart-leaved Penstemon is easily spotted on the dry rocky hillsides of Richmond and Pacific Palisades, growing prosperously even on heavy clay soil. This is an interesting shrub with vine-like growth, which explains why it’s also known as the “climbing penstemon”.  However, keep in mind that this plant is not a Penstemon! According to the most recent documents, it has been proven that Heart-leaved Penstemon belongs to the genus of Keckiella, which attributes to its official scientific name “Keckiella cordifolia”.

On average, Heart-leaved Penstemon reaches 3 to 6 feet in height, but may spread further by rhizomes and climbing up other plants. Therefore, pay close attention to the growth of your Keckiella since you might not want it to get into its neighbors’ territories!

Like many other California plants, Heart-leaved Penstemon likes the sun and is very drought tolerant, which means that it barely needs any water once the roots are established. Nevertheless, a little summer irrigation may help stave off dormancy. In mild climates, it stays evergreen year-round. In the winter, Heart-leaved Penstemon also does not require much care since it is cold tolerant to -5 degree F or lower.

 However, the most impressive feature of Heart-leaved Penstemon is its gorgeous, eye-catching scarlet blooms, which normally start out in May and end in July.  The reddish narrow tube-shaped flowers look like little flames that bring you the feeling of coziness and delight as you walk through your home garden! With a dark green shiny foliage made up of lovely heart-shaped leaves, this deciduous shrub should intermix well with most of other plants, but make sure you give it a place with air movement. According to many experienced gardeners, Heart-leaved Penstemon works best aesthetically with Moneyflower, Coffeeberry, Ribes, Coast Sunflower and Manzanita.


Heart-leaved penstemon is a must-have for any hummingbird garden

Another interesting characteristic of Heart-leaved Penstemon’s red tubular flowers is that they are attractive to many beneficial insects and birds, namely honeybees and hummingbirds. By encouraging pollination, Heart-leaved Penstemon plays a huge role in keeping your garden’s ecology dynamic and sustainable. Don’t forget: creating a harmonious habitat for both garden plants and the wildlife is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a gardener!

Come check out our Heart-leaved Penstemon today at California Native Garden Foundation’s Plant Nursery,  76 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126.

We’re looking forward to your visit!


 Image source:

Dry land Garden. Digital image. Wild Ginger Farm. Wild Ginger Farm 2015, 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 July 2015. <https://www.google.com/search?q=climbing+penstemon+birds&newwindow=1&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAWoVChMI-JTw17b5xgIVEDqICh1JzwOl&biw=1366&bih=667#imgdii=ViEhL9UE88JQyM%3A%3BViEhL9UE88JQyM%3A%3BK0-7H7wCFBo5SM%3A&imgrc=ViEhL9UE88JQyM%3A>.


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