Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - May 22, 2010

From: Hebron, NE
Region: Midwest
Topic: Planting, Transplants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Penstemon digitalis not blooming in Hebron, NE.
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My Beardtongue plants are too close together. Can I transplant my Penstemon digitalis now, even though the plant is approx. 20" tall? It is not blooming.

ANSWER:

In our Native Plant Database, Penstemon digitalis (talus slope penstemon) is shown growing in one county north of Thayer County on this USDA Plant Profile, so we can be pretty  confident that it belongs where you are growing it, always a first consideration to us at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Your question was dated May 18, and you said your plants were not blooming. Again according to our database, this plant blooms from May to July. What is often not understood about bloom time ranges is that they go from south to north. This plant grows as far south as Texas and as far north as parts of Canada. If it blooms in May here in Texas, it may not be ready to bloom in Nebraska until June. Plants don't have calendars, they grow according to their genetic instructions and the environment in which they find themselves. It has been a hard, cold winter in most of the United States, and we imagine a lot of plants are either late-blooming or might not bloom at all. Furthermore, this is a semi-evergreen (in the South) perennial, with a taproot, which grows from 3 to 6 ft. tall. At 20" it probably simply isn't big enough to bloom yet.

What caused you to decide the plants were too close together? We suggest you read the comments in this Dave's Garden on Penstemon digitalis. They will give you some information on how this plant grows and how easy it is to care for. 

Now, finally for your question about transplanting your Penstemon right now.  Here are the Propagation Instructions on it from our Native Plant Database:

"Propagation Material: Seeds , Softwood Cuttings , Root Division
Description: Division is the easiest method of increase. Separate crowns in fall or early spring. Prune back the foliage of each new division. Propagate also by seed.
Seed Collection: Seeds ripen in fall.
Seed Treatment: Germination is best with cold-moist stratification and light.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: For a neat appearance, cut bloom stalks once theyve turned brown. Somewhat short-lived, so keep a supply of seed on hand to renew your population."

It is already too late for "early spring" and way too early for "fall" and you will want to divide the crowns before you transplant them. We prescribe patience, and don't start putting fertilizer on them to make them bloom, especially not the high nitrogen fertilizer that you use on the lawn. That will make the leaves nice and green and inhibit blooming.

From our Native Plant Database:


Penstemon digitalis

Penstemon digitalis

Penstemon digitalis

Penstemon digitalis

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Sun tolerant, rabbit-resistant plants in Plano, TX
November 07, 2008 - I live in Plano, Texas and am trying to identify sun tolerant plants for my landscape that are also rabbit resistant. The rabbits have taken over and destroy pansies, marigolds, etc. I am looking fo...
view the full question and answer

Damage to ruellia in Monroe LA
October 26, 2009 - I have hundreds of Ruellia Brittoniana. Dwarf Katie White, Katie Blue and Katie Pink. I am finding holes in some of the leaves, Some just have notches chewed out of them. Some of the leaves have...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Purple Heart in Raleigh, NC
December 24, 2014 - I was hoping you could help me with an indoor/outdoor houseplant issue. I have a purple heart, that lives outside in the summers and indoors in the winters. I brought it in a few weeks ago and am no...
view the full question and answer

Shade-loving plants for birds in New Jersey
March 25, 2013 - What native plants should I add to my property, Zone 6, to feed birds naturally? I have a heavily treed lot, so I'd like names of shade loving perennials. Seed or fruit bearing options would be gre...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a creek bank in Northern Illinois
March 26, 2009 - Hello. I live in Northern Illinois. The creek (northern exposure in a wooded area) on the back of my property has bare muddy banks and is subject to seasonal floods. I want to plant something hardy t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.