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

Looking for Mimosa pudica plants in Austin, TX.
March 10, 2012 - Where can I buy a Mimosa pudica plant in or near Austin? I don't want seeds, but a few small actual plants. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Interesting native orchids in MS.
August 21, 2012 - I have a stand of 18 Cyp. parviflorum orchids which I tell only few people about. I've been an hobby grower for over 15 yrs. Recently, I noticed I has some Spiranthes growing which thrilled me. Now, ...
view the full question and answer

Need perennials for front beds in south-facing house ib San Angelo, TX.
February 12, 2012 - What perennials will work in my front beds of southern facing house in West Texas?
view the full question and answer

Low cost landscaping in Federicksburg VA
February 22, 2009 - Hello, I live in Fredericksburg Va and I rent a townhome with a small yard. My back yard is almost completely mud and my front yard has a hideous square shrub. So my question is do you have any plant ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a garden in Greenville SC
July 12, 2009 - Beebalm, Threadleaf Coreopsis, a Yaupon Holly, a Southern Magnolia, and a Highbush Blueberry. And as a ground cover in some areas, we have Cinquefoil (which helped me choke out Indian strawberry!) But...
view the full question and answer

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