Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Penstemon smallii (Small's penstemon)
Cressler, Alan

Penstemon smallii

Penstemon smallii A. Heller

Small's Penstemon, Small's Beardtongue

Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Numerous, tube-shaped, dark-pink to purple, white-throated flowers are borne on upright, branched stalks up to 2 1/2 ft. high. Differing from other eastern penstemons, the flowering branches extend down into the axils of the leafy stems, giving the plant a bushy appearance. The shiny, opposite leaves have attractive, dark veins and clasping, heart-shaped bases. The basal rosette of leaves turns reddish-bronze in the winter.

Small's Beardtongue blooms for up to four weeks, much longer than other eastern penstemons. It occurs naturally in places that are in shade for half the day, but also tolerates full sun. A popular flower in mountainous regions of the South.


From the Image Gallery

14 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Root Type: Tap
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 30 inches tall.
Flower: Flowers 1.5 inches long.
Fruit: Tan.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Pink , Purple , Violet
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
Bloom Notes: Dark pink to lavender to violet or purple, with violet nectar guides.


USA: AL , GA , NC , SC , TN
Native Distribution: Mountains of NC &TN to AL
Native Habitat: Wood margins; exposed or shaded cliffs & banks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Drought Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Light, well-drained soil or sandy and rocky OK. Acidic preferred.
Conditions Comments: Likes moist soil but doesn't like excessive wetness.


Use Ornamental: Grows in sun and part shade
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Propagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Description: Sow seeds immediately outdoors. Most will wait to germinate until spring. Stem cuttings may be taken in early summer, after flowering, and stuck in sand:perlite. Division is the easiest method of increase. Separate crowns in fall or early spring.
Seed Collection: Seeds are ready for collection about 6-8 weeks after flowering. Fruiting stems should be collected when the capsules are darkened and contain dark seeds. Allow seeds to air-dry several days. Store in sealed, refrigerated container.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Short-lived, so resow seed every 2 or 3 years for a continuous population.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Tohono Chul Park, Inc. - Tucson, AZ
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Penstemon smallii in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Penstemon smallii in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Penstemon smallii


Record Modified: 2023-02-22
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back