Penstemon 'Sour Grapes'
A smoky mixture of pink and blue with an almost metallic silver sheen on the back of the purple-streaked slender trumpets make this long-flowering plant shine in any light
- Position: full sun or partial shade
- Soil: fertile, well-drained soil
- Rate of growth: average
- Flowering period: July to October
- Hardiness: frost hardy (will need winter protection in cold areas)
Elegant spikes of small, tubular, foxglove-like flowers appear from July to October among lance-shaped, bright green leaves. This easy-to-grow perennial will quickly form large, leafy clumps and is perfect for adding a splash of colour to the middle of a sunny, well-drained border. If you deadhead regularly, the flowers will persist until the first frosts. The magenta-blue flowers of this penstemon have a metallic sheen, reminiscent of black grapes, which contrasts particularly well with deep purples and blues.
- Garden care: Remove the faded blooms regularly to prolong flowering. Apply a dry mulch around the base of the plant to protect the roots from frost damage and cut back in spring when new shoots appear low down on the stem. Lift and divide congested clumps in spring.
- Try taking cuttings in July and early August. Fill a small seed tray with coarse horticultural sand and water it well. Take the cuttings in the cool of the day, choosing non-flowering side shoots about two inches (5cm) in length. If there are flower buds, pick them off. Trim the cuttings below a node (where the leaf joint is) and remove or reduce any large leaves to lessen transpiration. Plunge them into the sand so that two-thirds of the cutting is submerged and place the tray in a cool, shady position for several weeks. Then pot up individually into compost, such as John Innes no 1. You can also leave your cuttings in situ until next spring, although they will need protection from frost.
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