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Dependable. Like a good friend, you can count on Husker Red Beardtongue year after year. Oh, it may not be the flashiest Spirit in the garden, but this reliable native will bring grace and cheer to your piece of Eden all the same. Withstanding drought and ignored by deer, it forms a neat evergreen rosette of beautiful burgundy basal leaves. In May, it sends up delicate white blossoms on dark stems that dance and sway above the foliage. The blooms are quickly spotted by hummingbirds, who relish the nectar they offer up. You may not have heard of Husker Red before, but once you get to know it, you won’t want to be without it!
- Hardiness Zone: 3-8
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Beardtongue gets its name from the hairy stamens (male flower parts) inside the blossoms. It is also known as Penstemon. This sturdy species of Beardtongue, the Foxglove Beardtongue, grows in sunny, open areas all over the East, Midwest, and Southern Plains. It normally has plain green leaves, but in 1983, horticulture professor Dale Lindgren found a plant with reddish leaves. Over several years, he patiently worked to deepen the color, letting the plant reseed and then choosing the darkest offspring to carry on the burgundy genes. Because he teaches at the University of Nebraska, Dr. Lindgren naturally named his new Spirit ‘Husker Red’.
Husker Red Beardtongue is an easy-to-grow Spirit. It thrives in many parts of the country, looks great in multiple seasons, and isn’t subject to any major disease or insect problems. But don’t take our word for it. The Perennial Plant Association named Husker Red Beardtongue their Perennial Plant of the Year in 1996 for those very reasons!
How to Grow
Give Husker Red Beardtongue a site in full sun. It must have soil that drains freely. Although it will need regular irrigation while it gets established, afterwards this self-reliant Spirit will be remarkably drought tolerant. The rusty brown winter stems and seedheads have subtle charms during the dormant season, and you may choose to leave them standing. Doing so may result in seedlings appearing, which you may or may not desire. In any case, trim back the stems and any unsightly foliage before new growth appears in spring.
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