I had my first encounter with firecracker penstemon while hiking in Seminole Canyon. This amazing little plant stopped me dead in my tracks. I was immediately impressed because it was thriving in a pretty harsh environment. All rock, little dirt, scant shade — no problem. These challenges might cause other plants to wither in fear, but not the firecracker penstemon. It proudly displayed an inspiring rugged defiance.
Here are five interesting facts about firecracker penstemon.
1. Firecracker penstemon is a desert beauty.
Firecracker penstemon is easy to spot against the palette of drab desert colors. This perennial’s red tubular blossoms make it one of the most strikingly beautiful plants in the desert. The telltale red flowers grow in profusion, with some plants bearing as many as thirty flowering stalks.
2. Firecracker penstemon is not easily intimidated.
What I find amazing about this rugged little plant is its ability to grow in nothing more than a few teaspoonfuls of dirt or in thin fractures in boulders. These conditions would intimidate other plants but no so with the firecracker penstemon. In fact, too much soil, too much water, and too much shade spell too much trouble to firecracker penstemon.
3. Firecracker penstemon is a favorite of hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds absolutely love the tubular and nectar-rich red flowers of the firecracker penstemon. These cute little hovering birds will, in fact, stake territories over patches of penstemon. Who would have thought that hummingbirds were territorial. Firecracker penstemon is so important to hummingbirds that they will risk everything to defend their respective patches of penstemon.
4. Firecracker penstemon laugh in the face of heat and drought.
Firecracker penstemon thrives in the desert because it is drought tolerant. The best way to shorten the life of firecracker penstemon is by over-watering, over-fertilizing, and over-thinking what this little beauty needs. Penstemon is right at home in the sun, in the heat, and in the cold. It can grow in 100+ temperatures and is hardy to -20 degrees F. This plant does just fine on its own.
5. Firecracker penstemon has a few aliases.
Like other plants and flowers, firecracker penstemon has more than one other alias. This flowering desert beauty is also known as firecracker beardtongue, Eaton’s penstemon, and Eaton’s beardtongue. But regardless of which title you prefer, this plant remains pleasing to the eyes and is an inspiration to all who find themselves dealing with life’s challenges. The firecracker penstemon by any name reminds us that we too can survive and even thrive in tough places and through tough times.