Penstemon parryi is the botanical name for a herbaceous perennial shrub that often goes by the name Parry’s penstemon or Parry’s beardtongue. It is a member of the snapdragon or figwort family. The Penstemon parryi is a native plant of Arizona and is found growing wild throughout the lower elevation of southern Arizona and northern Mexico. It is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones 9 to 10.
The Penstemon parryi typically grows to 3 feet in height and has a 2 foot spread. It has thick, bluish-green, lance-shaped leaves and produces ¾-inch funnel-shaped flowers that bloom on long spikes from February to April. The blooms of the Penstemon parryi come in many shades, from red to hot pink and pink.
A low-maintenance shrub, the Penstemon parryi prefers full sun, but does well in filtered shade. It likes well-drained, dry, alkaline soil, but can adapt to other soil types when it needs to. Although it is considered drought resistant, regular watering during the summer months will help to enhance next years blooms. It may be pruned by removing lower branches that are dead or broken, but no other maintenance is required.
Although the Penstemon parryi will self-sow, the plant's seeds, which grow in pods, may be collected and sown elsewhere during the fall. Allow pods to dry on the plant and then break open to collect the seeds. The Penstemon parryi may also be propagated by taking cuttings in early through mid-summer.
A favorite treat for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, the Penstemon parryi is a popular shrub that is commonly used as an accent plant in landscapes and gardens. Prized for its showy burst of color and hardy nature, it is often seen in rock gardens. The low-water needs of the Penstemon parryi make it especially well-suited for poolside landscapes.
As members of the figwort family, there are many varieties of penstemon, including the Penstemon parryi that are thought to have medicinal properties. Penstemon was once commonly used in traditional Native American medicine as a poultice for swelling and the treatment of gunshot or arrow wounds. It also was used in tea for treating stomach troubles or constipation. Some parts of the penstemon can be poisonous, however, and plants should not be ingested unless the person making the recipe is well versed in herbal medicine.