How to Prune Scented Beardtongue


The scented beardtongue (Penstemon palmeri or Palmer's penstemon) is a wildflower native to Arizona, Utah and Nevada. It is one of the only varieties of penstemon that has a delightful, fragrant scent wafting from its 4-to-5-foot flower stalks containing a multitude of pink flowers from May until July. It prefers an open, rocky environment and counts among its plant companions sagebrush, pinon pine and juniper. If you want an attractive, lovely smelling perennial wildflower in your garden and your conditions are right, you can easily grow this native plant. It responds well to twice yearly pruning, which keeps it tidy and helps it to produce more flowers on a bushier plant.

Step 1

Prune your scented beardtongue in the spring and again in the fall to keep it from becoming woody and leggy.

Step 2

Cut off all of the previous year's dead flower spikes in April or May. If you cut these off before your final spring frost, the plant will not have the protection these provide and can become damaged by frost.

Step 3

Check your plant in April or May for new growth, which will occur either at the plant's base or along its stems. Cut off all of the old, woody stems to their base on the plant's main stalk. If you see no new growth, prune old wood only half way, just above the lowest set of leaves.

Step 4

Prune your scented beardtongue again in the fall by reducing its size by about a third. Cut branches just above a node, where leaves or other branches appear.

Step 5

Clean up the area where your beardtongue lives after you prune it in the fall by weeding all undesirable plants that can compete with it for nutrients and water.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp garden clippers
  • Large loppers for larger branches


  • Penstemon palmeri/Palmer's penstemon
  • Sagebud

Who Can Help

  • enature
Keywords: Palmer's penstemon, scented beardtongue, pruning wildflowers

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.