How to Prune Low Beardtongue


Low beardtongue (Penstemon humilis) is a wildflower that is native from New Mexico to California and north to Washington. This beardtongue grows close to the ground, rarely reaching more than 2 feet tall. It prefers habitats that have well-drained soil and full sun. It can tolerate cold winter temperatures and also droughts. Low beardtongue grows in sagebrush valleys, woodlands where pinyon and juniper grow, clearings in mountainous forests and even in alpine tundra up to 10,000 feet in elevation. If you live in such an area, you can grow beardtongue, with its pretty sky-blue to violet flowers, to add interest and biodiversity to your garden.

Step 1

Examine your plant for signs of new foliage in April or early May. It will emerge from the main trunk as small green shoots.

Step 2

Cut back all of the previous year's flower spikes with your clippers after you see signs of new growth. If you discard the old flower spikes in an area where you want more beardtongues to grow, seeds that might remain in them can germinate and create more plants for next year.

Step 3

Prune back all old branches without flowers at the same time, in April or May. Typically, these branches emerge from the base of the plant. Cut them close to the main stalk without cutting into the plant.

Step 4

Prune again in fall by cutting back all of the season's branches about one third of the way back to the plant's main stalk. This pruning will help to keep your plant bushy but will leave sufficient foliage to help protect it from cold winter temperatures.

Step 5

Weed the low beardtongue's surrounding area in the fall to eliminate plants that might compete with it for water, sun and soil nutrients. After you pull out a weed by its roots, shake the soil off around the base of the beardtongue, which will give it a bit of natural mulch to also help protect it from cold weather.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden shears or sharp clippers


  • Pruning penstemon
  • Cal Photos
  • USDA
Keywords: low beardtongue, Penstemon humilis, wildflower pruning

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.