Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Deer-Resistant Penstemon

By Tarah Damask ; Updated September 21, 2017
Penstemon is resistant to deer feeding.
deer image by Anton Chernenko from Fotolia.com

Penstemon is a vividly hued perennial plant that offers a wide range of color options. Identify different varieties and their associated colors and characteristics to take the guesswork out of making a selection. With lowered likelihood of damage from feeding deer, penstemon adds a reliable splash of color to the home garden.

Ornamental Description

Penstemon (Penstemon species) is a perennial plant that belongs to the snapdragon family, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. The penstemon plant displays erect columns of tube-like blooms in lavender, white, red and pink hues. Foliage is gray-green to gray-blue with leaves that range from pointed to round.

Deer Resistance

Penstemon is a deer-resistant plant, but that does not mean it is immune to deer damage. Based on research conducted by the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, penstemon receives a grade of C, meaning it is only occasionally severely damaged by deer. A grade of A represents "rarely damaged," B represents "seldom severely damaged" and D means "frequently severely damaged."

Proper Care

Place penstemon plants in locations with full sun exposure for healthy growth, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Grow in soil with good drainage; penstemon plants tolerate dry conditions, but avoid waterlogged soil for vigor as well as disease prevention. Plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8, according to the N.C. State University Cooperative Extension Service.


'War Axe' (Penstemon grandiflorus) is a penstemon variety that displays flowers in maroon, pink, red, purple and cream with red-tinted stems, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. War Axe grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet. The hybrid 'Prairie Splendor' displays blooms in white, lavender, pink and rose with a plant height of 2 to 4 feet; foliage is green. 'Prairie Fire' is another of the prairie hybrids with flowers in a coral-red hue.


Penstemon perennials are susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases including, but not limited to, leaf spot caused by the fungi Cercospora or Septoria species. Leaf spot, as the name suggest, creates spots on leaf surfaces that join, forming larger abnormally colored areas. For chemical control, apply sulfur-based fungicides. To avoid fungal infections, keep penstemon out of excessively wet conditions, according to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Morning sun exposure is good prevention as it dries dew that provides an ideal environment for fungi.


About the Author


Tarah Damask's writing career began in 2003 and includes experience as a fashion writer/editor for Neiman Marcus, short fiction publications in "North Texas Review," a self-published novel, band biographies, charter school curriculum and articles for various websites. Damask holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of North Texas.