When to cut back penstemons

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Penstemons are an incredibly reliable plant that are very easy to upkeep. You might notice that your penstemons start to develop new shoots over the coming weeks, ready for the summer. When should you cut back your penstemons?

There are around 250 species of penstemons across the world, although they’re mainly found in North American climates.

They’re known for their opposite leaves, as well as tube-shaped flowers.

Most penstemons are semi-evergreen, meaning they’re around for most of the year.

But the very best time for penstemons is towards the end of summer.

When to cut back penstemons

It’s absolutely essential that you cut back your penstemons at least once a year.

Left by themselves, your penstemons will likely become leggy and woody, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

You’re best to start pruning your plant at the end of April or early May.

The old penstemon stems should provide enough protection against the frost for the new, budding shoots.

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Once the new shoots start to appear at the base, it’s a good idea to get rid of the old flower spikes.

When the main bulk of the summer months have passed, your penstemons will be much healthier if they’re given another sprucing up.

Try simply tidying up the edges of the plant, and cutting back the penstemons by about a third.

Make sure you leave enough of the foliage behind for frost protection against the coming winter.

“Because many penstemons are not reliably hardy, a hard winter can result in serious losses,” said the RHS.

“It is, therefore, advisable to propagate some fresh stock each year in late summer and keep it in frost-free conditions until the following year.

“Cuttings are the best method when propagating a named cultivar, as these do not come reliably true from seed.

“However, seed, division, and layering can also be used.”

If you decide to grow your own penstemons this year, they’re easily propagated from seeds.

Sow your seeds in the early spring – mid-March to early April.

Once the shoots start to appear, plant them out in the garden at the start of the summer.

But, your baby penstemons are unlikely to grow to their full capacity in the first year, and will probably need upkeep through the cold winter.

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