Habit: Penstemon azureus is a semi-shrubby perennial sporting several leafy stalks lined with attractive deep blue flowers and bright-yellow buds. The stems form tightly branched clusters from a woody crown, and typically grow 8-20 inches tall. Leaves are linear to lance-shaped and mostly cauline, basal ones are up to 2 inches long and born on short leafstalks, while upper leaves are smaller and clasping. Foliage is greenish-grey and fully coated with a bluish wax. Inflorescence is composed of several whorls of flowers supported on short stems. The corolla consists of a deep blue to purplish, 2-lipped tube, with the lower lip abruptly bent backwards. Blooming occurs in early to mid spring.
Ecology: it inhabits coniferous forests, open woodlands and dry slopes at mid elevations. Its native habitat ranges from southwestern Oregon to central California. Penstemon azureus is commonly found on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Growing conditions: favors sun to partial shade, and well-drained soils. It is drought-tolerant, but will do best with moderate summer watering. Attracts hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.
Penstemons have tubular flowers with a widened mouth that varies in diameter according to the size of the bees that pollinate each species. The scientific name of the genus refers to the 5 stamens located in the center of the flowers. Stamens are the male reproductive parts of the plant. The species name “azureus” means “blue”, referring to the deep, rich color of the blossoms. Interestingly enough, Penstemon azureus has flower buds that stay yellow until the time that they open in which they reveal that they are really blue or purple.