This is one in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Community Favorites, 75 can't-fail, easy-care plants well-adapted to our region and recommended by local gardeners.
Sour Grapes penstemon or beardstongue
Penstemon "Sour Grapes"
Size: Under 2 feet tall
Bloom season: Summer, early fall
Exposure: Full sun
Pruning needs: Little or none; prune after flowering to keep tidy and encourage more bloom
Water needs: Once established, water deeply once a week
Snapshot: A hybrid version of a native wildflower, this bright purple perennial is a standout in hot, sunny flowerbeds or rock gardens. It can take the Sacramento heat without fading and tolerates drought. This hummingbird and butterfly favorite makes a great cut flower, too. Penstemons prefer well-drained soil and don't like to be crowded. You can see specimens in the arboretum's teaching nursery on the UC Davis campus.
Why it's a Favorite: "I love the gorgeous grape-purple flowers of this penstemon," said arboretum nursery manager Lisa Fowler. "Blooms for weeks and weeks in early summer when many other plants are in a lull, adding color and presence when the garden really needs it!"
See a photo gallery of the Community Favorites online at http://www.sacbee.com/home_garden