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Penstemons are beautiful yet pretty low-maintenance plants, so you don’t have to worry about much when growing them. However, they can sometimes show signs of certain issues, such as drooping, flopping, or lying on the ground. When this happens, what can you do?
Your penstemon may be falling over because it is not getting enough sunlight or nutrition. Alternatively, it may be drooping because of the weight of dead growth, or it just can’t support its weight in full bloom. To solve this issue, you can move the plants, stake them, or prune them.
In the rest of this article, I will explain all the possible reasons why your penstemon is falling over or drooping toward the ground. Additionally, I will offer different fixes for every potential cause.
Reasons Why Your Penstemon Is Falling Over
There are a few different reasons why your penstemon is flopping or falling over. Most of them are related to a deficiency of some kind, but others are inherent.
The Plant Is Not Getting Enough Light
Generally, penstemons prefer full sun, but they can also grow in partial shade. However, if you have planted them in a location that does not receive much sunlight throughout the day, your penstemon will start to show that it needs more light.
Typically, when plants are not getting enough light, they tend to bend and flop, trying to reach sunlight. If your penstemon seems to be falling over in the direction of the nearest place touched by sunlight, you can be sure that this is the problem.
Your Penstemon Is Weighed Down by Dead Growth
Penstemons are perennials, which means that they die during fall and winter and then bloom again during spring and summer. When they die during the colder months, their stem weakens considerably, and the dead flowers can weigh them down.
If you notice your plant starting to fall over when it gets colder, and you can see old flowers still attached to it, you can attribute this behavior to the dead growth. During these months, your plant is dead anyway, so you may not worry about it falling over. However, if it may damage other plants nearby, you’ll need to fix the situation.
The Soil Is Not Nutritious Enough (or Too Rich)
Strangely enough, both too much and too little nutrition can cause your penstemon to fall over in certain conditions. If the soil doesn’t have enough nutrients, your plant will absorb more water than it needs to, which can cause it to droop low and fall over.
On the other hand, too much nutrition can also cause penstemons to flop slightly. These plants thrive in relatively dry environments, so if you plant them in an area with very rich soil, they might not thrive as much as they would otherwise, so they might start flopping.
Some Varieties Are Inherently Likely To Droop
While most penstemon varieties stay up straight, certain ones are quite likely to droop, even if every other condition is perfect for them to thrive. Penstemons have various shapes and sizes, so the ones with bigger flowers can collapse because of their weight.
If you notice that your particular variety of penstemons is starting to fall over as soon as it is in full bloom, the chances are it’s simply weighed down by its flowers.
How To Fix Your Penstemon Falling Over
Once you identify the reason behind your penstemons falling over, you can continue to find a way to fix the issue so that your flowers stay perfectly straight in your garden. You can try a few different fixes, depending on what you think is causing the issue.
1. Move Your Plant to a Sunny Place
If you can see your plant falling over toward sunlight, too much shade may be the real problem. In this case, you need to move your plant to a new location where it can get the appropriate amount of sunlight.
If your penstemons are in a container, you can easily move the pot to a sunnier place. However, if you have penstemons in a bed of some sort, you may need to replant them when the time is right (source).
2. Prune Your Penstemon Regularly
It is recommended to prune your perennials during winter to remove any dead growth. This is done to make the plants look more orderly but also to stop them from drooping because of the extra weight. Pruning may also rejuvenate the plants.
To prune your penstemon, cut the dead flowers with clean, sharp shears. The best time to do this is late winter when all the flowers are completely dead.
3. Use Fertilizer To Make the Soil More Nutritious
If your penstemon is not getting enough nutrition, you should add more fertilizer to the soil to ensure your plant is well fed.
When adding granular fertilizer, you should make sure it’s well spread and place it deep enough so that it reaches the roots. Alternatively, you can add liquid fertilizer by mixing it with water and pouring it into the soil.
4. Make the Soil Drier and Leaner
Because penstemons like relatively dry and lean soil, too much nutrition can be an issue. If you think this is causing your plants to fall over, you can repot them using drier soil or replant them in a rock bed when the time is right.
5. Stake Your Penstemon
When every other condition is right, and your penstemon falls over when it’s in full bloom, you can be sure that there isn’t a problem with your plant per se; this is just how it behaves. In these cases, you can stake your penstemon to help it stand straight despite the weight.
To take your penstemon, find a wooden stake that is long enough and hammer it into the soil, making sure it is deep enough and is not damaging any roots. Tie the plant to the stake using twine, ensuring it’s high enough to keep the penstemon standing (source).
Penstemons are great plants, but sometimes they may fall over or droop significantly, which can ruin the appearance of your garden and damage nearby plants. There are a few different reasons why this happens, including insufficient sunlight or nutrition or dead weight. Some penstemons are naturally more likely to drop.
To fix these issues, try moving the plants to a sunny location, using more or less fertilizer, or pruning them to remove the dead weight. Alternatively, you can stake the penstemon to make sure they stand straight.