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Products > Keckiella cordifolia 'Mountain Flare'
Keckiella cordifolia 'Mountain Flare' - Orange Heartleaf Penstemon

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  
Image of Keckiella cordifolia 'Mountain Flare'
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Plantaginaceae (Plantains)
Origin: California (U.S.A.)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Orange
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Synonyms: [Penstemon cordifolius]
Height: 1-3 feet
Width: 3-5 feet
Exposure: Cool Sun/Light Shade
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10 F
Keckiella cordifolia 'Mountain Flare' (Orange Heartleaf Penstemon) - A sprawling semi-evergreen subshrub that is typically around 3 feet tall by about as wide but can have stems 6 to 8 feet and climb higher over rocks and other plants and often suckers from its roots. It has glossy dark green heart-shaped 1 to 2 inch long oppositely arranged leaves with tiny teeth along the margins. From May to July appear the rich tangerine-orange 1- to 2-inch-long tubular flowers with flaring petal lips as wide, all bunched in a short branching inflorescence at the branch tips.

Plant in full coastal sun to morning sun or light shade in a well-drained soil and irrigate little to not at all in summer months - very drought tolerant but best when roots are allowed to run into shaded areas. It remains evergreen in mild climates with infrequent summer irrigation but can also be left dry to go drought deciduous. In colder locations plants go deciduous in winter and tolerate temperatures down to around 0 F. An interesting and attractive native plant that brings summer blooms into the native plant garden and is a great plant for attracting hummingbirds and seed eating birds later in the season, yet deer tend to leave it alone. A good plant to sprawl down a slope, come out between boulders or intermix with other native or mediterranean shrubs to prolong the typical spring bloom period in the garden and possibly hide this plant's late summer dormant stems. Cut back hard in late summer or fall to make a more compact plant for the following year - can be cut back to 6-inch nubs that will resprout and grow back to a good size plant in the spring. As noted in Carol Bornstein, Dave Fross and Bart O'Brien's California Native Plants for the Garden this plant "appears conflicted as to whether it wants to be a vine, perennial or a shrub, it always knows the season. Even before the first rains arrive, cooler fall nights and shorter days often encourage it to produce thin, ovate light to medium green leaves. Winter rains stimulate an abundance of new foliage and stems , which grow throughout the spring. As temperatures reach toward the century mark, the stems explode with branched terminal clusters of brilliant red-orange blossoms [a bit paler on this selection]. California summers are usually too hot for the delicate leaves of heartleaf Keckiella to endure, so the plant quickly sets seed, sheds some or all of its leaves and shows off its brassy arching stems. It will go completely dormant for the summer months in the hotter, drier parts of California, but it may remain semi-evergreen in coastal areas of central and northern California."

Keckiella cordifolia is native to dry slopes from 500 to 2000 feet in the coastal mountains of central and southern California to the west of the Diablo and Trembor Ranges and south of the Transverse Range from San Luis Obispo County and extending south into Baja California in both the coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant communities. The name for the genus honors American botanist David Daniels Keck (1903-1995), who collaborated with Philip Munz on A California Flora. This plant was first described as Penstemon cordifolius by the British botanist George Bentham in 1835. It is also commonly known as Climbing Penstemon and was first introduced into cultivation in California by Theodore Payne in 1941. This particularly nice and unique tangerine colored selection was collected by Carol Bornstein along Mountain Drive in 2011, not far from where she also collected Solanum xanti 'Mountain Pride', a plant that we introduced into the trade in 2011. Keeping in the theme of the "Mountain Series" we came up with the name 'Mountain Flare' to describe this very nice colored selection. The name is fitting also as Carol was only able to spot this and the Solanum because the flare up nearby of the devastating Tea Fire in the fall of 2008 that had cleared this area of much of the large brush that would have obscured visibility of these fine plants. While attractive, this plant was difficult to keep attractive in the container and also presented propagation challenges we were only able to offer it from 2016 until 2019. 

This information about Keckiella cordifolia 'Mountain Flare' displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.