Stems ascending to erect, 10–45(–52) cm, glabrate or retrorsely hairy proximally, glandular-pubescent distally. Leaves basal and cauline, not leathery, glabrous or retrorsely hairy along midvein, especially adaxially; basal and proximal cauline petiolate, 20–80(–105) × (2–)5–10(–13) mm, blade oblanceolate to lanceolate or linear, base tapered, margins entire or serrate, apex obtuse to acute; cauline 3–6 pairs, sessile, 20–100(–110) × 5–15 mm, blade lanceolate to linear, base tapered to slightly clasping, margins entire or remotely dentate to remotely serrate, apex acute, rarely obtuse. Thyrses continuous or interrupted, secund, 5–20(–24) cm, axis densely glandular-pubescent, verticillasters 2–8, cymes 2–5-flowered, 2 per node; proximal bracts lanceolate, (9–)25–90 × (1–)3–15 mm; peduncles and pedicels densely glandular-pubescent. Flowers: calyx lobes ovate to lanceolate, 8–12 × 2–3 mm, glandular-pubescent; corolla white to lavender, pink, or violet, with magenta or violet-blue nectar guides, ventricose, 24–32(–35) mm, moderately to densely white-pilose and glandular-pubescent internally abaxially, tube 8–10 mm, throat abruptly inflated, slightly constricted at orifice, 9–15 mm diam., rounded abaxially; stamens included, pollen sacs opposite, explanate, 1–1.2 mm, dehiscing completely, sutures smooth; staminode 14–17 mm, prominently exserted, 0.3–0.4 mm diam., tip recurved, distal 10–14 mm lanate, hairs yellow, to 3.5 mm, and medial hairs shorter, stiffer, and retrorse; style 17–18 mm. Capsules 10–16 × 5–7 mm. 2n = 16.
Phenology: Flowering May–Jul.
Habitat: Sandy, gravelly, or loamy soils, shortgrass prairies, sagebrush shrublands.
Elevation: 1100–2300 m.
Colo., Kans., N.Mex., Tex., Mexico (Coahuila).
Penstemon jamesii occurs on the southern High Plains and trans-Pecos regions from southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas through eastern New Mexico and western Texas to northern Coahuila, Mexico.