Gardening

Foxglove

Foxglove

Photo Compliments of Ryan Somma

Digitalis purpurea or you will hear it more commonly called foxglove, is one of the more striking flowering plants you can add to your garden. It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Foxglove prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. To nurture thriving plants you need to not allow the soil to become fully dry. This plant is a biennial which may be grown from seed sown directly in the garden in spring after last frost (for flowers the following year). You will quickly realize it freely self-seeds under favorable growing conditions, and, as with biennial hollyhocks, can establish colonies in the garden that will persist for years as if they were perennials.

Culture

When grown from seed, foxglove produces only a basal rosette of light green, oblong leaves in the first year. Flowers are borne in the second year in terminal, one-sided racemes atop leafy, 2 to 4 foot tall (infrequently to 5 feet) spires arising from the centers of the basal rosettes. Pendulous 2 to 3 inch long, tubular, funnel-shaped, dark rose-pink to purple (sometimes white) flowers with purple and white spots inside are closely grouped along each spike. Flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds. Plant leaves are a source of the drug digitalis and are highly poisonous. Foxglove is a late spring bloomer that reaches its peak about the same time as roses begin to bloom. After flowering, plants can become somewhat scraggly by late summer, and, because they are biennials, consideration may be given to removing them from the garden as soon as they release their seed. Individual flowers resemble the snipped off fingers of a glove, hence the common name of foxglove.

Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2 inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. You will need to stake the taller varieties to keep them upright. Remove the central flower spike after flowering to encourage other side shoots to form and produce more flowers. However, if you want the plant to self-sow and multiply, leave the flower spike intact on the plant so seeds can mature and disperse.

Diseases & Pests

Powdery mildew and leaf spot can be a problem, if left untreated. This can damage foliage considerably by late summer. Dense crowns may rot in soggy, poorly-drained winter soils. Potential insect pests include aphids, mealy bugs, slugs and Japanese beetle. It will thrive without pesticides in a well-balanced garden that has good airflow and natural predators.

Garden Uses

Tall spires provide striking color and good architectural height to the border and are particularly effective in front of dark backgrounds such as those provided by a wall or shrubs. Foxglove is also quite effective in woodland gardens or naturalized areas.

Planting Instructions

Set plants out in spring or fall, spacing plants 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on the variety; sow seeds in early summer. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.

Additional Information

Family: Plantaginaceae

Common Name: Foxglove

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Hardiness Zones: Zones 4 to 8

Height: 2 to 5 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: May to June

Bloom Description: Strawberry pink, white, yellow, or purple

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Maintenance: Low

Water: Medium

Native Range: Western, southern, and central Europe

Attracts: Hummingbirds

Tolerates: Rabbits, deer

Photo Search

Google – Foxglove Photos

Flicker – Foxglove Photos

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2 Comments

  1. They aren’t really supposed to grow here (Zone 9) but I got hold of some seeds and planted them. Two plants lived. Made it through the winter okay and now they just sit there. No stalk, no blooms. Bummer.

  2. Foxgloves are beautiful! They don’t grow in this part of the state :(

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