Foxglove Plants – Digitalis Purpurea
Foxglove plants (Digitalis purpurea) long-time garden areas where vertical interest and lovely flowers are desired. Foxglove flowers grow on stems that may reach 6 feet (2 m.) in height, depending on the variety.
While I was out and about recently, I negotiated my way around a sharp bend in the road and noticed out of the corner of my eye some flowers blooming on a steep embankment.
Deep pink bells gracefully dangled from tall stems. Could it be foxgloves growing amidst all the obnoxious roadside weeds and grasses?
On the return trip through, I gave the stand of plants a closer look, and indeed, they proved to be Digitalis purpurea, the common foxglove.
Foxgloves are easy to love. Striking plants reward any gardener with oodles of colorful tubular bell-shaped blooms throughout midsummer.
The common foxglove and its assorted cultivated varieties are undoubtedly the most widely grown of the genus.
With basal-forming rosettes of lush, nearly hairy light green leaves and tall, one-sided spikes of purple, white or pink blooms, the plant in flower may reach a grand height of 6 feet in moist, rich soil.
Several varieties of the common foxglove are exceptional plants for any perennial garden. Sutton’s apricot has apricot-pink flowers, and gloxinioides has giant pink, purple, creamy yellow, or pink bell-shaped blooms with frilly edges.
The Excelsior hybrids of the common foxglove produce pastel blooms that form around the circumference of each stem.
Each bell is held horizontally from the stem, giving the gardener an intimate view of the chocolate dots and blotches at the center.
All cultivated varieties of the common foxglove and the straight species are best grown from seed every year. A biennial in nature, the common foxglove grows the first year vegetatively and produces flowers and seeds in the second year.
The seed is easily saved for spring sowing or may be allowed to fall to the ground to self-sow.
While the most frequently seen, the common foxglove is by no means the only foxglove hardy to our region. D. Grandiflora, yellow foxglove, is hardy to Zone 3.
A native of Siberia and Turkey, this delightful plant only reaches about 3 feet in full bloom. Pale yellow bells sport brown veins on the inside. These plants may be either biennial or perennial and are often reasonably short-lived.
The rusty foxglove, D. ferruginea, is a natural garden treasure. This foxglove produces less abundant yet unique golden brown blooms with deep rusty brown veins inside dark green leaves from the center of hardy plants.
Rusty foxglove is native to southern Europe and the Middle East and is hardy to Zone 4. It is a perennial and reaches up to 18 inches in spread. It may be easily divided after its second year.
Another member of the foxglove genus, D. parviflora, is also a perennial. Leaves are generally slightly toothed and a lustrous green. Two-foot tall stems bear dense clusters of dark orange to brown blossoms, each with brown-tinged purple edges.
Commonly known as chocolate foxglove, some people believe the foliage has a chocolate fragrance, but it is more likely its name was derived from the unusual coloration of the flowers.
All foxgloves are lovely clump-forming plants. Although they readily self-sow, this is not a group of plants that are likely to become invasive in your garden.
Foxgloves may be grown practically anywhere, barring very moist or arid sites. They are easily naturalized into the woodland garden and grow best in partial shade.
This beautiful plant group grows well in full sun, so long as rich, moist soil is provided. While many gardeners consider it a blessing to be presented with offspring of garden perennials, you may not be happy if lots of foxglove seedlings appear in your garden next spring.
If you want to limit the number of volunteer seedlings in the years after flowering, once the blooming period is complete, remove the spent blooms before they go completely to seed.
Foxglove Interesting Facts
Oscar Wilde wrote that a “weed is just a flower out of favor,” which describes the now-we-love-it, now-we-don’t-history of foxgloves. These spires of colorful cascading bell-shaped blooms are again getting deserved attention as a cottage garden basic.
This year a pale yellow digitalis Primrose Carousel covered “girl” on Thompson and Morgan’s seeds catalog.
Most seed packets contain mixed colors, but they can be bought separately in colors of apricot, raspberry, purple, pinks, bronze, cream, and whites and combinations with a darker outer color and pale interior.
For biennials, sow in spring or summer for blooms the following year. For perennials, buy them by plant or seed.
They are stupendous when grouped. Avoid lining them up like soldiers because this is most unnatural. Thought of as a tall plant, there are also dwarf varieties.
- Particulars: Biennials and perennials, zones 4 to 8, height 45 to 150cm (17 to 60 inches). Flowering: Early summer to early autumn. Good cut flower.
- Site: Any soil provided it is not too wet or dry, light shade to full sun.
- Caution: All parts are poisonous if eaten.