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How to Grow: Foxglove
Digitalis spp and hybrids
full sun, part sun, part shade
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Spring to early summer in colors such as blue, pink, peach, red, yellow, purple and speckled.
Mature Height x Spread
2 to 4 feet x 1 to 3 feet
attracts beneficials, attracts hummingbirds, deer resistant
This common cottage garden plant can be a biennial or perennial depending on the species. Biennials grow just leaves the first year and flower the second. Since they self-sow readily, you’ll often get colonies of foxgloves blooming each year making it look like they’re perennials. There are also some short-lived perennials in this group that grow well in New England. The small foxglove blooms are born on flower stalks. The tube-shaped flowers are perfect for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. The leaves and flowers, however, contain digitalis and can be harmful if eaten. Foxglove flower stalks make excellent cut flowers and can be very showy in a perennial flower border.
Where, When and How to Plant
Foxgloves are hardy throughout New England. Plant seed in summer or early fall in the perennial garden in moist, slightly acidic soil. Some newer varieties can be sown in early spring and will flower the first year. Keep well watered. Thin plants to 12-to 18-inches apart. You can also plant transplants purchased from the local garden center in spring. In hot areas, plant in part shade. In cool areas, plant in full or part sun.
Keep plants well watered and weeded. Mulch to maintain soil moisture conditions and prevent weed growth. Add compost each spring to fertilize the plants.
Regional Advice and Care
Taller varieties, or varieties grown for cutting, may need staking to keep from falling over. After blooming, let the foxglove plants drop their seed, then remove that plant since it will look unkempt and die soon anyway. Keep the area properly thinned of new seedlings each spring or you will have an overcrowded planting with small flower stalks and unhealthy looking plants. Foxgloves also can be left to naturalize in a wildflower area since the self-sow so readily.
Companion Planting and Design
Tall foxgloves look great in the back of a perennial flower border, especially against a dark wall or dark foliage plant such as peonies and Shasta daisy. Plant shorter foxglove varieties among flowers, such as columbines, roses, sweet William, snapdragons and poppies. They provide some vertical color. Grow varieties along partly shaded woodland walks and in wildflower patches.
Some common hybrid foxgloves to grow include “Excelsior”. It has colorful flowers that grow on all sides of the flower stalk, not just one side, and they face outward rather than downward. “Dalmatian Series” features 2 to 3 foot tall flower stalks in peach, pink and white that flowers in just 4 months from seeding. The “Camelot Series” produce huge, speckled flowers on 4-foot tall stalks. “Carillon” is a 12-inch tall, long blooming yellow variety.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.