Digitalis purpurea
Common Name: common foxglove
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Plantaginaceae
Native Range: Western, southern, and central Europe
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Strawberry pink, white, or purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Hummingbirds
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. Soil must not be allowed to dry out. A biennial which may be grown from seed sown directly in the garden in spring after last frost (for flowers the following year). Also 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.

Noteworthy Characteristics

When grown from seed, this biennial 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, 2-4' tall (infrequently to 5') spires arising from the centers of the basal rosettes. Pendulous, 2-3" 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 attractive to hummingbirds. Plant leaves are a source of the drug digitalis and are highly poisonous. 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.

Problems

Powdery mildew and leaf spot, if left untreated, 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.

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. Also effective in woodland gardens or naturalized areas.