Name: Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Type: Biennial (sometimes considered a perennial)
Growth habit: Also known as Dead Man’s Bells, Fairy Gloves, Finger Flower, and Fairy Thimbles (among many other variations,) the foxglove is an upright plant with fuzzy leaves. Blossoms appear (mid-late spring) on a tall spike that can reach as tall as 8 feet high in some varieties. The tube or bell-shaped flowers come in many shades of pink and lavender, from deep plum to white. Inside of the flower (often called the throat) is often speckled with white and a darker shade of the flower’s base color. These flowers are an English garden classic and make a lovely vertical backdrop, especially when massed. It is also a favorite of humming birds and butterflies and grows as a wildflower in some areas.
Light level: Full sun to full shade. Grows more compact in sunlight and taller in shade but does well in either.
Water: Moderate. Somewhat drought tolerant.
Fertilization: Typically not needed, but if you choose to fertilize, use any water-soluble fertilizer formulated for garden plants.
Planting medium: Any common garden soil will do. Performs well in areas with somewhat sandy or poor soil.
Common afflictions: Rust, crown rot, powdery mildew,
Pruning: None typically needed, however, if you do not wish the plant to spread, remove the flower spike as soon as the last flower fades. Sometimes pruning will encourage additional (smaller) flower spikes to grow.
Foxglove Facts: Digitalis is a native of Europe but can be found growing as a wildflower in countries around the world. Digitalis has been used as an herbal medicine for centuries. In the 1700’s an English doctor introduced Digitalis into conventional western medicine as a heart tonic and diuretic. Caution should be used when planting digitalis in the garden because all parts of the plant can be toxic.
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