The absolutely fabulous foxglove is one those garden plants that I just could not be without! Their skyscraper stems of blooms bring colour and stature all around the garden and they do well in partial shade which is so useful for lots of areas but especially at the back of borders which can often back on to hedges or fences.
Digitalis purpurea is the proper name for what we commonly call a foxglove. Foxgloves grow on stems which may reach five or six feet in height, depending on the variety and the flowers are clusters of tubular shaped blooms in colors of white, lavender, yellow, pink, red, and purple.
Digitalis purpurea is not a perennial plant. It is a biennial plant which means it has a two year life span. It grows a basal rosette of leaves in the first year and then sends up the tall, flowering spike in the second year.
It does not produce flower blooms until its second year after which it then produces seed and dies. The good news though is that foxgloves produce masses of seed and happily reseed easily all around the original plant. It is also easy to gather the seed from the dead seedhead to seed them were you would like them to grow.
Now this can be annoying: you buy a foxglove from a garden centre which flowers, throws its seeds around and then dies. Those newly seeded foxgloves will not flower until year two, leaving a huge gap in the border for this year! The solution is to plant foxgloves two years in a row in order to have foxgloves every summer. The one you buy in the second year from the garden centre will give you a show this year while the small seeds which have self-seeded from last year’s foxglove grow around it in this year. These self-seeded plants grow on and produce the blooms next year while this year’s plant after blooming, self-seeds and dies, thus starting the cycle again! Just carefully remove last year’s dead foxglove and pop the new one in the space without disturbing the self-seeded foxgloves which hopefully have germinated in the soil.
I deadhead my foxgloves once they are finished bloooming for several reasons:
- It tidies up the border.
- Removing spent foxglove flowers may encourage another show of blooms although these will not be as tall as the first spikes but it means you can get another burst of colour later in the season.
- It will deter self-seeding if that is what you want but I save the spent growth as this is where the seeds are so I can collect and plant them in a seed bed as I want to eventually, have foxgloves all around my garden. I leave the flowers on the second flush of blooms so they can self-seed.
If you do not have a fabulously showy foxglove in your garden, I would encourage you to buy one and try it in partially shady spot at the back of a border and wait to be amazed at the prolific floral display! And if you have time to sit with a cuppa and watch, you’ll be further amazed at the amount of bees who will stop by and pop deep into the tubular, bell-like flowers.