Make a Vertical Statement in Your Garden With Colorful, Stately Foxgloves
Where Foxgloves Will Grow
Loved by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are stunning flowers that are hardy in USDA growing zones 4–10. But if you live in the hotter areas of those zones and want your presentation of them to turn heads, you need to plant them where they have some afternoon shade. Here in New Mexico—where foxgloves are extremely popular but must weather the scorching afternoon sun—these stately flowers need even more shade.
Make sure your soil is rich and drains well before you decide to plant foxgloves. You will need to always keep the soil moist (not wet/soggy); don't ever allow your soil to dry out completely.
Growing Foxgloves From Seed
When planting foxgloves from seed, they will produce roots and leaves the first year, but no flowers. So if you need instant gratification, you may want to purchase small plants from a nursery.
If you do decide you want to start your plants from seeds, however, always start them in quality seed-starting compost. But don't press them into the soil, as they require light for germination. Scattering them lightly across the soil will work just fine. Your goal should be to have the seeds about an inch or so apart, thinning them to about a foot apart once they germinate. Don't overcrowd them!
Water completely and allow your container to drain. You can expect your seeds to germinate in about 10 days. At which time, you can place the tiny plants in small pots (usually 3-inch pots are adequate).
Warning: All Parts of This Plant Are Toxic
Keep children and pets away from foxgloves, since all parts of the plant can be toxic if consumed.
When They Can Be Planted
Foxgloves are generally biennials, producing a crown of leaves during the first season and flowering in spring of the second season. Seeds should be sown once they are ripe—which is usually in early August—or you can sow the seeds in March.
If possible, you should plant your foxgloves outdoors in the fall. But if you feel like the plants are too small to be planted outdoors, keep them in their containers until spring and plant them outside instead. Always allow plenty of space between plants, and you will be rewarded with tall, stately plants displaying beautiful flowers.
Harvesting Foxglove Seeds
You can harvest foxglove seeds when the pods turn uniformly brown and start to split open (usually in late summer). Just gently shake the seeds out of the pod into some type of a container (your hand or even an envelope will work). These flowers self-seed readily, so any of the unharvested seeds on your plants should germinate and begin to grow during the next growing season.
If possible, sow the seeds as soon as they are collected.
To prevent plants popping up in your garden in areas in which they are unwanted, cut down the stalks before they have a chance to shed their seeds.
Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon Digitalis)
A different type of foxglove, the foxglove beardtongue creates a profusion of white tubular flowers that attract long-tongued bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. They are deer resistant and drought tolerant, making them an attractive choice for many gardeners.
Herbaceous perennials, foxglove beardtongues can grow up to about 4 feet tall. This makes them a suitable choice for the backs of borders, where they appreciate average-to-moist, well-draining soil in order to perform at their best. They can be grown in either full sun or partial shade.
These flowers were so named because the sterile stamen has a tuft of small hairs. They are also known as Mississippi penstemon, smooth white beardtongue, and talus slope penstemon.
- Knox, Gerald M. (Editor), Step By Step Successful Gardening, Better Homes and Gardens (1987)
- Perennials (Pocket Guide) (2004), An Oceana Book, Quantum Publishing
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Mike and Dorothy McKenney