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Plant Profile: Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Also called lady’s glove, fairy gloves, and fairy bells, this herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial is a member of the plantain family, Plantaginaceae, that also includes penstemon, turtlehead, and speedwell.  It is native to disturbed sites of  Europe and Asia but naturalized in parts of North America and is considered invasive in the Pacific Northwest and parts of central and northern California.In the first year the plant produces an evergreen basal rosette of light green oblong leaves that are wrinkled and downy. In the second year it produces a one-sided raceme 3-6.6′ tall with 2-3″ inch long pendulous purple finger-like flowers with white spots inside. The flowering begins in late spring, continues for about a month and are attractive to humming birds and bees.  The fruit is a capsule containing numerous tiny seeds that are attractive to birds. Plants freely reseed.  The leaves, flowers and seeds are poisonous to humans and some animals. An excellent choice for a wooland or wildflower garden.  Many cultivars have been developed that expand the colors available to pink,yellow, rose and white. The genus name Digitalis comes from the Latin word digitus meaning finger and refers to the shape of the flower.  The specific epithet, purpurea, comes from the Latin word purpura meaning purple, and refers to the color of the species’ flower.

Type: Herbaceous biennial or short lived perennial

Bloom: Finger-like purple flowers with white spots in long terminal one sided racemes from late spring to early summer

Size: 3-6.6’H  x 1-2.5′ W

Light: Part shade

Soil: Average, medium moist, well-drained, acidic

Hardiness: Zones 4-8

Care: Remove flowering stalks after flowering to encourage rebloom.  Cutting flowering stalks before seed set will encourage perennial habit while cutting them after flowering will encourage reseeding and a biennial habit.

Pests and Diseases: powdery mildew, leaf spot, aphids, Japanese beetles, slugs, mealy bugs

Propagation: Seed

Companion Plants: Old roses, Campanula glomerata, astilbe,peony, iris, ferns

Outstanding Selection: ‘Excelsior Hybrids; (flowers around the stem)