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Plant Profile: Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

digitalis_purpureaCommon foxglove is a biennal or short-lived herbaceous perennial that is native to Europe where it grows in disturbed sites. It is a member of the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) that also includes speedwell (Veronica), turtlehead (Chelone), and Penstemon. In the first year the plant produces an evergreen basal rosette of light green leaves that are wrinkled and downy. In the second year it produces one sided raceme of two to three inch long pendulous purple flowers with white spots. The flowering begins in late spring and continues for about a month. Plants freely reseed themselves and once this is accomplished the plant can be removed from the garden as it becomes somewhat unattractive by late summer. On the other hand, the removal of the flowering stalk before seed set will encouraged rebloom and push the plant to act more like a perennial than a biennial. The flowers are attractive to humming birds and bees, the seeds to birds. Many cultivars have been developed that expand the range of colors available. The leaves, flowers and seeds are poisonous and the leaves provide the drug digitalis. The genus name Digitalis is from the Latin word digitus meaning finger and refers to the finger-like shape of the flowers.

Type: Biennial or short-lived perennial

Bloom: Pendulous, purple, fingerlike flowers two to three inches long produced in one sided raceme for four weeks beginning in late spring.

Size: 4-5’ H x 3’ W

Light: Sun or light shade

Soil: Humus-rich, moist, well-drained, acidic

Hardiness: Zones 4-9

Care: Remove flowering stalks after blooming or after seedset

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

Propagation: Seed

Companion Plants: Roses, Salvia, iris, drumstick allium