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Foxglove Plants

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Pictures of foxglove.

Pictures of foxglove. Click the photo above to access the mini-photo gallery.

David Beaulieu

Taxonomy of Foxglove Plants:

Plant taxonomy classifies foxglove flowers as Digitalis purpurea.

Plant Type:

Foxglove plants are classified as biennial: leaves form a rosette close to the ground the first year, succeeded by a spike with blooms the second, and final year. But under favorable growing conditions they often last longer, blooming another year or two beyond what their "biennial" status would warrant. In this case, they may be considered herbaceous perennials. Further complicating any positive life-cycle identification for the novice is the fact that foxglove plants often reseed themselves.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Foxglove Flowers:

Grow in zones 4-8. They will sometimes naturalize.

Characteristics of Foxglove Plants:

Foxglove plants are tall, slender perennials at 2-5' in height and just 1-2' wide. Numerous tubular flowers bloom on a spike, ranging in color from purple to white (the latter can be used in moon gardens). Foxglove flowers appear in the summer months.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Foxglove Flowers:

Grow foxglove plants in full sun to partial shade in a well-drained, acidic soil, rich in humus. Established foxglove plants tolerate dry shade, but not excessive shade. Gear the amount of sunshine you give this perennial to where you live: if you live in the South, give it some shade; in the North, you have the option of growing it in full sun or partial shade, depending on what you're looking to achieve in your landscape design.

Uses in Landscaping:

Because of their height, foxglove plants are often suitable for the back row of a perennial bed. They are among the flowers that attract hummingbirds.

Care for Foxglove Plants:

Foxglove plants are susceptible to crown rot, so provide them with adequate drainage. Powdery mildew disease and leaf spot are other problems that can plague foxglove plants; promote air circulation by giving them sufficient spacing.

Caveat for Growing Foxglove Plants:

Foxglove plants are among the most poisonous plants commonly grown on the landscape. Do not grow them if small children will be spending time in the yard.

More: Name Origin, Medicinal Use:

According to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, "The name foxglove is from the old English name "foxes glofa." It comes from an old myth that foxes must have used the flowers to magically sheath their paws as they stealthily made their nocturnal raids into the poultry yards of rural folk. The association is natural for the foxgloves grew on the wooded hillside slopes that foxes chose for their dens."

The scientific genus name also refers to the fact that foxglove flowers are just about the right size for you to slip your fingers into them, as the Latin, digitalis literally translates, "measuring a finger's breadth."

As with many poisonous plants, foxglove was traditionally used by expert herbalists for medicinal purposes. Even today, drugs made from foxglove plants are used to strengthen the heart and regulate heartbeat.

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