Foxgloves, also known as digitalis, are striking perennials and biennials that are common in an English cottage garden. With more than 25 species and numerous varieties, foxgloves range in height from 2 to 3 feet to 6-foot giants. They do, however, require a certain amount of attention and care. Avoid these mistakes when growing your foxgloves.
1. Expecting First Year Blooms
While some varieties are biennial – meaning they won’t bloom the first year, others are perennials that need to become established before they bloom profusely. Don’t expect to plant foxgloves this year and get blooms right away. Pay attention to the grower’s tags and ask questions of the nursery if there’s any doubt about how soon particular foxgloves will bloom.
2. Not Realizing Foxgloves are Poisonous
With their distinctive speckled throats and eye-catching colors, foxgloves are often a gardener’s choice for making a statement. What many don’t realize, however, is that foxgloves are poisonous, in both their leaves and their flowers. Therefore, they should not be planted in any area where children and pets play.
3. Too Much Sun
Most foxgloves do best in shady locations – either partial or full, depending on variety and climate zone. Geographically, they grow in zones 4 to 8. In very cool areas, some will tolerate full sun.
4. Improper Soil Conditions
Digitalis likes a moist, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. Add humus to ensure a rich soil composition.
5. Lack of Sufficient Water
Garden experts caution that foxglove plants need a lot of moisture. Regular watering is a must. During droughts or long hot spells, water 1 to 2 times per week.
6. Not Adding Fertilizer
Why do some foxgloves fail to thrive? One reason is because they don’t get enough fertilizer. Add a general, all-purpose fertilizer once a month. This results in larger plants and bigger blooms.
7. Failure to Mulch
Give foxgloves adequate protection with a good layer of 4 to 5 inches of organic mulch. Without mulch, they’ll easily lose moisture and, in winter, will be prone to drying winter winds and moisture-robbing cold.
8. Improper Spacing
Many gardeners are tempted to plant small, container-grown stock close together to maximize impact. This is a mistake, as foxgloves will rapidly overtake their neighbors. Prevent overcrowding by spacing 15 to 18 inches apart (more for taller varieties). Many foxgloves will naturalize, meaning they will self-seed. Divide clumps every 3 to 4 years to give them more room.
9. Not Staking Tall Plants
Some foxglove varieties grow to heights of 6 feet, while others may only reach 2 to 3 feet. To keep the plants from bending and breaking in the wind, and to be able to support their blooms, stake digitalis plants. Gardeners who fail to do so will miss out on the natural beauty of the foxgloves.
10. Lack of Pest and Disease Control
Inattention to pest and disease control kills many a digitalis plant. Powdery mildew, leaf spot, crown gall and snails are a few of the problems that may spoil the plant’s growth. Give foxgloves adequate drainage and good air circulation. Pick off dead or diseased leaves and treat with fungicide or herbicide as appropriate. Sprinkle slug and snail bait around the plant as well.
Remember, foxgloves aren’t hard to grow and reward the gardener with much in return for proper care.