Digitalis - Foxgloves - How best to nurture them year on year?

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by AndyS, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. AndyS

    AndyS Gardener

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    Hi,

    I have planted a few Foxgloves in our garden this year, as they are my wife's favourite and seem to tolerate the shady spot I had a gap in quite well. They are looking healthy and starting to flower nicely.

    My questions are -

    i) I understand they are biennial but not sure what this means in practical terms - will the same plants survive the winter but not flower next year, then live on another winter and flower again in 2020? Or do they die off but drop seed that will hopefully germinate and grow next year but not flower until 2020?

    ii) is there something I can do such as saving seed to propagate more plants next year and if so when is the best time to re-plant the saved and dried seed? Sow direct or in modules under cover first? is there a way to get new plants that will flower next year from the plants I have, or would I need to buy more plants next year in order to have foxgloves flowering in the garden every year?

    iii) for my plants this year, do they prefer a lot of water and an occasional feed or should I just let nature do its thing (I know they grow wild so wondered if they might actually prefer less nutritious soil).

    Grateful as ever for any other pointers. Thanks.

    Andy
     
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    • Sian in Belgium

      Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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      Like me, my foxgloves don't obey the rules...

      They are supposed to be biennial, but I find they often flower a third, even a fourth year.

      They are supposed to like slightly moist, shady and rich soil (edge-of-woodland sort of thing), but mine have established themselves in quick-draining sandy soil in full sun.

      Edit: just looked at my foxgloves in full flower, and realised that the description of where to cut the spike was incorrect.

      I let the main spike flower, and by the time the very tip of the stem is just going over, the seeds at the bottom are about ready to come out. I then cut the stem near the base of the flower spike, at the top of the pyramid-of-leaves, and lay the spent flower-spike stem on the ground, where I want them to "establish". The first year I cut the stems into sections. The seed falls out when it's ripe, and I find it germinates quite happily in the open ground. The seedlings are quite easy to recognise. Slightly pointy leaves, mid-green in colour, and a slightly ribby texture.
      IMG_5005.JPG Can you see what I mean by the top of the pyramid of leaves?

      Once I have cut the stem, I often have secondary, slightly shorter flower spikes developing later in the year.

      In a matter of 4 years, I have foxgloves established as one of the "friendly weeds" in the garden. I just pull out the baby plants, or transplant them, when they grow where I don't want them to be...
       
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        Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
      • redstar

        redstar Total Gardener

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        started some about 20 years ago, never worked for me. gave up. good luck,
         
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        • WeeTam

          WeeTam Total Gardener

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          Ours self seed all over the place. In pots,on the wall, in the shady bed. Some i shake their heads at the end of summer and the seeds fly about.
          Shady damp areas seem best.
           
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          • martin-f

            martin-f Plant Hardiness Zone 8b

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            I put some seeds in last year a few are in flower at the moment.
            DSC_0232.JPGDSC_0233.JPGDSC_0234.JPG
             
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            • Peter K

              Peter K Gardener

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              Because they are biennial flowers and I like foxgloves to flower every year, i put seeds in at the end of summer/autumn in the greenhouse and they flower the following year. I dig them up at the end of the year and do the same thing all over again.
               
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              • CarolineL

                CarolineL Total Gardener

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                Hi @AndyS if you let a FEW self seed, then some will flower next year, and some will take a little longer and come the year after. So eventually you will always have some big enough to flower each year. I do the same with other biennials like smyrnium perfoliatum. I also like white foxgloves, so I diligently pull out any with darker leaves. I now get 99% white flowers, some with nice chocolate spots, and only the occasional pale pink one (which I pull out before it seeds).
                 
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                • KFF

                  KFF Total Gardener

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                  Hi Andy,

                  I notice that the comments on here all relate to our wild Foxglove which is Digitalis Purpurea. This is a biennial which means you sow one year to flower the next. They can be kept for several years by NOT letting them set any seed at all.

                  However,
                  There are perennial species and Hybrids available, these are just a few............

                  D. Ferruginea
                  D. Lutea
                  D. Thapsi
                  D. Grandiflora
                  D. Heywoodii
                  D. Lanata
                  D. Obscura
                  D. Laevigata
                  D. Dubia
                  D. Canariensis
                  D. Parviflora

                  There are some Hybrids which have been made by crossing our D. Purpurea with the hardy species. A few of these are......

                  Carillion
                  Camelot
                  Pam's Choice

                  and these are grown as perennials also.
                   
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                  • AndyS

                    AndyS Gardener

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                    Thanks for all the replies. Reading through the various bits of info, I think I now feel more confused than before! But also suspect I am rather over-thinking this too...

                    I took biennial to mean the plant is perennial but it only flowers every other year. I now suspect I have this wrong - your description suggests they grow and flower for 2 years (or sometimes 3 or 4) but then die out. Is that right?

                    I'm doing this bit right at least.

                    Yes, I recognise them well as wildflowers so no probs there, it's just the propagation I'm less sure on.

                    See, this seems to suggest a different meaning to biennial to what I'm reading into @Sian in Belgium 's description. Do your plants live for 2 years then @KFF and just flower in year 2?

                    I think that might be what I have, but I bought them as young seedlings very cheap and they weren't labelled up. They are purple if that helps!

                    So, overall it sounds like my best bet to increase my number of plants and get flowers every year might be to cut and lay out the stems to encourage some self-seeding as @Sian in Belgium suggests, but then also to collect and dry some seed in the autumn and then plant in modules in the greenhouse in the Spring. Does that sound like a plan?

                    Thanks again for all the help everyone.

                    Andy
                     
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                    • Kandy

                      Kandy Will be glad to see the sun again soon.....

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                      0A3CD74A-784C-4EB0-918B-C53CF0E3AFBE.jpeg8B177C95-055D-4E02-8FE1-31148650056C.jpeg We have a couple of the pink ones in flower at the moment but also have a white one which must have come from the pink ones and this one is in a container which has a rose in it so the seed must have been in the compost when I potted it on.:biggrin:

                      I have heard that the white ones are sterile so won’t seed around to give me more of the white ones but am not sure if that is old folklore or true:scratch:
                       
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                        Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
                      • wiseowl

                        wiseowl FRIENDLY ADMIN Staff Member

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                        Good afternoon I just love Foxgloves but won't have them in the garden because of my furry friends,they are toxic to animals:smile:
                         
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