Foxgloves: fabulous plants for both bees & gardeners!

At this time of year, foxglove flowers pulsate with the relaxing, soothing sound of summer, as bees hum happily whilst they disappear in and out of the tubular flowers.

Foxgloves are superb plants for bees; they’re fantastic plants for gardeners, too!  These obliging plants are self-supporting and rarely need any assistance.  Water your seedlings in dry weather until they’ve settled in; once they’re established, foxgloves are fairly drought tolerant and slug resistant.

Digitalis are brilliant plants for bees!

For me, foxgloves are a quintessential part of summertime and an essential plant for my garden!  Foxgloves are known by their botanical name, Digitalis, worth remembering when you’re buying plants or seeds.  A wide range of Digitalis species and hybrids are available.

Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora is the while flowered form of Digitalis purpurea. These stunning plants combine well with almost any plant. These foxgloves are growing alongside roses, fennel, and perennials.

Look out for Digitalis purpurea (our native foxglove) with its graceful beauty and towering spires of pink flowers.  The white flowered form, Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora lights up dappled shade.  These stunning plants are biennial: seeds sown now form plants that’ll bloom next summer, before setting seed and dying.  Keep a perpetual supply of plants, by sowing seeds this month and next summer, too.

Digitalis purpurea is our native foxglove. I adore this utterly charming plant, which looks absolutely fantastic when grown en masse.

Many Digitalis are perennial and bloom every year, however, modern hybrids are sterile.  Grow Digitalis varieties that produce viable seeds and by the time your current plants have exhausted themselves and faded away, you’ll already be armed with as many replacements as you need to create a line of succession and live happily ever after.

Digitalis ‘Candy Mountain’ has upward facing flowers that give these plants greater width, a more substantial form and greater visibility in the garden.

Digitalis ‘Candy Mountain’ is a perennial with horizontal upward-facing, rose-pink coloured flowers that will reliably propagate itself around your garden.

For something different, Digitalis ferruginea ‘Gigantea’ produces 1.7m (5.5ft) spires of truly fascinating rust-coloured flowers that possess an intriguing and beguiling beauty.

Digitalis ferruginea ‘Gigantea’ produces tall flowering stems that hold large numbers of smaller, rusted brown coloured flowers.

The most affordable method of obtaining plants is to grow Digitalis from seed.  June is the perfect time to sow seeds; temperatures are ideal for germination and there’s sufficient time for seedlings to form substantial plants, ready to flower next year.

Digitalis are easy to grow from seed.  Simply scattering seeds over the soil now will more than likely generate new foxglove plants; however, you’ll achieve greater success and increase the number of plants you raise, if you sow your seeds in containers or seed trays filled with a good quality peat-free compost.  Digitalis seeds need light to germinate, so don’t cover these seeds with soil or compost.

In August and September, plant your foxglove seedlings out into their final positions in the garden.  I’ve been growing a wide range of foxglove species and cultivars for years and find that these plants are all happy growing in partial shade, in any moist but well-drained soil.

A large range of foxgloves are available to gardeners.

The Botanic Nursery hold the National Collection of Digitalis; their plants are grown in peat-free compost.  Buy plants and seeds online, or from their nursery in Wiltshire.  Garden centres also stock foxglove plants and seeds.

The Digitalis flowers buds near the base of the stem are the first to open. Over a couple of months, one by one, the flowers gradually open, starting at the bottom and finishing at the top. This ensures the blooms are always visible.

This article was first published in the June 2021 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

For more articles about foxgloves, please click here.

For gardening advice for June, please click here.

For advice on protecting your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

For a calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, please click here.

For information on plants that benefit bees and butterflies, please click here.

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