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Annual Foxglove: Digitalis purpurea ‘Foxy’


My first experience with ‘Foxy’ made me feel that ‘annual’ might be an exaggeration. The two plants that sprouted from seed made the same little rosette that biennial foxgloves make, and as the weather warmed, I didn’t see any signs of a flower spike (like the one forming in the picture of foxglove foliage above).

However, as the weather warmed, the earwigs swarmed, and ate the two plants that I had grown and transplanted. Perhaps I didn’t give ‘Foxy’ a fair shake. It’s possible, too, that in order for it to be an annual, it needs a late-summer planting, not the late-fall planting I give to most of my foxglove seeds. (I plant them somewhere around the time the rains start, like my other cool-weather plants. This prevents untimely deaths.) In any case, I’m trying ‘Foxy’ again this year.

Burpee’s  informs me that ‘Foxy’ is an All-American Winner, which means it’s a plant of substance. It is supposed to flower five months after planting. Burpee’s touts up to nine flower spikes per plant, in colors of the usual purpurea spectrum: purple-red, white, and some colors in between.

JL Hudson says it was the first annual foxglove ever developed, a silver medal All-American winner in 1966. Five months is the time from seed to bloom according to them, too, and the colors are “large spotted, red, rose, white or yellow flowers in dense spikes.” By June, it claims, they can bloom at a mere 18″ tall (about half a meter), and grow on to 3 feet (just under 1 meter).

Some write that Foxy’s flower spikes are not up to industry standard. Even if that’s so, a mediocre foxglove is bound to be better than a superb – well, lots of things. Foxy is also a bit smaller than ordinary foxglove, running two to three feet.

My old Time-Life encyclopedia of gardening says that Foxy is derived from D. purpurea (which is what it looks like in the pictures), and blooms in the first year as well as the second.  They recommend fall planting, so I guess I had that right. Or you can plant them six or eight weeks before frost to get late-summer/early-fall blooms. (I doubt this would work in my area, where late summer and early fall can be blazing hot.)

Once again, I’ve been given new hope and cheer by books and catalogues Or maybe I’ve been given a new delusion. Whatever. Spring will tell.

Next post: Mightiest of all purpurea cultivars: The Shirley


Burpee’s catalogue, 2009

J.L. Hudson catalogue, 2008

James Underwood Crockett, Annuals, Time-Life Encyclopedia of Gardening series, 1973, 1974

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Nancy Bond February 1, 2009, 7:32 pm

    I learn so much from your blog! I didn’t even know there was an annual foxglove — I think they’re so beautiful with their little bell blooms. Oh, and I LOATHE earwigs!

  • Pomona Belvedere February 4, 2009, 4:35 pm

    Yes, loathing might have been custom-designed for earwigs. Incredibly destructive for such little creatures, and they eat EVERYTHING.

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