The widely used heart medicine comes from the biennial plant called foxglove, but its garden value is the bell-shaped flowers in late spring. Annual foxglove is a native of western Europe.
Description of annual foxglove: Foxglove grows for months as a rosette of gray-green leaves; then a tall spike surrounded by buds quickly arises, growing from 3 to 7 feet tall. Most flowers, which are white, cream, pink, salmon, lavender, or red, are marked with blotches of contrasting color.
Growing annual foxglove: Foxglove thrives in light woodlands or at the fringes of tree or shrub plantings. It will grow in average soil if kept moist. When flower spikes appear, fertilize with a general fertilizer. The sturdy spikes normally do not need staking. The seeds are tiny and widely distributed by the wind. To prevent reseeding, cut flower spikes after bloom.
Propagating annual foxglove: By seed. To grow as a biennial, sow seeds outdoors in June or July so husky plants will overwinter. For bloom the first year, sow indoors 8 to 10 weeks prior to planting outdoors. Except for selected varieties, these will bloom in late summer or fall. Seeds germinate at 70 degrees Fahrenheit in 15 to 20 days.
Uses for annual foxglove: Foxglove deserves a place in the mixed cottage garden. Plant it in groups at the back of the border, against fences, near tall shrub hedges or woodlands. They're also useful in the perennial border, providing the height that early perennial gardens often lack. They make useful cut flowers.
Annual foxglove related species: Digitalis lutea brings yellow flowers to the foxglove clan. It grows to 3 feet.
Annual foxglove related varieties: Foxy has a full range of colors and grows to 3 feet tall. Excelsior Mixture contains many colors of tall-growing foxgloves. Apricot is a buttery, copper color, and Alba is pure white.
Scientific name of annual foxglove: Digitalis purpurea