The colorful foxglove is a beautiful and dramatic plant that is easy to grow, but it is not for everyone. Foxgloves have a hidden danger, and care needs to be taken if you want to add them to the garden.
Foxgloves come is a wide variety of colors--white, yellow, pink, rose, red, lavender and purple. Foxgloves grow anywhere from 2 to 6 feet high with spikes. Foxgloves may be biannual, meaning they have a lifespan of 2 years, or perennial because they self seed well. When the 1st plant dies back, there will be others to take its place. The flowers are about the size of a thimble and, in most varieties, grow on 1 side of the stalk and face downward.
There are many varieties of foxglove, including the common foxglove which can grow as tall as 5 feet. The "Shirley" selection produces flowers in pastel colors; "Foxy" grows to about 3 feet; "Excelsior" is one with flowers on all sides that face outward; and "Alba" is white or cream colored. Other selections include "Rusty," which grows as tall as 6 feet; "Yellow" which grows to 3 feet and has honey-colored flowers; and "Merton" which grows to 3 feet with deep-red flowers.
Foxglove can be grown in most regions of the United States (with the exceptions of the far north, Florida and the Gulf Coast). They like well-drained but moist soil and a good layer of mulch. Start the seeds inside and when they are ready, plant them 15 to 18 inches apart. Some varieties can be divided into more than 1 plant. Make sure to divide them every 3 or 4 years to prevent overcrowding.
Most foxgloves are used as background plants in gardens because of their height. Also a shade-loving plant, foxgloves are perfect for under trees and in wooded areas. It is also grown commercially and is the source of heart medications like digoxin and digitoxin.
Foxgloves, both the flowers and the leaves, are highly toxic. They should not be planted anywhere a child or animal can get to it. The digitalis that the Foxglove produces is the culprit. The symptoms include hives and rashes that progress to a sore and swollen throat, even pneumonia. Eating the leaves can be fatal as well.
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