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Digitalis purpurea

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© RHS 1999

Characteristics

Plant type

Annual/Biennial

Habit

Bushy

Toxicity

Highly toxic by ingestion

Resilience

Hardiness

H7 (very hardy)

Colour

Flower

Purple in Summer

Foliage

Green in Autumn, Spring and Summer

Size

Ultimate height

1.5-2.5 metres

Ultimate spread

0.1-0.5 metres

Time to ultimate height

1-2 years


Preferred common name

common foxglove

Family

Plantaginaceae


Digitalis can be biennials or usually short-lived perennials forming a rosette of simple leaves with bell-shaped flowers in slender, erect, usually one-sided racemes

D. purpurea is a biennial or short-lived perennial, freely self-sowing, with a rosette of softly hairy, oval leaves and tall, one-sided spires of pendant, tubular, bright rosy-purple flowers 6cm long, spotted within, in summer

Other common names

  • bloody bells
  • bloody finger
  • cow flop
  • dead man's bells
  • dead men's bells
  • dog's lugs
  • dragon's mouth
  • fairy bells
  • fairy fingers
  • fairy gloves
  • fairy thimbles
  • fairy's cap
  • fairy's petticoat
  • fairy's thimble
  • finger flower
  • flap dock
  • folk's gloves
  • fox finger
  • gloves of Mary
  • lady's fingers
  • lady's gloves
  • lady's thimble
  • lion's mouth
  • lusmore
  • lustmore
  • pop dock
  • thimble finger
  • thimble flower
  • throat root
  • witches' bells
  • witches' fingers
  • witches' gloves
  • witches' thimbles

How to grow

Sunlight

  • Full sun
  • Part shade

Aspect

  • South-facing, West-facing or East-facing
  • Exposed or Sheltered

Cultivation

Grow in almost any soil,but avoid very wet or very dry situations. Prefers a humus-rich soil in partial shade but will grow in full sun. Deadhead after flowering to avoid problems with excess numbers of seedlings.

Soil

  • Well-drained or Moist but well-drained
  • Acid, Alkaline or Neutral
  • Sand, Clay, Chalk or Loam

Propagation

Propagate by seed sown in-situ in late spring. Alternatively sow in seed trays in late spring and plant out to final position in late summer

Suggested planting locations and garden types

City/Courtyard Gardens, Coastal, Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower borders and beds, Wildflower meadow or Underplanting of Roses and Shrubs


How to care

Pruning

Cut back after flowering

Pests

Can get aphids and leaf and bud eelworms

Diseases

May be affected by leaf spots and powdery mildew