Sunday, July 31, 2016

A True Dry Shade Lover

In this garden, the regular foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) does not do well. It is, in fact, very difficult to grow, mostly because the soil is basic and too dry.

At the moment of writing this, at the end of July, it has been very sunny for the last two months, with perhaps three rain showers in all, which means that many plants only survive provided they are watered every day.

However the rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginae) is blooming generously, even if it has never been watered except for the little rain we got.


Digitalis ferruginae - the rusty foxglove, an easy xeric plant
The rusty foxglove is a good example of that much-talked -about, but rather rare group of garden plants that relish dry shade. As you can see in the picture above, these grow under a large tree, in a spot that gets what sun there is after 7 pm.

This foxglove is supposed to grow well in full sun, but I have noticed that, here at least, it tends to self seed only in the shade.

It is supposed to be rather indifferent to soil type. In the picture above, it is growing in only about 6 inches of alkaline soil directly over limestone.

Rusty Foxglove
The rusty foxglove


It is a biennial or short-lived perennial. We only seeded it once, about four years ago.

It self seeds, not too aggressively, and so comes back year after year without the gardener having to do anything.

Like regular foxgloves, the first year it makes a rosette as in the picture below, and the following year you get the three to four feet (90-120 cm) tall flowering stem.

Rosettes from this year that will bloom next summer

It is very attractive to bees and pollinating insects in general. It is also rabbit and deer resistant and adapted to zone 4 to 7.

Like all digitalis, it is poisonous.




Apparently, if you cut the flower stem after it has bloomed, it will produce flowering side shoots.
I have not tried it, but I plan to do so later on. There are a few cultivars, including some darker ones, but ours were grown from seed.

The rusty foxgloves is sturdy, never needing to be staked. Given the right conditions, it is a very easy and undemanding plant to grow.





16 comments:

  1. I grow it in full sun, where I can confirm it does do well. But dry shade, now, there's a possibility. Especially if it self seeds. Something to try.

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    1. I started with only one 3 years ago and now there is a drift of them.

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  2. I will have to add rusty foxglove to my garden next year.

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    1. Good luck. It you need seeds let me know.

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  3. I grow it in afternoon sun, but if it grows in shade then I have just the place for its seedlings!

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    1. Good luck with it. It certainly does best in dry shade here.

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  4. We have the usual foxgloves self seeding all over our allotment plot. We only planted them once some years ago. We just weed them out where they are in a bad position and leave the rest to get on with it. I can confirm that if you cut out the dead flower stem you will get smaller flowers coming from the rosette but nothing like the size of the main flower.

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    1. I wish the usual foxglove would do well here but usually it does not even survive the winter.

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  5. I have sown the Digitalis ferruginea in my garden years ago. They did but did not last. Our soil is more for the normal foxgloves which are easy selfseeders here.

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  6. I think you are right about the type of soil. We each have things that do well but might not like other gardens. It might be just a question of trace elements.

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  7. Thanks for the tip! I haven't heard much about this one, but I think my soil under the Oak trees might be too acid. I agree, though, plants that thrive in dry shade are wonderful!

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  8. I have grown several foxglove species over the years and like you Alain have found Digitalis ferruginae to do well even in dry shade, however I have seen Digitalis purpurea seed itself into the driest of positions including a wall and grow reasonably well but then I suppose our rainfall is considerably higher than yours.

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    1. I expect purpurea doe not do so well for us because the soil is too alkaline for its liking. I am trying some in a different place this year where I put lots of compost, perhaps they will live to bloom.

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  9. Hello Alain, we have perennial foxglove and the "normal" biennial foxglove, all as young plants in pots at the moment so we're hoping that the succession starts with these. There's a border at the front that the foxgloves are all going to planted into en-masse and I'm hoping it will be self-sustaining.

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  10. Thanks for tipping me off to this plant! I'm definitely going to give it a try, as soon as I can find a retailer.

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  11. I love your photos, Alain, because I have foxglove in my garden as well. It's self seeding and every spring I find it in different corners. This year I have digitalis of pink color.
    Have a nice day!

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