Plant foxgloves now for flowers next spring

Richard Bogren, Huffstickler, Kyle, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  10/21/2011 12:25:46 AM

News Release Distributed 10/20/11

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists
Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

Last fall, the LSU AgCenter announced a new plant marketing and promotion program called Louisiana Super Plants. The program identifies superior plants for Louisiana landscapes and assures wholesale growers are growing and retail nurseries are carrying the selections. Then, we get the word out to the gardening public about these outstanding plants.

One of the debut Louisiana Super Plants from last fall was the Camelot series foxglove. This new foxglove earned its Super Plants title because it’s a significant improvement over varieties planted in the past.

Foxgloves (Digitalis species and hybrids) are biennials or short-lived perennials. In Louisiana, we grow them as cool-season annuals from October-November to April-May. They bloom in spring or early summer and then typically die in the summer heat. Because Camelot foxgloves planted from seed bloom their first year, they are excellent for use in our climate.

The Camelot series foxgloves come in four colors – Camelot Rose, Camelot Lavender, Camelot Cream and Camelot White. This hybrid series is bred to be especially strong and vigorous-growing. And these foxgloves are somewhat more heat-tolerant than foxgloves used in the past, allowing Camelot foxgloves to bloom well into late May or early June.

Especially notable is an improvement in the flower spikes. The flowers are larger, and the spikes are taller than previously grown varieties. The bell-shaped flowers of foxgloves are arranged around a strong, tall stem that grows from the center of the plant. Typically, the flowers tend to hang down so you cannot see into the beautifully spotted throats. The flowers of Camelot foxgloves, however, are held more horizontally, creating a fuller-looking flower spike and revealing the spotted interior of the flowers.

Louisiana gardeners are accustomed to (and even demand) that bedding plants be in bloom when they are purchased. Some cool-season bedding plants, however, will provide far superior results if they are purchased when young and before the colorful display begins. Good examples are ornamental cabbage and kale, delphiniums and hollyhocks. Young, not-yet-blooming transplants of these plants are best planted in fall or late winter – from November to February – for blooming in April, May and early June. Foxgloves also belong to this group.

During winter these plants are perfectly hardy to whatever cold may occur, and there is no need to cover and protect them. During mild winter weather the plants will grow strong root systems and rosettes of large, slightly fuzzy leaves that are a beautiful addition to the winter flowerbed.

For best results, get plants in the ground no later than the end of February to give them time to grow into large, vigorous plants before they bloom. A fall or late-winter planting will produce the most spectacular plants with the tallest and largest number of spikes.

Most cool-season bedding plants prefer full sun, and Camelot foxgloves will grow in sunny locations. But they also do very well in beds that receive only 4 to 6 hours of sun per day. The foliage is typically darker green and larger in partly shaded spots.

Plant foxgloves into well-prepared beds that have been generously amended with compost or other decayed organic matter and a light application of general-purpose fertilizer. Good drainage is important. Place the plants toward the back of the beds where the colorful 3- to 4-foot-tall flower spikes will form a dramatic background. These robust-growing plants should be spaced about 12 inches apart.

After the main spike finishes blooming, cut it back, and the plants will send up numerous side shoots to continue the floral display for additional weeks. Eventually, with the hot weather of early summer, the plants will begin to play out and can be removed, composted and replaced with summer bedding plants.

Camelot foxgloves are in your local nurseries now. It is best to plant them in the fall for best results. But garden centers also sell them in late winter and early spring.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren
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