Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Digitalis Ferruginea

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Digitalis ferruginea (27/07/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Digitalis ferruginea (27/07/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to full shade

Flowering period: Summer

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 1.2m

Eventual Spread: 40cm

Hardiness: 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a

Family: Plantaginaceae

Digitalis ferruginea is an evergreen, erect herbaceous biennial, producing vegetative growth in the first year and flowering in the second. Its mid green leaves are lanceolate with entire margins, are up to 20cm long and 3cm broad. They are spirally arranged, forming a tight rosette at ground level at first year. Its rust coloured flowers are tubular, pendant up to 35mm long and arranged on a terminal, elongated cluster. Its fruit is a capsule which releases numerous small seeds at maturity.

Digitalis ferruginea Flower (27/07/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Digitalis ferruginea Flower (27/07/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Digitalis ferruginea, commonly known as the Rusty Foxglove, is native to south and south east Europe and Turkey. In its native habitat it grows in woodland glades, woodland margins, in grassland and in other areas where the ground is disturbed. All parts of this plant are potentially poisonous.

The etymological root of the binomial name Digitalis is derived from the Latin digitus meaning ‘finger’, referring the shape of the flower. Ferruginea is derived from the Latin ferrugineus meaning ‘ the color of rust’, in reference to the color of its flowers.

The landscape architect may find Digitalis ferruginea useful as part of a mixed herbaceous planting scheme, including prairie style planting schemes. This plant is suitable for shady and damp open woodland locations. Although it is a biennial and will die in its second year, it will readily self seed given the right conditions. Once established this biennial will tolerate periods drought.

Digitalis ferruginea Leaf (27/07/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Digitalis ferruginea Leaf (27/07/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ecologically, Digitalis ferruginea flowers are attractive to nectar loving pollinating insects.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given Digitalis ferruginea their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 2002.

Digitalis ferruginea prefers moist, humus rich, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. It dislikes wet soils.

Digitalis ferruginea requires little maintenance. Excessive self seeded seedlings may be removed by hand.

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