Foxglove is a wild native plant but also used in perennial displays in the landscape. The tall flower spikes bloom from the bottom up and produce prolific seeds. Should you deadhead foxglove? Unless you want foxglove in every corner of your garden, it is wise to deadhead these lovely blooms. Deadheading foxglove plants can minimize their spread, but it has added benefits as well. Details on how to remove spent blooms follow.
Should You Deadhead Foxgloves?
Most of us are familiar with foxglove, or Digitalis. It has a sinister history as a poison but, today, Digitalis is used in heart medicines. These amazing plants are biennial and bloom in the second year. Creamy white or lavender bell-shaped flowers tower over the basal rosette.
So what about deadheading of the plant’s flowers? The short answer to this question is, yes. Removing spent foxglove flowers may encourage reblooming and further enjoyment of the plant late into the season. It is also a way to tidy up the garden and still enjoy the large leaves and statuesque growth form.
Many types of plants benefit from deadheading, and foxglove is no exception. Deadheading foxglove plants may be done to remove unsightly finished flower spikes, deter self-seeding and promote new growth. Occasionally, removing spent foxglove flowers will cause the plant to send up smaller side flower spikes.
There is a school of thought that removing the flowers before seeds set will encourage the plant to bloom again the next year. This is possible, but not probable, as the plants are biennial and die back after the second season is over. In most cases, this isn’t a problem, as new rosettes have formed and they will be the bloomers the next year.
How Do I Deadhead Foxglove?
If, for whatever reason, you have decided to remove the dead flower spikes, you may be asking, “How do I deadhead foxglove?” The enchanting spikes should come off when 3/4 of the blooms have faded. If you don’t care about trying to get the plant to bloom again, simply cut them off to the basal rosettes.
Removing the spikes at this time will also prevent reseeding, but you can leave a few spikes on if you want the plants to reproduce or to save seeds. If you are late cutting them back and some seed has formed, place a bag over the flower spike and capture the hundreds of tiny seeds as you cut.
Cutting Back Foxglove Plants
Always use clean sterilized pruning shears to prevent transmitting plant diseases. Make sure the blades are nice and sharp to prevent injuring the remaining plant material. Grasp the flower stem with one hand and cut it off at a 45-degree angle. This cut should be ¼ inch above the next set of leaves, located below the flowering stem.
Be wary of tossing the spikes into your compost heap, as they tend to sprout and regrow in the resulting compost. Spreading that compost around your vegetable garden will very likely result in foxglove flowers crowding out your crops. It is a pretty sight but not likely to endear them to you if your crops perform poorly.