Gardeners deemed Rehmannia elata to be 'Chinese foxglove' because the tubular flowers bear a resemblance to digitalis, the foxglove plant. The two plants, however, are actually unrelated. With fast-growing, small Chinese foxglove, spikes of dangling, bell-shaped, rose-pink blossoms poke up from scalloped, glossy green leaves. Unlike traditional foxglove, however, Chinese foxglove petals of the bell-lip flare open and outward.
Spring-planted seeds may not bloom the first year, but to get around this frustration, you can plant the seeds in the fall for gorgeous flowers the following summer. Although Chinese foxglove is not as hardy as its lookalike, digitalis, it is more versatile, growing well in shade and is even fairly drought-tolerant.
|Botanical Name||Rehmannia elata|
|Common Name||Chinese foxglove|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||2-3 ft. wide, 1.5-3 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, rich soil|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Pink, purple|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and animals|
Chinese Foxglove Care
The prolific blooms are long-lasting and will repeat bloom for three to four months, unlike traditional foxglove. The plants might flop over as the older blooms make way for younger blossoms, so you can stake them to keep them upright if desired.
Chinese foxgloves help to light up shade gardens and that is where they grow happiest. They begin blooming as spring woodland flowers fade. They provide a nice accent to hosta, and the glossy leaves and nodding blossoms contrast well with astilbe. Because the plants can be fairly wide, give them some space when planting in a garden. Chinese foxglove can become invasive in certain areas, particularly when grown in moist, rich soil. If your plant starts to become aggressive, cut back on either food or water, to stress the plants and slow their growth.
You can grow Chinese foxglove in full sun to partial shade. Although the plant prefers sun, they will still flower quite well in shade and can even handle dry shade. In full sun, they will need extra water during hot spells.
Chinese foxglove are not particular about soil pH, although they do best in a neutral pH of about 6.5-7.0. However, they do need well-draining soil: The roots will rot in soil that remains wet for extended periods. Poor-draining soil can also cause problems during the colder, winter months.
For best results, water daily by using a soaker hose or drip irrigation, especially during the first year. Once established, Chinese foxglove has good drought-tolerance, but mostly in the shade. The plant can tolerate being watered just once a week, but the flowers won't be as prolific as if it is watered every day.
Temperature and Humidity
Chinese foxgloves are only hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7-10, though they grow as a perennial in zones 8-10. In zone 7, it's unpredictable and is more likely to grow as an annual.
A side dressing with compost or monthly feedings will also help promote flowering. Feed the plant with liquid fertilizer during the summer months to keep the blooms growing.
Chinese foxglove are fairly low-maintenance. Plants should be deadheaded for continual bloom.
Propagating Chinese Foxgloves
You can divide your plants in the spring, but because they spread so readily, you probably won't need to. You'll have plenty of plants and if some die out, new ones fill in.
How to Grow Chinese Foxgloves From Seed
Start Chinese foxglove seeds indoors for best results. Although they can be sown outdoors once the risk of frost has passed, the plant's small seeds can be easily overwhelmed. Sow the seeds in good potting soil in small pots, seed trays, or plug trays. Expect germination within 15-30 days, depending on temperature, and then transplant out when the plants are at least 6-inches high. You can expect the plant to bloom about 70 days after germination if conditions are right.
In areas colder than zone 7, you can try starting over-wintering plants indoors or grow your Chinese foxgloves in containers and move the containers to a sheltered and protected spot for winter. Make sure the containers get periodic water and allow them to drain. Lifting the container off the ground with a couple of bricks will ensure the drainage holes are not blocked by frozen ground.
In warmer climates where there will still be infrequent freezing temperatures, Chinese foxglove should be given some protection, like a thick layer of mulch, during cold winters.
Common Pests and Diseases
Although Chinese foxgloves are generally pest free, slugs and snails may munch on its leaves. Both can be treated by leaving small containers of beer around your garden.