September 24, 2010

The African Foxglove ( as if Africa has foxes ...and gloves).

Ceratotheca triloba is hardly 'new', it was popular amongst the informed British gardeners in Victorian England, and featured  by Jos. Hooker in an 1888 Curtis' Botanic Journal. For whatever reason, over a century later, we are just discovering the genus' contribution to our late summer borders. The only problem? Finding seeds of the easy to grow annual. Go find some now, for they will sell out in the spring.

 The African Foxglove, Ceratothica triloba, may not be a true 'Foxglove" (Digitalis) but does offer worthy color and structure in the early autumn border. The best thing is, no one will know what it is!
There are a handful of rarely grown annuals from the Southern Hemisphere worth trying, but Ceratotheca is perhaps the finest.

Oh dang... I SO want to type Cero-theca, but it's Ceratotheca. Take care in typing as you search for seed. I think 'Mr. Cerato', to aid me in remembering the name ( not unlike Ms. Sawyer's admission that she once used the phrase 'Mr. I'm A Dinner Jacket') to remember a world leaders' name.).
It's a trend...almost. Plant enthusiasts are discovering annuals from Chile and South Africa that are far from typical. Ceratotheca triloba, or 'African Foxglove', is a great example. This fast growing annual ( grows and blooms within one season, after starting from seeds in early spring) can make all the difference between a boring autumn border, and one that stops visitors in their tracks. They might even become jealous.
Ceratotheca triloba come in pink and white forms, and they look best in the later part of the summer, July onwards. Allow room for them to grow, for their stems can reach 5 feet tall, and create an airy, fuzzy natural form in the perennial border. I just love them, and want to grow more next year. I recommend planting them from seed in May, they germinate fast ( in 8 days) and prefer to be planted out once the soil become warm ( 50 degrees F), I plant mine when it is safe to plant peppers and tomatoes outdoors.

Related to Snapdragons, ( Scrophulariales)  they are more closely related to Sesame seeds than Foxgloves, of which they have not relative connection, botanically. The seed pods, I believe, are quite ornamental since they are both prickly and fuzzy. As they remain on the fuzzy stems, they capture the late summer sunlight and virtually glow presenting as good of a show, as the dangling flowers do.


  1. Sounds as easy as it is unusual as it is attractive. And I see that there's a white form too (sometimes) at AnniesAnnuals.com. Is it a hardy annual? That would be really great. But definitely a plant that needs to be used more. It's on my list. And thanks!

  2. Sorry I'm a bit late to the party but, this plant has and indeed still is the star of my garden this year.

    I wish I had know how tall it would grow before I popped my gifted plants into my skinny front border.

    But I love them, strangers love them and bees can't stay away.



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