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I started some digitalis last year from seed and set the healthiest out in mid-summer. They did well all through the remainder of the season (zone 7b), wintered nicely through some hard frosts / freezes and then took off when the weather broke in March. They looked fantastic with 3-4 foot flower stems and strong new leaves, but then started to rot from the bottom up. The flowers never formed, just pin-heads where they should have been on the stem. I had to dig them up this week for compost.
Although I have no idea what could have happened I thought I would at least let you know someone saw you post...I grew some from seed last year too and was pretty thrilled to see them bloom..I feel like such a proud parent LOL I hope someone gives you an idea as to what happened...
Foxglove are biennial, which means it takes 2 years to get to the flowers. You could get a couple years of flowering from the same plant after that, but you need to seed every couple/few years to have floxglove every year (they are worth it, though).
I started my seeds two January's ago so when I said last year thats how long ago I meant LOL Last year I just got leaves, this year the flowers...they are well worth the wait...since Glen had started to get the flower stalks it sounds like some kind of fungus got his blooms...hopefully someone else will know more info for him as I am pretty new to growing from seed...
I usually throw out seed near the plants I have, and buy a few more at the greenhouses, so I haven't tried to grow over winter and harden any off. Could be that a late freeze at a critical time got them last year. I even lost hosta last year, which has never happened before.
I'm in your area, and mine have done well---but they are growing in a dry area. What I experience is that they are slightly smaller than they would normally be, due to dryness. I supplement with water when I set them out as seedlings, but I've pretty much left them on their own after that. Sounds like yours were too wet, to me...I'd try again, and maybe plant them slightly raised, as it sounds like they have plenty of moisture where you had them.
Growing perennial, biennial seeds are quite a challenge so I've found. I thought I sowed a package of California poppies this winter (direct sow outdoor), lo and behold, the whole package and I found one seedling came up. Mind you, one lonely seedling of Ca. Poppy, but I too found ton of digitalis seedlings came up as if from no where. The garden was a lasagna bed that was newly created (2007), what chances are there for natural/wind scattering old seeds from neighboring plants? I think the seed package got mixed up? (I was hoping the California annuals would give the bed some color until other perennials becomes mature).
Anyhow, those digitalis planted in year past returned and bloomed beautifully. I agree your problem with the foxglove probably root rot due to too moist an area? Mine are in well drained soil, they bloomed well in partial shade, bloomed better out in full morning-noon sun. Those in semishade retained their blooms longer.
I believe you are spot-on with the idea of too much moisture. The soil there is never dry and is complete shade. I've got a new batch of seedlings in 4" pots just lik last year and I'll try mounding them this year...thanks.