Stump the Grump!

May 7, 2009 | By | Comments (8)

Do you have a plant you can’t identify? Is there something going wrong with a plant and you don’t know why? Send the Grump a photo! He in his awesome and wine-soaked wisdom will search his vast memory banks to provide an answer. If he can’t, you’ve stumped the Grump!

Our first challenge comes from Claire, who writes, “I need help from the Grump [like who doesn’t?]. I bought several packets of heirloom seeds from Lowe’s last year and planted them. Last year, no blooms. The leaves survived the winter and now the plants are blooming. I have no idea what the blooms are. Any ideas?”


Thank you, Claire, for presenting the Grump with such a feeble challenge on this first installment of “Stump the Grump.” The flowers are foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea), one of spring’s most spectacular and exotic-looking bloomers. Spikes of spotted, bell-shaped blossoms in colors of purple, rose, white, and pastels may stand 5 feet tall. Hummingbirds like them, but deer don’t.

Foxgloves are short-lived perennials, which the Grump treats as biennials. That means they grow leaves the first year, bloom and set seed the second year, and then die. Foxgloves occasionally live longer, but from my experience, after the bloom spider mites eat them up and you have to pull them up anyway. So if you want more foxgloves next spring, you have to plan new plants this year. You can either start plants from seed this spring or set out transplants in the fall.


  1. Grumpy Gardener

    That’s a good guess, Annie. What about it, Drew? Did she get it right?

    May 15, 2009 at 7:24 am
  2. Annie in Austin

    Hi Grumpy,
    I’d like to make a guess on Drew’s florist flower, please. How about Canterbury Bells? It’s a biennial Campanula used for cut flowers and their shape does echo the trumpets of daffodils. There’s a photo at
    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    May 14, 2009 at 10:19 am
  3. Grumpy Gardener

    Just a wild guess, but it may have been lady bells (Adenophora confusa). Anybody else want to hazard a guess?

    May 13, 2009 at 10:36 am
  4. Drew

    Don’t have a photo but there was a florists’ arrangement in church. Had a deep purple flower on a stem like a foxglove but more spaced apart. Blossom looked like the center of a daffodil. None of the gardeners in church knew what they were. Any ideas?

    May 11, 2009 at 12:45 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener

    Not to worry. They aren’t termites or even insects. They’re actually dead leaves of creeping fig vine growing on the wall. You can see creeping fig elsewhere in the photo.

    May 10, 2009 at 11:10 am
  6. Lisa Conn

    The foxgloves are beautiful! What are those bugs on the brick wall? In the pic they look like (gasp!) a swarm of termites.

    May 8, 2009 at 11:43 pm
  7. Grumpy Gardener

    The seed may still be good. Now’s the time to sow it.

    May 8, 2009 at 10:04 am
  8. Dave

    They are really cool plants. I need to plant a few this fall, I bought some seed once but I’m not sure I ever did anything with it!

    May 8, 2009 at 10:00 am

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