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Are sterile plants any good for wildlife?

Hi - I have a wildlife garden and I don't use any plants that aren't beneficial to bees and beneficial insects. I recently bought 6 plugs of Foxglove Pink Illumination which is the brand new perrennial foxglove which won at Chelsea. They are coming on well but I happened to read that they are sterile recently. I know that this will mean that they don't produce pollen, but does it also mean that they won't have nectar? If there is no pollen, does the plant not bothering producung nectar either as there is no point attracting insects? It will be such a shame to take them out, but they only went in as Foxgloves are o good for wildlide. Thanks for any replies image


  • LunarzLunarz Posts: 93
    PS. Sorry for all the spelling mistakes - damn tiny screen on my blackberry...! image
  • I certainly wouldn't pull them out, its a lovely plant and I bet they weren't cheap either. If everything other thin in the garden is benificial to wildlife then a couple of plants wont matter. 

    Find a friend that has some foxgloves in their garden and pinch a couple of the old flower spikes and take them back to yours and wang the flower heads around scattering the seeds.  (Now is the perfect tiem to do this) I find this is always much more effective in sowing foxgloves them trying to grow in pots image you can always move the baby plants around, or even lift them and pot them til you have worked out where they want to go.

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    I noticed that T&M foxglove which won the best new plant award at Chelsea. I posted some messages on here at the time saying (if you don't mind) how hideous I thought the plant was.

    The native foxglove is possibly the most classy and graceful of all the wildflowers. It's the way that the spike gently curves towards the top, and how the flowers hang down in a graceful pendulous way. I don't want to see foxgoves that point upwards, or that have rigid upright stems, or are in bizarre unnatural colours.

    There's also the important wildlife issue. Bees do love to climb up into the bells. I just don't know how they manage with foxglove blooms that are upside down, if they even bother.

    I have tried growing foxgloves in pots. For me, they have not been as successful as foxgloves grown in the soil, which always seem to grow more vigourously. I don't know if it's because I water them too frequently, or not enough, or for some other reason. I had several soil-grown foxgloves that topped 8 feet this year, but none of those grown in pots managed anything like that.

  • Lunarz,

    According to the information I can find, the plants should still produce nectar.

    The nectar producing parts of the flower, (called "Nectaries") are seperate from the sexual parts of the plant and situated deeper in the flower.

    Therefore, despite the plant's sterility, it should still produce nectar and be just as beneficial for wildlife as many of your plants.

    Although, I do agree with Gary. They are not likely to be as pollinator-friendly as the native foxglove.

    Hope this helps

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,842

    Gary, I agree  with you so much about the beauty of our native foxgloves, from the deep mauve to the white and we've had some absolutely beautiful self-sown examples here in our new garden this year - I've never felt drawn to growing the 'improved' varieties with flowers all around the stem, or pointing upwards etc.  

    This year I have sown some Pam's Choice which will soon be ready for planting out , which I hope will bring some light to a dark corner under some trees - they're the first 'different' ones I've ever grown. I hope I'm going to like them.

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • LunarzLunarz Posts: 93
    Thanks very much Phytographer - that's great news. Gary, I hadn't realised that it was upside down - the colour is slightly garish, I agree, but what appealed to me was the perennial aspect - I am not completely confident yet in the garden and feel safer with perennials, and also I have such a small patch, biennials seem a waste of space. I can see where you are coming from though - it's not great if the plant has been chsnged so much from its native form...
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,132

    There are other perennial foxgloves tho' not as showy as the new one.  Ferruginea is one with light rusty coloured flowers and I've seen bees on mine.  Grandiflora is another but it doesn't seem to like my winters so I always try and have some of the biennial forms as the white one in particular looks very good in my shady area.   Pam's choice is another favourite and I have seeds to sow for next year.  I do mine in pots as I know where they are and OH can't accidentally weed them..

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Speaking of pollinator-friendly plants, the fashion for doubles doesn't really help pollinating insects. Apart from which I find singles - Peonies, Dahlias etc. so much more striking in their simplicity than the big blousy doubles. 

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    The T&M Chelsea winning foxglove isn't actually one of the upward pointing ones, but it's in that artificial veign.

    A few of the novelties are quite nice. I grow Pam's choice, and like those very much. This is Pam's Choice:

     And this is Summer King (also from T&M). It's quite short, but still attractive:

    These are self-seeders, this shows the environment they naturally prefer (it's shady):

  • Lunarz, don't be afraid of annuals or biennials. For a wild life garden they are perfect. Insects love them and normally once you have a selection of annual wild flowers, you wont get rid of them. They will self seed and reappear year in year out with little effort. 

    I haven't bought or purposely sown foxgloves, forget me nots or poppies for years. Might wang the flower heads round the garden a bit, but thats it. Sunflowers always pop up all over the place.

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