Foxglove

Known for its towers of blooms, this classic favorite has long graced many gardens. Foxglove looks much like its name, containing glove-like bells that come in an array of colors. Foxglove is known for its wonderful patterns and makes quite the statement when planted in mass amounts. Be careful where you plant them, as all parts of this plant are highly toxic.

Foxglove Overview

Genus Name Digitalis
Common Name Foxglove
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 3 feet
Flower Color Orange, Pink, Purple, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Colorful Combinations

With so many colors to choose from, you'll have an easy time finding a foxglove to fit your garden. Most are biennials, which means that the first year they're grown from seed, the plants will simply be a rosette of foliage at ground level with no blooms. The second year, the glorious spikes of blooms will produce bountiful amounts of seed in order to start the two-year cycle all over again. A few foxgloves are true perennials, blooming each year. Many of these come in more subdued colors with smaller blossoms, but they still are wonderful additions to the perennial garden.

Foxglove Care

Foxgloves are very easy to grow, and they have very few requirements in order to prosper. Ideal conditions for these plants vary, depending on the variety and species, but in general, they prefer evenly moist, well-drained soils. They're not very drought tolerant, especially when in bloom, so make sure to give them water during long dry periods. They also prefer acidic soil, so depending on your soil type, it may be a good idea to add soil acidifiers.

Many foxgloves do best in full sun, but some will get by just fine in part shade. Some perennial types actually prefer part shade over full sun, so make sure to check which type you have before planting. The full sun varieties may have more problems with powdery mildew on the foliage when planted in shady conditions.

It's important to remember that biennial varieties will most likely not bloom in the first year. The second year, they'll send up beautiful spikes of blooms (which hummingbirds love), and if you cut them back immediately after they're done, you can encourage a second round of blooms. Also keep in mind that, as a biennial, the foxglove plants will die when they've finished blooming for the season. Make sure to leave a few spent blooms on the plant so they can produce seeds to grow more seedlings the next year.

New Innovations

Because foxgloves are largely seed-grown varieties, there is always research being done to improve seed strains and introduce new colors. Professional breeders are also looking to create first-year flowering plants. There has been a breakthrough by crossing foxglove with Isoplexis, a plant believed at the time to be another closely related genus, to create Digiplexis. There is some question now as to whether Isoplexis may in fact be a foxglove, rather than a separate genus. Either way, Digiplexis is a new line of sterile foxglove that blooms all season on dense plants.

Garden Plans for Foxglove

Front Walk Garden Plan

Front Walk Garden Plan
Illustration by Tom Rosborough

This eclectic mix of easy-care flowers is the perfect way to make walking to your front door a pleasant journey.

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Summer Cottage Garden Plan

Summer Cottage Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Stately delphiniums are the backbone of this colorful cottage garden plan.

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More Varieties of Foxglove

Common foxglove

Foxglove (Digitalis) Bed Toward House
Rick Taylor

Digitalis purpurea is a short-lived, self-sowing perennial or biennial. It's a mainstay in cottage gardens. Zones 5-8

Digitalis grandiflora

Digitalis grandiflora foxglove
Rob Cardillo

A beautiful perennial foxglove, these plants do best in part shade, and have light yellow blooms from May to June. Zones 3-8

Woolly foxglove

Digitalis lanata foxglove
Janet Mesic Mackie

Digitalis lanata is an Eastern European native that grows one to two feet tall and bears bicolor white and brown flowers in June and July. Zones 4-9

Strawberry foxglove

Perennial Strawberry foxglove
Rob Cardillo

Digitalis x mertonensis bears strawberry-red bloom spikes up to three feet tall. Divide plants every two to three years so they maintain vigor. Zones 4-8

'Foxy' foxglove

Pink foxglove flowers in garden
Ed Gohlich

Digitalis purpurea 'Foxy' blooms reliably from seed its first year with two- to three-foot-tall spikes of pink, purple, white, or cream with maroon markings. Zones 5-8

Foxglove Companion Plants

Lady's Mantle

ladys mantle alchemilla mollis
Janet Mesic-Mackie

This perennial has scalloped leaves that catch rain or dewdrops, making plants look spangled with jewels. The chartreuse flowers appear in playful, frothy clusters above the foliage. Lady's mantle is ideal for softening the edge of a shaded path or creating a groundcover in dappled shade.

Hosta

Green and White Hostas In Bloom
Julie Maris Semarco

This perennial is one of the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall. Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive four-foot clumps with heart-shaped leaves almost two feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white, or variegated green, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged—the variations are virtually endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shaped or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slugs and deer.

Periwinkle

Detail of purple Periwinkle flower
Jay Wilde

Periwinkles deliver in glossy leaves, stellar blue flowers, and quick coverage in shady gardens. The only flaw is they're so popular they've become under-appreciated. Keep the plants cut back to encourage bushy growth, and to keep them within bounds. Periwinkles can become invasive in some areas.

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