Fabulous Foxgloves – How to Grow and Care For Foxglove Plants
Foxgloves will bring a touch of charm to your landscape with their nod to classic cottage gardens. With their tall spikes of vibrant blooms, foxgloves will make a statement in your garden and provide a burst of color during the idyllic summer months.
Grow foxgloves in perennial borders, containers, or a wildflower or cutting garden. It doesn’t matter where you plant them; foxgloves are a surefire way to add texture, height, and beauty to any space. So let’s get started on creating a stunning and thriving foxglove garden!
Foxgloves – The Stars of Cottage Gardens
Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are flowers native to Europe and are known for their impressive spikes of tubular flowers. The flowers come in various colors, including purple, pink, white, yellow, and red, and grow in dense spike-like formations.
The foliage of foxgloves is also an essential part of their appeal. The leaves are large, dark green, typically arranged in a rosette at the base of the plant. The leaves have soft hairs and are usually oval or lance-shaped, with a slightly wrinkled texture.
Deer hate foxgloves due to both the soft hairy leaves and the toxicity of the plants, so if deer are a challenge in your garden, you will want to try planting a few foxgloves in your garden beds.
Foxglove flowers also provide a natural food source and shelter for pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. Hummingbirds will also flock to your foxglove flowers all summer long as the flowers are rich in nectar.
- See our guide to starting a butterfly garden.
- See our list of flowers that attract hummingbirds.
- Deer Resistant Flowers
- The Best Flowers for Bees To Plant In Your Gardens
*****WARNING: Foxgloves are poisonous, so avoid planting if you have curious children or pets*****
Where to Plant Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxgloves are versatile plants that can be grown in various locations, but choosing the right place to thrive is essential. Here are some tips for finding the best places to plant foxgloves:
- Partial to Full Shade: Foxgloves prefer partial to full shade, so choose a location that provides just enough light for your plants. They can tolerate some sun, but too much direct sunlight can cause the foliage to wilt and the blooms to fade. For more flowers that thrive in the shade, check out this post!
- Well-Drained Soil: Foxgloves are susceptible to root rot if the soil stays too wet, so choosing a location with well-drained soil is crucial. They do best in soil rich in organic matter and have a neutral pH.
- Protection from Strong Winds: Foxgloves can be prone to breaking or bending in strong winds, so choose a location that provides some protection from the wind, such as a sheltered spot in the garden or a location near a wall or fence. You can also offer support trellises or poles.
- Perennial Beds: Foxgloves make great additions to the back of perennial beds and borders, where they can provide vertical interest and attract pollinators.
- Specialty Gardens: Foxgloves are welcome additions to butterfly gardens, wildflowers gardens, and hummingbird, woodland, and pollinator gardens.
- Containers: Foxgloves can also be grown in containers on patios, decks, and balconies. Be sure to choose shorter, bushier varieties for your containers.
Choosing the Right Variety Of Foxglove for your Flower Garden
Here is a list of popular foxglove cultivars with descriptions and growing zones:
- “Camelot” series: This cultivar produces large, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple, rose, and white. It is a hybrid foxglove that grows well in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9.
- “Digitalis purpurea”: This is a common foxglove plant native to Europe. It produces tall spikes of purple flowers and is hardy in zones 4 to 8.
- “Excelsior” series: This cultivar produces spikes of large, tubular flowers in shades of pink, purple, rose, and white. It is a hybrid foxglove and grows well in zones 4 to 9.
- “Illumination” series: This cultivar produces spikes of bright yellow flowers. It is a hybrid foxglove that grows well in zones 4 to 9.
- “Pam’s Choice”: This cultivar produces spikes of large, tubular flowers in a deep rose-pink color. It is a hybrid foxglove and grows well in zones 4 to 9.
- “Silver Sentinel”: This cultivar produces spikes of large, tubular flowers in a creamy white color. It is a hybrid foxglove and grows well in zones 4 to 9.
- “Dalmatian” series: This cultivar produces spikes of large, tubular flowers in shades of yellow and white with brown or black spots. It is a hybrid foxglove and grows well in zones 4 to 9.
- “Apricot Beauty”: This cultivar produces spikes of large, tubular flowers in a soft apricot color. It is a hybrid foxglove and grows well in zones 4 to 9.
- “Yellow Flare”: This cultivar produces spikes of bright yellow flowers. It is a hybrid foxglove and grows well in zones 4 to 9.
- “Polkadot” series: This cultivar produces spikes of large, tubular flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white with brown or black spots. It is a hybrid foxglove and grows well in zones 4 to 9.
Perennial Foxgloves vs. Biennial Foxglove, What’s the Difference?
Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) can be either biennial or perennial, depending on the variety.
Biennial foxgloves live for two years, producing leaves in the first year and flower blooms in the second year. After blooming, they will produce seeds and then die. These plants are often grown from seed and are popular for adding to meadows, naturalized areas, and wildflower gardens.
Perennial foxgloves, on the other hand, are long-lived plants that come back year after year. They will bloom in the first year and then produce flowers annually. These plants are often propagated from cuttings and are famous for adding to garden beds and borders.
- Bring Life to your Garden with Biennials
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- 12 Yellow Perennials for a Color-Themed Garden
Foxgloves When to Plant
Plant foxglove in either spring or fall, depending on your climate and desired bloom time. In areas with a mild climate, plant foxgloves in the spring once the threat of frost has passed.
In regions with extreme temperatures, it’s best to plant foxgloves in the fall, allowing them to establish roots before the winter.
How to Grow Foxgloves From Seed
Here are the steps for planting foxglove seed:
- Choose the right time: The best time to start foxgloves from seed is spring, after the last frost date.
- Prepare the seeds: Soak the tiny seeds in water for 24 hours before planting to help germination.
- Prepare the soil: Choose a location with well-drained soil and partial to full shade. Add compost or other organic matter to improve the soil structure and fertility.
- Plant the seeds: Sow the soaked seeds on the surface of the soil and press them down gently. You will then need to cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Water gently to avoid displacing the tiny seeds.
- Germination Can Take a Bit Of Time: Foxglove seeds can take up to 3 months to germinate, so be patient. Keep the top level of soil moist but not too wet until the seeds have germinated.
- Transplanting: Once the seedlings have grown large enough, transplant them into their permanent location, spaced appropriately apart.
A Note About Winter Sowing: We have had great success starting foxgloves in the dead of winter with winter sowing. Clear milk jugs or pop bottles make wonderful mini greenhouses that you can place outside when the weather is cold. By the time spring planting rolls around your foxglove seedlings will be ready to be planted. No fuss, and it takes up NO space indoors!
We have used winter sowing for foxgloves in USDA zone 3 (no kidding, it worked!) Although most of the varieties of foxgloves recommend hardiness at zone 4, so long as the plants are protected over winter (a good layer of mulch), they can return to zone 3.
Foxglove Care Tips
Here are some care tips for growing foxgloves:
Step 1: Provide Lots of Light:
Foxgloves prefer partial to full shade, so choose a location that provides the right light for your plants and growing zones.
In warmer areas, it’s a good idea to plant foxgloves in partial shade to protect them from the heat of the midday sun.
Step 2: Plant Foxgloves in Healthy Rich Well Draining Soil:
Well-drained soil is crucial for foxgloves, as they are susceptible to root rot if they stay too wet. Add compost or other organic matter to the soil to improve its structure and fertility.
Step 3: Water The Foxglove Regularly:
Regular watering is essential, especially during dry spells. However, be careful not to over-water, as this can lead to root rot.
Step 4: Add Fertilizer in Early Spring:
Foxgloves can benefit from a balanced fertilizer applied in the spring. However, avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to foliage growth at the expense of flowers.
Step 5: Don’t Forget to Prune:
After foxgloves have finished blooming, cut back the stems to encourage bushier growth and prevent self-seeding.
However, keep the seed heads if you want your plants to self-seed abundantly. Instead, when the seed heads are ready in fall, walk by the foxgloves and give them a vigorous shake a few times to ensure they disperse for the next season. It works like a charm!
Step 6: Keep an eye out for Pests and Diseases:
Foxgloves can be affected by slugs, snails, and aphids. Check your plants regularly and take action as soon as you notice any pests or diseases.
Step 7: Propagate your foxglove flowers for even more flowers!
Foxgloves can be propagated by dividing the clumps in the fall or by planting seeds in the spring.
Growing Foxglove Plants in Containers
Here are the steps for growing foxgloves in containers:
- Choose a suitable container: Choose a large container with good drainage holes for the foxgloves to grow without being restricted.
- Prepare the soil: Fill the container with a well-draining potting mix. You can add compost or other organic matter to improve the soil structure and fertility.
- Choose smaller Cultivars: You will want to choose more compact varieties for growing in containers and avoid the excessively tall types.
- Planting: Place the foxglove plants into the container, spacing them appropriately. Fill the container with soil, leaving enough space for watering and growth.
- Location: Place the container with partial to full shade and protect it from strong winds.
- Watering: Water the foxgloves regularly, being careful not to over-water them as this can lead to root rot.
- Fertilizing: Feed the foxgloves with a balanced fertilizer in the spring to encourage healthy growth and blooming.
Following these steps, you can grow foxgloves in containers and enjoy their beautiful blooms on your patio, deck, or balcony. Just be sure to choose a location that provides the right light, moisture, and protection for your plants to thrive.
Common Problems With Foxglove Plants
Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are generally hardy and easy to grow, but like all plants, they can still encounter some issues. Here are some common problems that foxgloves may encounter:
- Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease that affects the leaves and stems of foxgloves, causing a white, powdery growth on the surface. Powdery mildew will weaken the plants if allowed to continue, possibly preventing the plant from flowering.
- Root Rot: Root rot is a common problem for foxgloves grown in soil that is too wet or poorly drained. The plant’s roots will rot, causing the plant to become stunted, yellow, and eventually die.
- Pest Infestations: Foxgloves can be susceptible to various pests, such as aphids, slugs, and snails, which can damage the leaves and stems of the plant. We’ve found Sluggo exceptional at keeping slugs and snails at bay.
- Stunted Growth: Foxgloves may become stunted if grown in too alkaline soil or if they receive too much fertilizer. It can also cause the plants not to develop flower spikes at all.
- Breakage: Foxgloves have tall spikes of flowers prone to breaking or bending in strong winds. To prevent breakage, choose a location that provides some protection from the wind or stake the plants.
By being mindful of these common problems and taking steps to prevent or mitigate them, you can ensure that your foxgloves grow healthy and beautiful in your garden.