Flowers

Complete Guide to Foxgloves: How to Plant & Care for Foxglove Flowers

Read our complete guide to Foxglove flowers for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting and caring for "Digitalis purpurea"
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The foxglove is part of the “Digitalis” genus, with most varieties being biennials. In the first year of growth, the foxglove produces foliage that forms a rosette-style arrangement on the ground. During the first year, the plant is establishing its root system. Therefore, it doesn’t provide any flowers.

The plant starts to bloom in the second, and final, year of its life. During the start of the spring, you’ll notice a flower spike rising from the center of the plant. As the weather gets warmer, the spike flowers, producing beautiful and fragrant tubular-shaped flowers.

Those gardens that care properly for their foxgloves can get them to return for a few more years under the right growing conditions. These varieties of foxgloves that allow for multi-year flowering have more akin with herbaceous perennials than biennials. One of the most popular perennial foxglove species is the Digitalis Grandiflora.

About Floxgloves

The foxglove grows to heights of up to 5-feet, making them suitable for planting towards the back of flowerbeds. The flower spikes are the central focal point of attention, and you want to ensure that the flowers are on display when they start to bloom.

These plants reseed easily, and they’ll keep coming back to life year after year in the garden. The foxglove burst into bloom in a variety of different colors. Those gardeners that let seeds grow find that the offspring of the parent plants produce multi-colored flowers.

The blooms have a nodding appearance on the spike, and the most common colors are purple and white, with blue, red, and yellow varieties featuring in gardens across the United States. Foxgloves are a popular choice for planting in moon gardens.

The foxglove is a classic plant to add to a cottage garden. The foxglove gets its name from the large-sized tubular flowers that fit over your finger, providing a velvety sensation on your skin.

How Do I Grow Foxgloves?

Foxgloves are available as juvenile plants from your local nursery. You can also purchase foxglove seeds for sowing in the garden. Growing from seed requires a bit more effort, and novice gardeners will have better success with their flowerbeds if they purchase juvenile plants instead of seeds.

When shopping for a foxglove at the nursery, make sure you look for plants that have green and lively foliage that appears healthy. If you want blossoms in your garden this spring, then make sure you buy a mature plant that’s already a year old. Juvenile foxgloves don’t flower in the first year; they use the time to grow a robust root system instead.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) Twin Pack of 5,000 Seeds, From Amazon

If you’re planting your foxgloves in containers, make sure you don’t overcrowd the pot with seedlings. The foxglove will grow quickly in the first year, and they don’t enjoy crowded growing conditions. Stressing the plant might result in a poor flowering display or no blooms at all.

Where Should I Plant My Foxgloves?

The foxglove enjoys basking in the sun during the peak hours of the day. You don’t have to worry about the foliage burning or flowers falling off the plant. For best results, position them in a place in the garden that gets shade in the afternoon, allowing the foxglove to cool off from the heat of the day.

Foxgloves prefer growing in colder climates around USDA Zones 4 to 8. The plants enter a dormancy period during the wintertime and then return the following year to flower again. When preparing a site in your flowerbed, make sure you choose an area that has soil with good drainage and plenty of nutrients.

Foxglove Mix Seeds (Digitalis Purpurea), From Amazon

Foxgloves prefer slightly acidic soil mixes, and you’ll need to plant them in the early spring after the last frosts hit the ground. Check your local listings for frost dates in your area.

When planting your foxglove, it’s vital that you don’t cover the crown of the plant with soil. Covering the crown results in the onset of disease and rot in the roots, causing the plant to die off.

Are Foxgloves Toxic?

The foxglove looks pretty. However, don’t let the beauty of the plant distract you from its underlying toxicity. Foxgloves are poisonous to both people and pets when ingested.

As with many poisonous plants, foxglove is toxic to both people and pets. The stems, leaves, and flowers of the plant contain a compound known as a cardiac glycoside, such as digoxin, digitoxin, and digitalin.

These compounds also feature in leading brands of chronic heart medication, specifically in the brand known as “digitalis.” It’s important to note that a therapeutic dose of the medication is close to the LD 50 mark, and can cause severe complications in the patient if they take too much of the medication.

Therefore, if your kids or pets accidentally ingest any part of the foxglove plant, make sure you rush them to the emergency room for medical attention.

Foxgloves add a great splash of color
Foxgloves add a great splash of color

What Are the Light Requirements for Foxgloves?

Gardeners can grow foxgloves in a variety of lighting conditions. The plants take on the full or partial sunlight, but they do prefer regions of the garden that get more sun during the morning and peak hours of the day.

After the plants reach maturity, some varieties can handle growing in partial shade. However, growing them in the full shade will affect the flowering period of the plant.

Those gardeners living in the southern states should provide the foxglove with some shade in the afternoon.

How Do I Water Foxgloves?

Foxgloves need plenty of water during the summertime, especially when they start to flower. However, make sure you plant your flowers in a soil that offers good drainage.

These flowers don’t like growing in waterlogged soils that keep the roots wet. Wet roots add up to the onset of root rot in your plant, which will affect the flowering and potentially kill the plant.

Water twice to three times a week, depending on your climate conditions. If you live in dry regions of the United States, consider investing in a drip irrigation system for your yard. Drip irrigation provides the foxglove with all the water it needs to flower in full glory this summer.

Digitalis purpurea
Digitalis purpurea

What are the Humidity and Temperature Requirements for Foxgloves?

Foxgloves enjoy warm growing conditions, but they prefer the colder climates of the northern to mid-western states. Gardeners may find that the foxgloves start to wilt in temperatures that exceed 100F.

Foxgloves aren’t picky about the humidity on offer, and they grow well in both dry and humid environments.

If you’re planting your foxglove in humid conditions, make sure that you leave plenty of space for airflow around the plant. If there isn’t enough airflow, it could lead to the development of diseases like white powdery mildew.

If you’re growing foxgloves from seed, then they’ll germinate in temperatures of between 70F to 80F.

How Do I Fertilize Foxgloves?

For those gardeners growing foxgloves in the northern states, you’ll need to provide your plants with some protection during the winter season. We recommend you mulch around the base of the plant using an organic compost and mulch mix.

Mulching the soil keeps pests away from your plants, and it also releases nutrients into the soil that boosts the plants flowering and growth the following season.

When fertilizing, make sure you choose a 5-10-5 fertilizer product that is low in nitrogen. Excess nitrogen can damage the plant and prevent it from flowering during the summer.

Add a handful of granular fertilizer to the soil in the early spring to stimulate the plant out of dormancy and get the roots growing.

Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed All Purpose Plant Food is Perfect for Foxgloves

Why Do I Deadhead Foxgloves?

After the plant finishes flowering, you can usually get another bloom if you deadhead the plant. Deadheading refers to removing all of the dead flowers from the foxglove.

By deadheading, you encourage your foxglove to produce another set of flowers in the fall. Don’t deadhead the flowers if you want the plants to reseed in the flowerbed.

How Do I Propagate Foxgloves?

Propagating foxgloves is challenging and requires an experienced gardener for the process. Foxgloves typically reseed themselves, so propagation isn’t necessary.

If you plant different color foxgloves in the garden, you might find that new ones appear in the second year. These new plants will have bi-color combinations of the parent plants, providing a spectacular visual display when they start to flower.

How Do I Space Foxgloves?

The foxglove comes in many different varieties, but they all require spacing in the flowerbed for optimal growth and flowering. Space your foxgloves at least 2-feet apart, and stake the flower spikes on some plants to prevent them from falling over in high wind conditions.

What Are the Best Varieties of Foxglove for the Garden?

There are dozens of varieties of foxgloves available. Your choice of colors depends on your personal tastes. We recommend you choose a type that blends into the visual characteristics and colors of the other flowers in your garden. Here are some of our top choices for your garden.

  • The Goldcrest – Features yellow flowers
  • D. Obscura – Features orange blossoms
  • The Candy Mountain – Features pink flowers
  • D. Grandiflora – Features large yellow flowers
  • D. x Mertonensis – A hybrid variety that features pink-copper flowers

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Hollie Carter

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at hollie@gardenbeast.com or follow on twitter https://twitter.com/greenholliec

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