Digitalis Purpurea, Foxglove: Popular For Its Pendulous 2 To 3 Inch, Tubular, Dark Rose To Purple Flowers

Digitalis Purpurea, Foxglove: Popular For Its Pendulous 2 To 3 Inch, Tubular, Dark Rose To Purple Flowers


Photo Compliments of Ryan Somma

Digitalis purpurea, or you will hear it more commonly called foxglove, is one of the more striking flowering plants you can add to your garden.  Foxglove produces only a basal rosette of light green, oblong leaves in the first year. Flowers are borne in the second year on terminal, one-sided racemes atop leafy, 24 to 28 inch tall spires arising from the centers of the basal rosettes. Pendulous 2 to 3 inch long, tubular, funnel-shaped, dark rose-pink to purple flowers with purple and white spots inside are closely grouped along each spike.

Foxglove is a late spring bloomer that reaches its peak about the same time as roses begin to bloom. After flowering, plants can become somewhat scraggly by late summer, and, because they are biennials, consideration may be given to removing them from the garden as soon as they release their seed.

How To Make Your Digitalis Purpurea Thrive

You will want to apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2 inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. You will need to stake the taller varieties to keep them upright. Remove the central flower spike after flowering to encourage other side shoots to form and produce more flowers. However, if you want the plant to self-sow and multiply, leave the flower spike intact on the plant so seeds can mature and disperse.

Foxglove is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. The ideal condition is moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. To nurture thriving plants you need to not allow the soil to become fully dry.

General Digitalis Purpurea Information

Diseases & Pests

In 10 years I have had no disease or pest problems.  If you plant is under stress you may see powdery mildew, or leaf spot can be a problem, if left untreated these can become real problems that will cause considerable damage to the foliage by late summer.  Dense crowns may rot in soggy, poorly-drained winter soils. Potential insect pests include aphids, mealy bugs, slugs and Japanese beetle.

Your plant will thrive without pesticides in a well-balanced garden that has good airflow and natural predators.


This plant is a biennial which may be grown from seed sown directly in the garden in spring after last frost (for flowers the following year). You will quickly realize it freely self-seeds under favorable conditions, and, as with biennial hollyhocks, can establish colonies in the garden that will persist for years as if they were perennials.

Garden Uses

The tall spires provide striking color and good architectural height to the border, and are particularly effective in front of dark backgrounds such as those provided by a wall or shrubs. Foxglove is also quite effective in woodland gardens or naturalized areas.

Quick Facts

  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • Common Name: Foxglove
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 4 to 8
  • Height: 24 to 60 inches
  • Spread: 12 to 24 inches
  • Bloom Time: May to June
  • Bloom Description: Strawberry pink, white, yellow, or purple
  • Sun: Full sun to part shade
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Water: Medium
  • Native Range: Western, southern, and central Europe
  • Attracts: Hummingbirds
  • Tolerates: Rabbits, deer

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  1. They aren’t really supposed to grow here (Zone 9) but I got hold of some seeds and planted them. Two plants lived. Made it through the winter okay and now they just sit there. No stalk, no blooms. Bummer.

  2. Foxgloves are beautiful! They don’t grow in this part of the state :(

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