Plant Pick – Foxgloves (Digitalis)

In my mind, not enough people appreciate the humble foxglove. This beautiful and native species to the Europe is an absolutely fantastic variety in the plant world, offering great flutes of flowers which will be loved by insects, especially bees. Their impressive height offers great architectural appeal for gardeners trying to create some drama in borders, and they will grow and flower in most settings as long as they are not too baked by the sun or sat in water.

© Geoff Wakeling

A Beautiful Display of Foxgloves at the Eden Project’s 2010 Chelsea Garden

In my garden I used a lot of foxgloves, mainly because not only do they grow well but they offer tall spikes of flowers, sometimes up to five feet, early in the year before my summer borders have really got going. I normally plant a group in my fern bed before the other plants really get going, adding to that woodland vibe. Meanwhile, I use a couple either side of path corners, creating that wonderful feeling of envelopment as you pass between the towering spikes to discover the rest of the garden.

They are also an amazing source of nectar for those bees looking to fill their spring hives with food and by offering these native hybrids, you can not only make the early garden shine, but offer a bountiful habitat.

© Geoff Wakeling

A Hungry Bumblebee Flies in for a Snack

Another benefit of foxgloves is that they are incredibly easy to grow. Plant’s are biennial in nature so they’ll grow quickly in the first year before throwing up their flower spikes the following one. I often find that some of my varieties are actually short-lived perennials, flowering for two or three years before finally going over. They seed themselves very easily, with species happily pollinating each other so that you can get unique hybrids within your very own garden. Plants that no one else in the world has. One word of warning though…they are slightly toxic, so for those with children with eager mouths, it’s best to only grow these in an area where curious fingers can not get to.

© Geoff Wakeling

Foxgloves Set Seed Easily, Creating Unique Garden Hybrids

Names: Foxglove (Digitalis)

Thrives In: Partial shade is best for foxgloves as they are a true woodland plant. However, they will happily grow in sunny spots as long as the soil doesn’t become too baked.

Yearly Care: In the first year collect and separate seedlings which may have started in the garden. Alternatively sow seeds thinly which have been collected in seed trays. Grow plants on in pots until the autumn of their first year, after which time they can be planted out into their final positions. In their second year, remove dead or browing leaves to keep plants invigorated. Once the flower stalk has set seed, cut right down to the base, leaving the plant in place if you wish to try for another year’s growth.

Growing Medium: Not picky, and as long as soil’s are well drained and moist, foxgloves will thrive.

Stockists: Greenfingers have a gorgeous range of foxgloves, as do Crocus.

Quick Tip: It can be hard to distinguish foxglove leaves from borridge. If the leaf feels velvety it’s our gorgeous foxglove, bristles equal borridge.

6 Responses to Plant Pick – Foxgloves (Digitalis)

  • I also love foxgloves! According to the seed packet of my recent sowing they will flower in their first year, I hope so but I don’t mind waiting. I have some ‘oldies’ self seeding all over the place.

  • “Humble” foxglove? I wouldn’t have described it like that, I guess; I’ve always found it to be a very stately, elegant and slightly showy plant, and I absolutely love it. (And even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to avoid them since my husband has them on the “must-have” list due to their impressive spires of flower and their tendency to attract bumble bees…)

    We have them on the balcony of my husband’s flat in Scotland and hope to have them free-range in the garden of our summer house in Denmark.

    • You are right, they are very impressive. I just think many people over look these wonderful plants, especially due to their European origins, in search of more exotic and fantastic plants! Sounds such a lovely idea to have them on a blacony, adds a bit of real structure 😀

  • To me they look as exotic as anything you might import from Asia or South America, but with the benefit that even on my husband’s Aberdeen balcony they get on well and provide a great display in summer for a long time.

  • Ian Cooke says:

    I love the white ones and also the Apricot cultivar – both look stunning against blue ceanothus.

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I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.