How to grow foxgloves

How to grow foxgloves

With their tall, elegant spires of purple or white flowers, foxgloves bring shady borders to life in early summer. The foxglove is one of those wildflowers that has made itself at home in our gardens, and it’s easy to see why. Loved by pollinators, especially bumblebees, this low-maintenance beauty will self-seed gently around your garden, creating an aura of cottage garden charm.

All about foxgloves

Most foxgloves are biennial, producing a rosette of leaves in their first year followed by a tall flower spire in their second, then setting seed and dying. Shake a dried foxglove flower spire, and thousands of tiny black seeds will scatter everywhere, self-seeding wherever growing conditions are right. 

Most of the foxgloves you’ll find in gardens today were bred from our native foxglove Digitalis purpurea, a woodland plant, so they do best in dappled shade and moist, well-drained soil. For sunny gardens and drier soils, perennial foxgloves like Digitalis obscura and Digitalis parviflora are better choices. These species come from southern Spain and the Mediterranean. 

Although foxgloves are beautiful, it’s important to remember that they’re also poisonous. Always wash your hands after working with foxgloves – for example, if cutting flowers for the house – and don’t grow them if you have pets that eat plants. 

How to care for foxgloves

The most important part of caring for foxgloves is to give them the right environment to grow in. For the best results, follow these tips:  

  1. Protect the young plants from slugs and snails in spring. 
  2. Deadhead after flowering for a second flush of flowers in late summer, but leave a few flower spires to stand and set seed. 
  3. Once biennial foxgloves have flowered and died, pull them up. 
  4. Cut perennial foxgloves back to ground level once they have finished flowering, and mulch the plants with compost in spring.