How to Grow and Care for Foxgloves?

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Foxgloves are a group of plants known for their tall spikes of bell-shaped flowers, which are especially beloved by hummingbirds and bumblebees. The botanical name for the common foxglove is Digitalis purpurea. They are biennial or short-lived herbaceous perennials in most regions, although there are hybrids that bloom in the first year. However, it’s important to note that all parts of the foxglove plant are poisonous, containing digitalis and other cardiac glycosides, which can affect the heart if ingested.

What is the Foxglove?

  • Botanical Name: Digitalis
  • Plant Type: Biennial or short-lived herbaceous perennial
  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • Height: Up to 4-5 feet
  • Foliage: Green coarse-textured leaves in a rosette during the first year
  • Bloom Time: Late spring through midsummer
  • Climate: Foxgloves thrive in temperate climates but can adapt to a range of conditions.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun with light afternoon shade
  • Soil Requirements: Moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter
  • Hardiness Zones: 4-9
  • Flowering: Tubular flowers in purple, pink, or white
  • Special Features: Rabbit- and deer-resistant
  • Distribution and Habitat: Native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northwestern Africa

What do Foxglove Look Like?

Foxgloves (Digitalis) belong to the genus Digitalis, which includes about 20 species of herbaceous perennial plants, shrubs, and biennials. Foxgloves boast tall spikes adorned with tubular flowers that resemble bells, often with spots inside.

How to Growing Foxglove from Seed?

Growing foxgloves from seed involves a long process, from planting time to full-grown plants. Every process requires careful preparation.

Planting timing

  • Sowing Indoors: Start sowing seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last expected frost.
  • Sowing Outdoors: Seeds can also be sown directly in the garden in late spring or early summer.

Preparing the Seed Tray or Pots

Fill a seed tray or small pots with a moist, seed-starting mix or fine compost. Gently firm the soil but don’t compact it too much.

Sowing the Seeds

Scatter the foxglove seeds thinly on the surface of the soil. Foxglove seeds are tiny, so be careful not to sow them too densely. In contrast, the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Gently water the tray or pots again.

Germination and Transplanting

Sow foxglove seeds in cell packs or flats without covering them.

Maintain a temperature of 65-75°F (18-24°C) for germination (usually 14-21 days). Transplant seedlings into the garden, spacing them 18-24 inches apart.

How to Care for Foxglove?

Understanding the care requirements and toxicity of Foxgloves (Digitalis) is crucial because it ensures successful cultivation and prevents accidental poisoning. These stunning blooms add vertical interest to your garden, but their digitoxin content can be dangerous if ingested.

Watering

Establishment Phase

  • Newly Planted Seedlings: Water thoroughly after planting. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged until the seedlings are established. This usually takes a few weeks.
  • Direct-Sown Seeds: If you sow seeds directly in the garden, keep the soil surface consistently moist until the seeds germinate and seedlings are established.

Growing Season

  • Regular Watering: Once established, foxgloves prefer evenly moist soil. Water them regularly, ensuring the soil remains moist but not soggy.
  • Deep Watering: Water deeply to encourage deep root growth. This is especially important during dry spells. Aim to soak the soil to a depth of about 6-8 inches.
  • Frequency: Water once or twice a week during dry periods, depending on your climate and soil type. In hotter climates, more frequent watering may be necessary.

Sunlight: Partial Shade to Full Sun

  • Preferred Light: Foxgloves generally prefer partial shade to full sun.
  • Ideal Conditions: In cooler climates, they can tolerate full sun. However, in hotter regions, they perform best in partial shade, especially during the hottest part of the day.

Fertilizer

Apply fertilizer in early spring before new growth starts. For biennial foxgloves, fertilize in their second year to support robust flowering.

Type of Fertilizer

  • Balanced Fertilizer: Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), such as a 10-10-10 or 5-5-5 formulation.
  • Organic Options: Alternatively, you can use organic fertilizers such as compost, well-rotted manure, or fish emulsion, which provide a gentle and natural source of nutrients.

Frequency

In most cases, a single application of fertilizer in early spring is sufficient to support foxgloves throughout the growing season.If they appear pale or show signs of nutrient deficiency, consider providing additional fertilizer as needed.

After applying fertilizer, water the plants thoroughly to help distribute the nutrients into the soil and prevent fertilizer burn.

Soil

Foxgloves thrive in soil with a pH level ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. While drained soil rich in organic matter is more conducive to foxglove growth. Incorporate organic matter into the soil before planting to improve soil structure, fertility, and moisture retention.

Prune

Remove flower spikes after flowers fade. Use pruning shears to cut the flowering stems back to the base of the plant once the majority of flowers have faded. Trim away any dead or damaged foliage that spreads excessively. Use pruning shears to remove affected stems or foliage, cutting back to healthy tissue.

Staking

Tall varieties of foxglove may need staking to prevent them from toppling over, especially in windy areas. Use garden stakes or bamboo canes and tie the plants gently with garden twine.

Toxicity

Foxgloves contain digitoxin, a medicinal compound affecting heart rhythm. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the leaves and flowers. Ingestion can cause abnormal heart rhythms, loss of consciousness, and death. Keep foxgloves away from edible plants and out of reach of children and pets.

Temperature & Humidity

Foxgloves flourish in cooler climates, with an ideal temperature range of 70 to 80°F (21 to 27°C) 12.
Foxgloves are not particularly fussy about humidity levels. While they tolerate a wide humidity range, excessive humidity may encourage some fungal diseases.

Container

Choose a container that is at least 12 inches deep to accommodate the tall foxglove plants. Ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

Types of Foxgloves

Foxgloves (Digitalis) come in various captivating varieties. The most popular Foxgloves With fascinating colors and shapes, containing Digitalis purpurea (Common Foxglove), Rusty Foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea), Large Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora), Straw Foxglove (Digitalis lutea).

  • Digitalis purpurea (Common Foxglove): Known for its tall spikes of tubular, brightly colored blooms. Flowers come in shades of purple, pink, and white. Speckled throats add an enchanting touch.
  • Rusty Foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea): Cream-colored flowers with rusty splotches inside the throats.Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.Grows 3-5 feet tall.
  • Large Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora): Elongated yellow flowers with star-shaped openings.Hardy in Zones 3 to 8.Grows 2-3 feet tall.
  • Straw Foxglove (Digitalis lutea): Dainty, light yellow flowers.Also known as “small yellow foxglove.”Hardy in Zones 3 to 9.Blooms from late spring to early summer.

How to Propagate Foxgloves?

Seeds

Collecting Seeds

Harvest seeds in late summer or early fall when the seed pods turn brown and start to split open. Cut the seed pods from the plant and place them in a paper bag to dry completely. Once dry, gently shake the bag to release the seeds.

Sowing Seeds

Sow seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date or directly in the garden in late spring or early summer.
Indoor Sowing

Fill seed trays or pots with a moist seed-starting mix. Scatter the seeds thinly on the soil surface without covering them, as they need light to germinate. Mist the soil gently to keep it moist. Cover the trays or pots with clear plastic to retain moisture and place them in a bright location out of direct sunlight. Seeds typically germinate in 2-3 weeks.

Outdoor Sowing

Prepare a well-drained seedbed in a partially shaded area. Scatter the seeds on the soil surface and press them in gently. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination.

Division

Select healthy, mature plants with well-developed root systems. Dig up the entire plant carefully, preserving as much of the root system as possible. Use a sharp knife or spade to divide the plant into smaller sections, ensuring each section has a good portion of roots and shoots. Replant the divisions immediately in prepared soil at the same depth they were originally growing. Water the newly planted divisions thoroughly.

Cuttings

  • Select young, healthy shoots at the base of the plant. Use a sharp knife to cut the shoot close to the base, ensuring it includes a portion of the stem. Remove any lower leaves to expose the stem.
  • Dip the cut end in rooting hormone to encourage root development.
  • Plant the cutting in a pot filled with a moist, well-draining potting mix.
  • Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag or place it in a propagator to maintain humidity.
  • Place the pot in a bright, indirect light location and keep the soil moist.
  • Roots should develop in a few weeks, and the cutting can be transplanted to the garden once it is well-rooted.

Foxglove Pests and Diseases

Foxgloves (Digitalis genus) are beautiful, but like any plant, they can face challenges.

Diseases

  • Powdery Mildew: A fungal disease causing a white or gray powdery coating on leaves, stems, and flowers. Remove infected leaves, improve air circulation, and consider fungicide treatment.
  • Crown Rot: Attacks the base of the plant due to overly wet soil. Plant in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering.
  • Leaf Spot: Bacterial or fungal disease causing circular spots on leaves. Remove infected leaves and use fungicides.
  • Rust: Fungal disease with orange or brown spots on leaves. Remove affected foliage and apply fungicide.

Pests

  • Aphids: Small insects that can damage leaves and stems.
  • Japanese Beetles: Feed on foliage and flowers.
  • Mealy Bugs: Sap-sucking pests.
  • Thrips: Tiny insects that cause leaf damage.

FAQs

Do foxgloves attract pollinators?

Yes, foxgloves are excellent pollinator plants and attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies to the garden.

Can Foxglove be grown indoors?

While Foxglove is typically grown outdoors, it can be grown indoors with the right conditions, such as sufficient light and careful watering.

What type of soil do Foxgloves need?

Foxgloves prefer moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH.

What care do Foxgloves require during the growing season?

During the growing season, Foxgloves require regular watering, especially during dry periods. They also benefit from being fertilized with a general-purpose fertilizer to encourage growth.

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