Q. I love foxgloves. How do I grow them?
The common but beautiful foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a biennial best grown from seeds. Some other Digitalis species are perennial. Biennial foxgloves can be started from seed in alternate years so that you will have flowering foxgloves every year.
The best time to sow foxglove seeds is in late summer. They need light to germinate, so sow them by simply scattering the seeds on the top of the soil. Then gently rake the seeds into the soil, but do not bury them. Foxgloves are rather slow to germinate, so you won’t see any seedlings for 20-30 days. They can also be started indoors in winter or spring and planted out in summer.
Perennial foxgloves can often be found in nurseries as potted plants. D. grandiflora is a yellow–flowering species with gracefully arching spires. A variety termed ‘Polkadot Polly’ has pink-apricot colored flowers. ‘Spice Island’ is a cream-colored perennial.
Foxgloves grow best in dappled shade, with other perennials, or in a woodland garden. They will grow in USDA zones 4-8. They need moist but not waterlogged conditions. A layer of mulch around the plants is helpful, as well as compost-amended soil. The compost conditions the soil, helping plants take up nutrients easily.
Warnings: Foxgloves are poisonous, so avoid ingesting any part of the plant. They can also become invasive by self-sowing. To help prevent this, cut the flowers stems before they form seeds. ‘Spice Island’ is sterile, so this foxglove does not self-sow.
On the positive side, deer and rabbits usually avoid foxgloves.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service