Foxglove: How to Plant and Grow Foxglove Flowers | The Old Farmer's Almanac


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Botanical Name
Digitalis purpurea
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How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Foxglove Flowers

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Foxglove is a stately flower with tall elegant spikes covered in bell-shape blossoms beloved by hummingbirds and bumblebees. They bloom heavily in early spring, need little care, are deer-resistant, and make stunning cut flowers. Learn when to plant foxglove and how to grow foxglove.

Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a biennial or short-lived herbaceous perennial in most regions, although there are hybrids that grow in flower in year one.  In its first year, the plant simply forms a rosette and foliage; in the second year, the plant grows a 3 to 5 feet spike covered in 20 to 80 small downward-facing, tubular flowers in purple, pink, or white. Each one has a small lip on which bumblebees can land to access the nectar at the base of the tube. Hummingbirds may also visit the flowers.

The flower blooms from late spring through midsummer and then dies. Therefore, for continuous blooms, plant it for two consecutive years. Or, look for varieties that flower in Year 1. Be aware that foxglove also self-seeds prolifically. Deadhead after flowering to avoid excess numbers of seedlings.

They are great in tall borders or background plantings and also look attractive as against a background such as a building or fence.

Is Foxglove Poisonous?

Yes. Foxglove is poisonous, although recorded poisonings from this plant are very rare. The plant contains digitalis and other cardiac glycosides. These chemicals affect the heart. To be poisoned from foxglove, you would need to eat the seeds, stems, or leaves, or suck the flowers. 


Foxglove grows best in full sun, with light afternoon shade. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Prepare soil by mixing in a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost or aged manure.

When to Plant Foxglove

Sow seeds in late summer. Any seedlings should be planted into the garden bed in early fall so that they can establish the root system before cold weather arrives. 

Or, if planting containers, set out in late spring or fall.

How to Plant Foxglove

  • Foxglove is easy to grow from seed. If seeding, do not cover with soil; the seeds need light to germinate, so do not cover. Thin the seedlings to about 18 inches apart. 
  • When planting pots, space 1 to 2 feet apart; the foliage spread can be 1 to 3 feet. Dig the hole twice the diameter of the container. Set the top of the root ball level with the soil surface. Fill in around the root ball and firm the soil. Water thoroughly. 
  • Keep soil moist.
  • Add a thin layer of compost around the plant each spring.
  • Stake tall varieties to keep the flower stalks upright. 
  • Cut the center flower stalk back after flowering for a chance for additional flower stalks to develop later in the season. 
  • Leave the flower stalk on the plant if you want it to reseed, as well as to attract birds to the garden in the fall.



Cut stems for arrangements when lower flowers are just opening. Vase life is 10 to 14 days.

Wit and Wisdom
  • Digitalis comes from the Latin word for finger (digitus), referring to the shape of the flower. Purpurea refers to the color of the flowers, which often is purple.
  • Foxglove leaves were used in the treatment of heart failure in the 18th century and were once the source of heart stimulants. 
  • Each foxglove plant can produce 1 to 2 million seeds.
  • Foxglove was often grown in cottage gardens in the Middle Ages.

Foxglove is rabbit- and deer-resistant plant due to its toxicity.
Diseases: anthracnose, southern blight, leaf spot, powdery mildew, crown and rot, Verticillium wilt
Pestsaphids, Japanese beetles, mealy bugs, thrips