Plant of the Week ~ Digitalis (Foxglove)

Botanical illustration of Digitalis purpurea

This week we are taking a look at the delightful Digitalis, commonly known as Foxglove. The common name foxglove is thought to originate from “folksglove” which was used in reference to faeries due to the plant growing in woodland. The glove part of the name is based on the flowers resembling the fingers of gloves. As for the Latin name Digitalis, that is based on the Latin word digitus meaning “finger” or “toe”.


Basal leaf rosette of Digitalis in the first growing season of its life cycle

Digitalis can be grown in ordinary garden soil that is rich in organic matter and well-drained. It prefers slightly acidic soils and a spot that is partially shaded. It will also grow in full sun but only if the soil is consistently moist. Like many flowering plants, you can prolong its flowering period by removing the dead flowers.

Digitalis is most commonly biennial, however there are some species which are perennial. Regardless of whether you grow a biennial or perennial species, they produce a multitude of seeds so you can be sure that the plants will return even after dying. Bear in mind that if you grow a biennial species or variety of Digitalis, you will only see a basal leaf rosette in the first growing season. Flowers will follow in the second growing season.


There are many cultivars and hybrids available for Digitalis with flower colours from purple, pink and peach to orange, cream and white. Below you will find some of the wild species of foxglove to consider growing in your garden.

Digitalis purpurea (Purple Foxglove)

Digitalis purpurea

Originating in Western Europe, D. purpurea has been introduced to gardens around the globe and has now naturalised in the wild. With this being a biennial species, the first growing season will produce a rosette of leaves with tall spikes of flowers being produced the following growing season. This species has been known to stimulate the growth of nearby plants and grows particularly well with pine trees.

Digitalis grandiflora (Large Yellow Foxglove)

Digitalis grandiflora

Unlike D. purpurea and D. lanata, this species is actually perennial. Producing foliage from late winter and flowering in midsummer. The yellow, hairy flowers of this species provide a splash of yellow to the garden which can be enjoyed every summer.

Digitalis lanata (Grecian Foxglove)

Digitalis lanata

This species of foxglove can be biennial or perennial depending on the conditions it is grown in. It is one of the more unusual looking species which not only provides food for bumblebees but also intrigue for the eyes.

Wildlife Gardening

A curious bumblebee visits the flower of D. purpurea in search of nectar

Foxgloves are a great plant to grow for wildlife, particularly bumblebees as the plants have adapted to being pollinated by these insects. The bumblebee will land on the lower lip of the tubular flower before climbing up in search of nectar, during which pollen will dislodge and stick to the bumblebee which will then be transmitted to another flower they visit in their hunt for nectar. Why not plant some foxgloves in your garden and enjoy the wonderful sight of bumblebees poking their heads inside the flowers looking for some lunch.

All parts of this plant are toxic so please ensure you wear gloves or wash your hands after handling the plant. Under no circumstances should you consume any parts of this plant without consulting a qualified herbalist beforehand.

Wildlife & Eco Gardens can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants.  Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Wildlife & Eco Gardens can help you create a vibrant wildlife garden for you and your family to enjoy all year round. Contact us for more information.