Discover the secrets to growing stunning foxgloves, even if you’ve struggled for years! Learn about planting, care, pest control, and propagation from a gardener who finally cracked the code after 30 years. Your dream foxglove garden is within reach.

If you’ve ever been captivated by the towering spires and bell-shaped blooms of foxgloves, you’re not alone. I’ve wanted to grow them in my gardens throughout my entire gardening life. For nearly three decades, I struggled to cultivate these enchanting flowers in my New Jersey garden.

UNTIL NOW!!!!!

Have you tried growing digitalis before without success too? After years of trial and error, I finally cracked the code!!! Let me share my hard-won wisdom and guide you through the process of growing your own magnificent foxgloves.

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A garden scene with tall flower stalks growing foxgloves and pink and yellow blooms. The background shows a black lattice fence, trees, and a partly cloudy sky, creating a serene outdoor environment.

About Growing Foxgloves

Foxgloves (Digitalis), with their stately spires and pendulous, bell-shaped blooms, are truly captivating additions to any garden. They are stunning biennial or perennial plants known for their tall spikes of tubular flowers that come in shades of pink, white, purple, and yellow. They thrive in hardiness zones 4-9 and prefer locations with partial shade to full sun. These plants do best in moist, well-drained, loamy soil. Foxgloves typically reach heights of 2-5 feet and spread about 1-2 feet wide.

Digitalis has a unique growth pattern, forming a rosette of leaves in the first year, followed by a towering flower stalk in the second year. Their blossoms, resembling a series of hanging bells, come in a variety of colors, including pink, purple, white, yellow, and even bi-colors. The inside of each bell is often speckled with contrasting spots, adding to their charm.

Foxgloves are generally planted as biennials, meaning they grow foliage in the first year and bloom in the second year. However, some varieties can be treated as short-lived perennials. Regular deadheading of spent blooms can encourage extended blooming and prevent the plants from becoming leggy. They are also known for their ability to self-seed, often reappearing in the garden year after year.

It’s important to note that all parts of Foxgloves are highly toxic if ingested, so it’s important to handle them with care and keep them away from children and pets. It’s the top reason why they are a great rabbit and deer-resistant plant for your flower garden.

Despite their toxicity, the allure of foxgloves remains undeniable. They bring a touch of magic and mystery to the garden, beckoning both pollinators and admirers alike.

Foxglove Facts: What You Need to Know

  • Botanical Name: Digitalis purpurea
  • Common Name: Foxglove
  • Plant Type: Biennial/Perennial
  • Hardiness Zones: 4-9
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun (especially in cooler climates)
  • Soil Type: Well-Draining, Rich, Loamy, Slightly Acidic
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring to Early Summer
  • Height: 2-5 feet (depending on variety)
  • Width: 1-2 feet
  • Flower Color: Pink, white, purple, yellow
  • Foliage Color: Green
  • Bloom Time: Late spring to summer
  • Deer Resistance: Toxic compounds deter browsing
Growing three colorful foxglove flowers (pink, white, and orange) in bloom, with a backdrop of a green fence and foliage.
Foxgloves

The Allure of Foxgloves: Why They’re Worth the Effort

Foxgloves have dramatic, bell-shaped flowers, available in a spectrum of colors from soft pink to deep purple, that create a breathtaking vertical accent in any garden. But they’re not just eye candy for humans; they also attract vital pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. Foxgloves lend a touch of old-world charm, evoking the enchanting cottage gardens of yore.

For me, the allure of foxgloves goes beyond their beauty. They became a personal challenge, a horticultural puzzle I was determined to solve. And I’m so glad that I never gave up on growing foxgloves because they are totally worth the effort.

My Foxglove Breakthrough: Almost 30 Years in the Making

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Because this has been my experience with growing, failing and succeeding with growing digitalis.

Every spring, I’d shop the nurseries with great optimism about new potential for my flower garden. And then I’d spot them. Those stunning tall spiked flowers that I dreamed about for years.

I’d buy them, plant them in the right location with the appropriate amount of sunlight. They’d do okay and then peter out never to return again in my garden. It was so disheartening. I realize they are biennial but they just did not take like I’d heard about them doing in other gardener’s landscapes.

So I avoided growing them. Until a few years later, I’d see another plant, buy them, plant them and go through the same cycle again. This happened a few times and to no avail, I could not get foxgloves to grow in my garden.

Until I moved here!

Although I moved only 20 minutes away in the same hardiness zone, I decided to give them a whirl again. I shopped at a local nursery, found these gorgeous blooms and you know what? They didn’t take either! What the heck!

Determined to grow them, I decided to start them from seed indoors the following winter. And you know what? Those seeds germinated and became strong seedlings that I planted in my flower garden.

And would you believe? They bloomed in their first season! I was thrilled. Instead of deadheading them, I allowed the plant to drop seed and the crowns remained over the course of the winter.

Well they grew again this spring, thrived AND ARE BLOOMING like crazy! Yay!!! I did it! And you can too.

A garden with a fountain and plants. Planting flowers in raised garden beds in early spring with a flowering crabapple tree.

How to Plant Foxgloves

You can plant foxgloves by either transplant from the garden nursery or growing them from seed. I spent the better part of 30 years trying to grow them from garden nursery transplants and they never took in my gardens.

If you’ve been successful buying a gorgeous planting it in your garden, and watch it thrive for years to come, I am in awe. Because I’ve yet to be able to do that here in my zone 6b garden. The only way I’ve been able to grow them beyond a season is to start them from seed.

Here are some tips for planting foxgloves in your garden.

Starting Foxgloves From Seed: Timing is Key

Foxgloves can be started indoors from seed about 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Direct sow seeds after the last frost in your area. In New Jersey, this typically falls around late April or early May.

Site Selection and Soil Preparation for Foxgloves

Choose a spot that receives partial to full sun, especially if you live in a cooler climate. Foxgloves appreciate well-draining soil enriched with organic matter like compost. A slightly acidic soil pH is ideal.

It’s always a good ideas to do a soil test wherever you are planting a garden so you can fix any nutritional deficiencies that location may have giving your plants a greater chance of success. You can find soil test kits at a garden nursery or can pick up one from your local cooperative extension.

Step-By-Step Directions for Starting Foxgloves From Seed

If starting indoors, sow seeds on the surface of the soil and gently press them in. Outdoors, sow seeds shallowly and space them about 12-18 inches apart to allow for adequate airflow and future growth.

There are two ways to start foxgloves from seed: sowing them indoors or outside. I’m going to detail and share my experiences with each. I grew both ‘Dalmation Peach’ and ‘Dalmation Purple’ from seed with great success and had blooms the first season so I recommend starting with these varieties.

starting seeds indoors
Starting seeds indoors under grow lights

Sowing Foxglove Seeds Indoors

This method worked the best for me and my garden because the germination rate was high and the plants all did amazing! If starting foxglove seed indoors, you’ll do it about 8-10 weeks (or whatever your seed packet recommends) before your last frost.

Use a seed starting tray or small pots with drainage holes filled with a quality organic seed starter mix that is pre-moistened. They need light to germinate so it’s okay to not cover them – the seeds are so tiny! Sow only one variety per cell tray as the different plants will germinate at different times.

Cover seed trays with a clear dome and move them under grow lights placed on a heat mat to speed up germination. Remove the cover when the seeds start to germinate. It’s okay if they didn’t all germinate, more will grow after the cover is removed.

Keep the soil moist by bottom watering only. Before transplanting foxglove seedlings outdoors, harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over a period of 14 days.

When seedlings are hardened off and ready to plant in the garden, space them in your flower garden about 12-18″ inches apart. Water young plants regularly, keeping the soil moist but not overdoing it. Then feed with an organic fish fertilizer for a few weeks to promote healthy growth and lots of blooms.

Outdoors, sow seeds shallowly and space them about 12-18 inches apart to allow for adequate airflow and future growth.

Trays filled with various small plant seedlings and labeled markers are neatly arranged on a wooden deck. The deck overlooks a well-maintained garden with green lattice fencing, a gravel path, and a tiered stone fountain in the background.

Step-By-Step Directions for Winter Sowing Foxglove Seeds

Winter sowing is a great way to start foxglove seeds if they are hardy in your hardiness zone. You’ll save yourself some indoor seed starting space and don’t need to go through the hassle of hardening them off. Thus, winter sowing is very eco-friendly! I didn’t have the highest germination rate this year when I tried it, so I’ll probably stick with indoor seed starting instead.

The best winter containers for sowing are things that we use every day like chicken rotisserie containers, milk jugs, and plastic storage boxes. Each of these items can be repurposed and recycled as winter sowing containers, so we don’t have to spend a dime on expensive seed starting trays, domes, and grow lights.

It’s important to add drainage holes to the container bottoms so moisture can drain out. Fill the bottoms of containers about halfway with pre-moistened potting soil. (You should be able to make a ball out of the soil without it falling apart.) To keep things neat in my workspace, I used THIS tray to hold the potting soil and THIS tray beneath my containers.

Then sow your seeds and attach the cover and tape it closed. Label the containers well so you know what’s planted. Remove the cap or add a few holes at the top of the container to insure good airflow.

Move seed starts to an outdoor location that receives sunlight and rain, but is protected from harsh weather. And if you live in a warmer climate, set them in a shadier spot where they’ll receive moisture but don’t cook in the heat. Check weekly to make sure they are moist. The seeds will eventually sprout!

A vibrant garden scene featuring tall stalks of foxgloves with tubular flowers. The flowers range in color from bright purple to cream, standing in front of lush green foliage and a green fence in the backdrop. The ground is covered with dark mulch. Growing foxgloves in a flower garden

Planting Foxglove Transplants: Depth and Spacing

If you want to skip seed starting and experience quicker results, buy foxglove plants from your garden center in spring or fall. Space them 12-18″ apart to allow for spread.

Here’s how to plant foxgloves in your garden.

Choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s container, and the same depth. Gently loosen the roots and place the plant in the hole. Then backfill with soil, press gently, and water well.

How to Grow and Maintain Foxgloves (The Essentials)

Once you’ve planted your foxgloves, the journey to those stunning blooms begins. Proper care and attention will ensure your foxgloves thrive and reward you with their majestic presence. While they have a reputation for being somewhat finicky, don’t worry – with a few essential tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a foxglove expert.

From watering and fertilizing to deadheading and staking, this section will cover all the crucial steps to keep your foxgloves healthy, happy, and blooming beautifully for years to come.

Close-up of tall stems of peach-colored foxgloves in bloom. The bell-shaped flowers have a gradient of colors from light peach to white at the edges. The background features blurred greenery and a teal-colored fence.
Dalmation Pink Foxgloves

Watering Foxgloves

Consistent moisture is key, especially during dry spells. Water deeply but avoid soggy soil, which can lead to root rot.

Here’s a golden rule to follow: aim for the roots, not the foliage. This is why drip irrigation and soaker hoses work so well in flower gardens. Overhead watering can encourage fungal diseases. Instead, use watering cans, soaker hoses, or drip irrigation systems to deliver water directly to the root zone.

One of the reasons you want to avoid watering from above is because when the foliage stays wet and the sun goes down, that water does not evaporate as well which causes fungal problems. The same goes for the soil. When plants sit in wet soggy soil overnight it encourages pest and disease problems. And we don’t want that with our foxgloves!

In addition to watering the base of plants, it’s also really important to water in the earlier part of the day instead of later in the day. It is better for your flower garden and plants because they will have a chance to dry out before nightfall when the temperatures cool.

Tall stems of foxglove flowers in shades of pink, peach, and purple stand in a garden bed with green leaves at their base. A green wooden fence provides the background with lush greenery visible behind it.

Fertilizing Foxgloves

I’m a huge proponent of focusing on your soil quality instead of feeding perennials or biennials with fertilizers. If you’ve already taken a soil test, follow any recommendations those results provided. Add compost, aged manure, leaf mold and other organic matter yearly to help improve your soil, improve drainage, and supress weeds.

The only situation I recommend fertizling digitalis is when they are grown in pots. In that circumstance, I would use a balanced slow-release fertilizer in the spring in addition to adding compost and other organic matter.

Mulching Around Your Foxgloves

It’s always a great idea to mulch around your foxgloves. I recommend using organic mulch like wood chips because it will break down and help improve your soil over time while suppressing weeds, maintaining soil temperature, and helping plants retain moisture.

When you mulch, make sure you keep it away from the base of plants. Mulching right on top of plant bases encourages pest and disease problems – which we don’t want, am I right?

Tall stalks of pink foxglove flowers bloom in a garden bed with green foliage and blooming buds. A dark green wooden fence stands in the background, partially shaded by nearby trees. The area is lush with various other plants and greenery.

Deadheading Foxgloves

After the first flush of blooms fades, promptly remove the spent flower stalks to encourage a second round of flowering. If you don’t want your foxgloves to self-seed, deadheading is crucial.

Because my gardens have not had the experience of foxgloves reseeding, I left the flower stalks so they’d drop seed. I’ve heard from other gardeners that foxgloves can be aggressive in their gardens, so I really think you’ll learn by doing where foxgloves are concerned. They seem to grow differently in various gardens so you’ll know how aggressive or not they behave in yours.

Staking (For Taller Foxglove Varieties)

Tall foxglove varieties may require staking to prevent them from toppling over in wind or rain. Use stakes, rings, or consider growing them through other sturdy plants for support.

A lush garden with various green plants and pink flowering foxgloves against a backdrop of a turquoise wooden fence adorned with wicker wall decor. The setting is in a wooded area with dense trees and a clay pot can be seen on the right side.

Foxglove Pests and Diseases (Prevention and Solutions)

Foxgloves are generally resilient plants, but like any living organism, they can be susceptible to a few pests and diseases. Early detection and prompt action are crucial to preventing these problems from causing significant damage to your plants. While foxgloves have some natural defenses, being aware of the most common culprits and knowing how to address them will help you keep your foxglove garden healthy and thriving.

Some common issues found with foxgloves include aphids, leaf spot, powdery mildew, slugs and snails.

Organic Pest Control Methods for Foxgloves

I’m a huge proponent of using natural and organic pest control methods in my gardening life. There is no need to grab carcinogenic pesticides when caring for your garden when it’s just as easy to deal with issues organically.

Here are a few ways to deal with common pest problems in digitalis.

  • Aphids: Spray with a strong stream of water or use insecticidal soap.
  • Leaf Spot and Powdery Mildew: Improve air circulation and avoid overhead watering. Neem oil can be helpful.
  • Slugs and Snails: Handpick them or use diatomaceous earth as a barrier.

When to Use Fungicides

If fungal diseases persist despite preventive measures, you may need to resort to organic fungicides like neem oil. Choose products labeled for use on foxgloves and follow the instructions carefully. To protect pollinator populations, it’s best to not use them at all.

A cluster of tall, peach and pink foxglove flowers bloom in front of a green wooden fence within a garden. The background is lush with green foliage and trees, creating a vibrant and serene outdoor scene.

Growing Foxgloves in Pots: Container Gardening Tips

If you lack garden space, you can grow foxgloves in pots. Select a pot that’s at least 12 inches deep and wide to accommodate the roots of your foxglove. Make sure it has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

Use a well-draining potting mix that’s rich in organic matter. A mix formulated for flowering plants is a good option. When grown in pots, digitalis will need to be fed with a balanced fertilizer. Because nutrients wash out of the soil every time you water, it’s a good idea to feed them yearly and repot them every few years to freshen up the soil.

Since pots tend to dry out quicker in the summer, I also recommend running drip irrigation set on timers so it’s easier to maintain.

In colder climates, potted foxgloves will need protection from freezing temperatures. To successfully overwinter them, choose varieties that are two zones hardier than your growing zone This means, if you garden in zone 6 you’ll want a variety that can handle zone 4.

You can also try moving them to a sheltered location like a garage or unheated shed and insulate the pot with burlap or bubble wrap. Since my success with growing foxgloves is relatively new, I’ve not tried overwintering them in pots and have only grown them in the ground. If you want to try doing it, let me know how it goes!

A vibrant garden scene featuring tall stalks of foxgloves with tubular flowers. The flowers range in color from bright purple to cream, standing in front of lush green foliage and a green fence in the backdrop. The ground is covered with dark mulch. Growing foxgloves in a flower garden

Propagating Foxgloves: Doubling Your Garden For Free

If you want to propagate foxgloves so you can grow your garden for free or share them with friends, there are two ways to propagate them: seed saving and division. Here’s how to do both.

Saving Foxglove Seeds

Collect seeds from dried seed pods in late summer or fall. Store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to sow them.

Dividing Foxglove Plants

You can divide mature foxglove plants in spring or fall to create new plants. Carefully dig up the clump, separate it into smaller sections, and replant them.

Close-up of vibrant magenta foxglove flowers in full bloom, with tall stems and clusters of bell-shaped blossoms adorned with intricate speckled patterns. Lush green leaves and blurred foliage in the background complete the garden scene.

10 Companion Planting Ideas For Foxgloves

Companion planting with foxgloves can enhance the beauty of your garden while also creating a healthier and more balanced ecosystem. Foxgloves (Digitalis spp.) are stunning biennial or perennial plants that thrive in various conditions, making them versatile companions for many other garden plants. Here are some ideas for companion planting with foxgloves:

1. Roses

Foxgloves and roses make a classic combination. The tall spires of foxgloves complement the bushy growth of roses, providing a vertical element to the garden. Foxgloves can help fill in the spaces between rose bushes and add color and texture, especially in the spring and early summer.

2. Hostas

For a woodland or shaded garden, hostas are an excellent companion for foxgloves. Hostas’ large, lush foliage contrasts beautifully with the vertical spikes of foxgloves. Both plants thrive in partial to full shade, creating a serene and lush garden setting.

3. Ferns

Ferns and foxgloves together create a natural and woodland-like feel. The delicate fronds of ferns provide a soft, airy texture that complements the tall, bold flowers of foxgloves. This combination works well in shaded or semi-shaded areas, adding depth and interest to your garden.

4. Aquilegia (Columbine)

Columbines are excellent companions for foxgloves due to their similar growing conditions and complementary blooming times. Both plants prefer partial shade and well-drained soil. Columbines’ intricate flowers add a different shape and form, enhancing the visual appeal of your garden.

5. Campanula (Bellflower)

Bellflowers and foxgloves share similar growing requirements and bloom times. Campanula’s low-growing habit and bell-shaped flowers create a lovely contrast with the tall spikes of foxgloves. Planting them together can create a layered and cohesive look in your garden beds.

6. Astilbe

Astilbes are fantastic companions for foxgloves, especially in shaded or partially shaded gardens. Astilbes’ fluffy, plume-like flowers add a different texture and color to the garden. Their blooms often coincide with foxgloves, creating a harmonious and colorful display.

7. Brunnera (Siberian Bugloss)

Brunnera’s heart-shaped leaves and delicate blue flowers provide a beautiful ground cover beneath the towering foxgloves. This combination works well in shady areas, adding both foliage interest and flower power.

8. Lupines

Lupines and foxgloves together create a striking vertical display. Both plants enjoy similar soil conditions and partial shade. Lupines’ tall, spiky flowers come in various colors, complementing the pastel hues of foxgloves.

9. Primroses

Primroses are early bloomers that can add color to your garden before foxgloves come into full bloom. Their low-growing habit and vibrant flowers provide a lovely foreground to the taller foxgloves, creating a layered effect.

10. Heuchera (Coral Bells)

Heucheras’ colorful foliage and delicate flowers make them ideal companions for foxgloves. Their low, mounding habit contrasts nicely with the vertical growth of foxgloves. Heucheras come in various colors, allowing you to create a stunning color palette in your garden.

When companion planting with foxgloves, consider the growing conditions and bloom times of each plant to ensure they thrive together. Combining different heights, textures, and colors can create a visually appealing and healthy garden.

Foxglove FAQ (Your Burning Questions Answered)

While we’ve covered the essential information on growing and caring for foxgloves, you may still have some questions. This FAQ section aims to address common inquiries and concerns that often arise when cultivating these enchanting flowers. From questions about their toxicity to tips for encouraging repeat blooming, we’ve compiled answers to help you confidently navigate the world of foxglove gardening.

Are foxgloves toxic?

Yes, all parts of the foxglove plant are toxic if ingested. Wear gloves when handling them and keep them away from children and pets.

Can I grow foxgloves from cuttings?

Foxgloves don’t root readily from cuttings, so it’s not a reliable method of propagation.

How do I get my foxgloves to rebloom?

Deadheading spent flowers is the key to encouraging a second flush of blooms.

How can foxgloves be used in garden design?

Foxgloves add a bold, vertical element to garden designs, making them ideal for perennial beds, shade gardens, and cottage gardens. Plant taller varieties in the back of the garden for maximum impact. They are particularly effective in mass plantings or when placed in front of solid backdrops like buildings or hedges. Additionally, foxgloves can naturalize easily in woodland gardens, enhancing their rustic charm.

Varieties like ‘Camelot’ with flowers in shades of lavender, rose, and white, and ‘Dalmatian Purple’ with its deep lavender-purple flowers are popular for their vibrant colors and robust growth. The ‘Foxy’ cultivar is notable for its shorter stature and ability to bloom reliably from seed within the first year.

An array of tall peach-colored foxglove flowers bloom in a garden. The flowers, arranged along slender green stalks, stand before a dark green wooden fence. The background features lush green foliage, contributing to the garden's vibrant and serene atmosphere.

The Joy of Persistence: My Digitalis Triumph and Yours

My journey with foxgloves serves as a reminder that gardening is a process of continuous learning and experimentation. Even if you encounter setbacks or initial failures, don’t give up on your gardening dreams. Every garden is unique, a microcosm influenced by soil, climate, and countless other factors. What works for one gardener might not work for another, so embrace the adventure of discovery.

My success with foxgloves, after nearly three decades of trying, is a testament to the power of persistence. By observing, adjusting, and trying new approaches, I finally found the perfect formula for my garden. Your journey might be different, but the rewards of patience and perseverance are just as sweet.

So, if you’ve been yearning for a garden filled with the majestic beauty of foxgloves, I encourage you to take the leap. Embrace the challenge, learn from your experiences, and keep trying until you find what works for you. Your dream foxglove garden is waiting to be realized!

Are you ready to embark on your own foxglove adventure? Share your stories, questions, and triumphs in the comments below! Let’s create a community of foxglove enthusiasts who learn and grow together.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these posts:

To learn more about growing foxgloves, please read North Carolina State Cooperative Extenstion and University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.

Happy Gardening!

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A garden with vibrant purple foxglove flowers blooming in the foreground. A text overlay reads, "A 30 Year Success Story: The Secret to Growing Foxgloves." The bottom of the image shows the URL "stacyling.com". The background includes green foliage and other flowers.

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