Foxgloves, Digitalis ssp. are among the favorite plants growing in the Fairegarden.

It is not only the verticality they offer in a sea of sameness, but the flowers themselves, opening from the bottom of the stalk.

Digitalis purpurea foliage

It is not only for the humans that these flowers are scattered throughout the garden, by human placement and their own seed scatterings. The pollinators love the fairy (wee folks) gloves, including insect and magical pollen twizzlers. ‘Folks gloves became foxgloves long ago.

It is not only Digitalis purpurea that is grown here, seeds successfully sown in the greenhouse of Digitalis parviflora ‘Milk Chocolate’ have produced garden flowers. Two plants from over a dozen planted out bloomed in 2010. It is hoped that the rest will bloom next year. Seeds were gathered and sown in situ from the two stalks.

The flowers are quite small but numerous, and do resemble that sweet chocolatey confection. Although I prefer the dark chocolate, sixty percent cocoa for consumption, these flowers are sublime.

A Knoxville nursery had Digitalis obscura offered in four inch pots this spring. We bought all they had, of course. A few perished in the drought of summer so it was good that there were extras. One plant bloomed, it is hoped there will be a better showing next year and seeds can be obtained and sown.

Digitalis obscura foliage

The Strawberry Foxglove, Digitalis mertonensis is more of a perennial than D. purpurea, with fuzzier, consistently pinkish flowers and shorter habit.

Digitalis mertonensis foliage

Time to talk about seeds. The most common of the Digitalis are biennials, meaning the foliage appears the first year from seed sowing and the blooms appear the next, in most cases, then the plant dies. I have had some foliage take two years to bloom, growing to a much larger size with larger and more flowers, as in the first photo of this post of a Digitalis purpurea volunteer. Even the so-called perennials are short lived, so to continue having them in one’s garden, seeds must be saved and/or scattered as they mature. When the seedpods have browned, dried and opened is the proper time to scatter. As always, nature does the best job of handling procreation without human interference. The seedlings can be easily moved in cooler months to the desired garden locations, or left alone for a bit of design serendipity.

There are many more species and named varieties of Digitalis than we are now growing, it was decided that needed to be rectified. An order was placed to the seed company across the pond, Chilterns. We do love getting Royal Mail. Here are the seeds ordered:

‘Flashing Spires’
‘Red Skin’

Planted in neat rows and well labeled, covered with recycled nursery flats for protection against digging felines, rodents and anything slithering around the raised box at the side of the shed, the seeds await nature to take her course. Rain would help immensely.

A page on my sidebar has been created to join the other Plants We Grow series for Digitalis. It is hoped that one day some or all of the above seed list can be photographed and added to the page.

Digitalis already growing here:
grandiflora ‘Carillon’
parviflora ‘Milk Chocolate’

There was a post about Foxgloves that was written early in our blogging career, if you are interested, that can be seen by clicking here-Foxgloves.


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29 Responses to Foxgloves-Digitalis

  1. Carol says:

    Hi Frances, you really have a lot of foxgloves. Good luck with all those seeds. Did you know that the spots in the blooms are fairy footprints left from them sleeping inside? That’s what Thorn Goblinfly told me, anyway.
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

    Hi Carol, thanks. I believe I did know about the fairy footprints, but thank Thorn for me for sharing with us the insider’s information!

  2. I have long loved foxgloves, for some reason they have never loved me and wintered over in my garden, at least until this one. They love it at Kilbourne Grove, and seed around for me, at least the purpurea does, the only variety I have. But now that they are happy I am going to check out other varities, now I am off to Chilterns.

    Hi Deborah, thanks for visiting. I am glad to hear you are having the foxgloves seed about now. I don’t know the secret to that, but have good luck cutting the dried stem holding seeds and laying it in a protected spot. The babies can be moved later. Have fun at Chilterns, don’t know if there will be any plants resulting from the seed sowing, but it was fun anyway! πŸ™‚

  3. Lovely post Frances about one of my favorite plants, I have quite a few varieties here, but I am not always successful in getting them to germinate. Love the image of your little foxglove seed beds.

    Hi Karen, thanks so much, so nice to see you. We shall see about the success rate here for the new seeds. This method has worked well for me in the past with other seeds. The seeds are undisturbed by varmints and weather and I can keep an eye on them easily. They are a favorite plant here as well, wherever they decide to pop up. πŸ™‚

  4. I had no idea that there were so many different varieties of digitalis! I am growing foxgloves from seed for the first time and truly hope to see such beautiful flowers as yours…eventually.
    That photo with the bee and the foxglove flowers is stunning!

    Hi Heidi, thanks and welcome! I wish you the best of growing luck with your foxgloves, (and tomatoes!) seeds. I didn’t know there were that many kinds either until reading the Chiltern’s offerings. There are probably more than that, even. πŸ™‚

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Those foxy gloves are marvelous. I haven’t had luck with them yet. Seeing this post makes me want to try again. We are having RAIN this morning. WHoooooo Hooooooo. Almost an inch predicted. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

    Hi Lisa, Rain is great! We had sprinkles is all this morning, but I see the forecast has a lightning bolt in it. Do try again with the foxgloves. This is the perfect time to plant them, rain helps. Protect the surface sown seeds with a nursery flat weighted down on the ends. Squirrels are bad about digging where nothing is growing around here. Fingers crossed for us both! πŸ™‚

  6. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, great post. I love foxgloves and they seem happy in my garden, I really must get some more varieties. I have purpurea and one other, definitely more needed! I buy Chiltern seed as well and have some foxglove seedlings ready to plant out but they will have to wait until after my holiday!

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, thanks, so nice to see you. Hope you are having a wonderful holiday, BTW. Oh to have the plants available that you all have in the UK! But foxgloves seem to do best when grown from seeds here, so we are lucky Chiltern’s will ship across the pond, with qualifying letter attached about the phytosanitation laws, etc. We are able to move the seedlings here in late winter, the cold doesn’t seem to bother them since it is so moist. Heat and drought are much more punishing to them. Good luck with your babies, they will wait for you! πŸ™‚

  7. gail says:

    Dear Frances, I so want to get them established here~They make me smile and to realize there are so many different varieties with charming flowers and different looking foliage is exciting. Surely one will like C&L! I have one little plant that survived out of the three I brought home this spring~I suspect it’s a D purpurea and has a little bloom right now. Wish me luck with it and seeds I’m sowing near this happy plant! xxxgail

    Dear Gail, thanks for visiting. I do wish you luck, and it seems luck is a part of all gardening, doesn’t it? I believe the purpurea to be the easiest to get self sown babies. Make sure there is some bare ground around the spent flower stalk, the seeds need light to germinate. The seeds are numerous but only a few ever turn into plants. Maybe buy a couple of packs of seeds at the big box to help your odds. πŸ™‚

  8. Layanee says:

    I love those chocolate foxgloves. Are they perennial, biennial? Also, thank you for that link to Chiltern Seeds.

    Hi Layanee, they were a pleasant surprise, those chocolates! They are short lived perennials, so the info says, but the two that bloomed died like a biennial would. Go figure. I love Chiltern’s, they have such an unusual selection, but no info on the packets. That’s what the internet is good for. I use this site a lot: Seed Germination Data Base, to find out if anything needs special treatment and whether the seed should be surface sown. I have it bookmarked.

  9. Eileen says:

    Wow, you certainly have a collection. I just have Grandiflora and it blooms in the spring for just a short time. I have never had it rebloom even though it does at times. I do like them because they come up in the middle of other plantings. Oh, to have more room.


    Hi Eileen, thanks. I believe you have to keep them going with seed spreading. Even the so called perennials like grandiflora are short lived. I have cleared other stuff out to make room for them. I like that the rosette of leaves is perennial so they don’t get lost in the winter and add some mulch carefully around them to prevent frost heaving too.

  10. Meredehuit says:

    No idea there are so many varieties! Thank you for this post. I’m anxious to try a few more. But I will have to be patient… not many more weeks until a blanket of snow will cover my gardens.

    Hi Meredehuit, thanks for stopping by. I did not know there were so many either, and this is probably not nearly all of them, just what Chiltern’s had available. We do not have snow cover here, so I don’t know if it would help to sow the seeds now for you, but that is the way nature does it. πŸ™‚

  11. Foxgloves were a part of the wild garden of my childhood, so it pains me that I lost the ones I planted here. You’ve inspired me to try again, but with mertonensis. Maybe that will fare better. Next time you place an order for seeds across the Pond, can you include a couple things for me?

    Hi MMD, thanks for stopping by. Keeping the foxgloves going takes effort, not just plant and forget about since even the perennial ones, like the mertonensis are short lived. I nearly lost them by not being on top of it. Can’t let that happen again! The shipping is minimal for seeds, I would suggest you peruse the online listings at your leisure and order yourself. They come fairly quickly too. πŸ™‚

  12. Valerie says:

    I love foxgloves too and grow several varieties here in the Sandbox. Loved the idea of the upside down trays. Why didn’t I think of that. Duh!!!

    Hi Valerie, thanks for visiting and joining the conversation. Glad to hear you also have several varieties. I tried the upside down tray last year in desperation, even chickenwire wasn’t working. The results were surprisingly good! πŸ™‚

  13. gardeningasylum says:

    Oh how I love this plant, and you have quite a variety! The grandiflora I have is reblooming now, and a few tardy purpureas are blooming too. The very bestest for me is definitely the purpurea ‘Excelsior’ some growing to 6-7 feet this year. I’ll enjoy seeing how your seeds turn out, especially ferruginea.

    Hi Cyndy, thanks. I am working on having a good variety, but we shall see what turns out to be the most garden worthy of the bunch. Purpurea will be hard to unseat as the queen, but Milk Chocolate holds great promise! I have grown ferruginea at our other TN garden. The flowers are very small, but numerous. πŸ™‚

  14. patientgardener says:

    I’m surprised that Digitalis will grow in your climate, thought the summers would be too hot. Also didnt think Chilterns would export to you given your worries about taking seeds back in May. I do love your collection and will be exploring digitalis more

    Hi Helen, thanks for visiting. I guess someone forgot to tell the Digitalis, and me that it was too hot here! In fact, the first garden where we grew D. purpurea was in southern California, a hot desert environment. They self seeded in a shady spot there. Mine are grown in part shade as well, although all get some summer sunshine. Chiltern’s encloses a letter about phytosanitation with its seeds that is meant for the customs officials to see. I always wonder if they, the officials even look at it. I had no such paper, but did discover a package of seeds was in with the books and papers that were brought back from Malvern. Sad to say, they were for Hesperis matronalis, readily available here. I probably could have smuggled some in my luggage, but didn’t want to risk the high fines or jail time! πŸ™‚

  15. Rose says:

    Thanks for this excellent lesson on foxgloves, Frances. I knew they were biennials, but I mistakenly thought the blooming ones I bought three years ago would return and bloom this year. Now I know why they didn’t come back:) I love those little fairy bell blooms; time to order some seeds!

    Hi Rose, thanks. Those foxgloves that you bought three years ago might have scattered seeds if you didn’t deadhead them. That is a key ingredient, letting the seeds mature and fall from the stalk. Then, don’t disturb the soil around them, or cover it with mulch. They need light to germinate. Good luck with the seeds! πŸ™‚

  16. Hi Frances, Digitalis is a biennial (at best) here… sometimes not even making it to the second year. Obviously I’ve not had the good fortune to have it reseed. I think I’ll start some in a Winter milkjug greenhouse this year!

    Hi Shady, thanks for joining in the fun! We treat most of them as bienniels too, but watch to see which plants die back completely after blooming. Sometimes there is a little bit of life in the rosette afterwards. It might be that there were two or more plants together and only one bloomed. The other will carry on! Good luck with the milkjug, but I would put some directly in the ground with a nursery flat cover as insurance. πŸ™‚

  17. Town Mouse says:

    Wow, I had no idea there were so many different Digitalis! I sometimes buy a sixpack at the nursery, and usually half survive and bloom in my fairly dry garden – even under the redwoods, it’s not that moist. But they sure are beautiful. Maybe next spring, I’ll get another batch.

    Hi Town Mouse, thanks for visiting, so nice to see you. I didn’t realize there were so many either. It will be fun to see if any will grow here. Buying them by the sixpack seems ideal! We did grow them, with lots of reseeding in the shady part of our southern California garden without irrigation. πŸ™‚

  18. Auntie Green says:

    Wonderful blog. Am so glad that I just found it.

    Lots of greetings from Denmark


    Hi Auntie Green, thanks and welcome.

  19. Jen says:

    One of my all time favorites. Yours are beautiful, I can’t wait to see them bloom again. We had a great few years around here, when the foxgloves decided to bloom in our condo garden. All the old English people were disturbed by them, but I was hoping they would take over. Ha.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    Hi Jen, thanks for stopping by, so nice to see you. Why would they be disturbed by the foxgloves? Because they are poisonous or because they might seed about and spread? I’m with you, hoping they would take over! πŸ™‚

  20. I just planted foxglove yesterday in my front bed. I can only hope they do as well as yours.

    Hi Donna, thanks. I figure on a 50% death rate of purchased plants. But if you can get a mature seed stalk, sprinkle those seeds or just lay the stalk in a protected area and watch for seedlings the next spring, then move them where you want them to grow. Good luck! πŸ™‚

    Thanks Frances. I will take your advice. Some stalks already have produced. Just waiting to seed them in. I would have not done this without you suggesting it. I am doing it with sweet peas, that are volunteers from my neighbors yard. She never trims or cuts back anything. So they finally crawled their way over to my tiny yard. Hooray.

    I am so glad, Donna. Sweet peas are so wonderful, lucky you for such a neighbor! πŸ™‚

  21. catmint says:

    I love foxgloves and used to have some but since the weather has got hotter and drier they don’t seem to work in my garden. Which means I have enjoyed this post all the more!

    Hi Catmint, thanks so much, so nice to see you here. I am sorry your weather has made the foxglove growing more difficult. We are surprised at how well they do in our hot and dry in summer climate. A little extra water, very little! has helped them make it to the cooler and wetter fallish weather. πŸ™‚

  22. Lola says:

    I have wanted to grow foxgloves here in my garden. Must try them next Spring. I love the way they bloom.

    Hi Lola, thaks for stopping by, so nice to see you. In your climate, I would be more apt to plant them now. Good luck with them, whenever you find time to plant them! πŸ™‚

  23. Anna says:

    A most enjoyable post Frances. I am a dark chocolate girl too but think that I could be tempted by ‘Milk Chocolate’. Reading your post has acted as timely reminder that I want to place an order with Chiltern Seeds – might just be adding one or two packets of foxgloves seeds πŸ™‚

    Hi Anna, thanks. We do appreciate fine chocolate with our garden plants! Milk Chocolate has been very fine indeed. The show for next year, with over a dozen plants at the ready all planted closely together, I finally made myself do it right!, should be spectacular. We hope. I love Chiltern’s for the selection and price, and do love receiving mail from abroad! πŸ™‚

  24. linda says:

    What a wonderful variety of foxgloves you grow Frances! Thanks for the scoop on Chilterns – looks like a wonderful resource for seeds.

    We grow grandiflora here and like that it’s so reliably perennial. The small footprint of foxgloves makes it so easy to tuck them in. I’ve long wanted to add purpurea and try the more showy varieties than grandiflora – thank you for the inspiration.

    I need to borrow Joy’s plant shoehorn.

    Hi Linda, thanks, so nice to see you, cousin. Joy’s shoehorn sounds delicious! I must visit her to find out more. I love all the Digitalis, showy or not, but agree that purpurea has the largest flowers, with more of those fairy footprints in them. I give Chiltern’s my stamp of approval, but must warn everyone that the seeds packets are very plain, with the name of the plant only. The internet is a good resource for planting time, depth, etc. Good luck with any and all seeds, and everything else. πŸ™‚

  25. Sonia says:

    I love foxgloves…have a hard time getting them to come back in Oklahoma..I love the pink blooms! Wish I had a whole garden of them..yours are sooo beautiful!! Miss Bloomers

    Hi Sonia, thanks so much. I am guessing that your foxgloves might be D. purpurea, which are biennials. They die after blooming, usually and must be replanted if the seeds have not germinated in the area. The flower stalk must be left standing for the seeds to mature.

  26. Connie says:

    I love foxglove…each variety has a charm of it’s own. I have a white one that is a reliable perennial for me…any idea what it might be?

    Hi Connie, thanks for visiting. I do not know what your perennial white foxglove might be, but am envious! The only white flowered ones I know are D. purpurea, a biennial. Could yours be seedlings rather than the original plant returning? Just a guess. πŸ™‚

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